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Ride + Knifeplay - 3S Artspace (Portsmouth, NH) - May 8, 2024

15 May 2024

Reuniting is a tricky slope to navigate at times, and while you can’t fault bands for wanting to make a living, sometimes it’s pretty easy to spot the blatant mailed-in cash grab.

Ride have opted to continue to operate as a functioning band, and that means making new music. Interplay is the third long player since the post-reunion Weather Diaries in 2017, and while they did ride the current of the nostalgia wave with the 30th anniversary of their debut record Nowhere last year, this time the show was heavily focused on new material.

The band always relied more on their classic songwriting than any sort of sonic treatments in the signal path, and in some regards their branding as a shoegaze band was really more of a connection via the Creation record label than what they actually sounded like. The newer material echoes this progression; “I Came To See The Wreck” had a sneaky earworm of a melody line, and opener “Peace Sign” was a brightly burnished ’60s-style pop banger. It was a bit strange that two of the first three songs had Mark Gardener playing bass along with Steve Queralt. Not to worry, they hadn’t morphed into a Neds’s Atomic Dustbin tribute band.

There was a missed opportunity to introduce the live debut of “Portland Rocks” as “Portsmouth Rocks” but Gardener did make it a point to call out set closer “Vapour Trail” as his favorite song, something that Robert Smith agrees with.

One newish song that was a set list casualty is “Future Love” and of course some classics like “Chelsea Girl” and “Taste” and “Leave Them All Behind” were played to great reception. It was really nice to see the band in such an intimate space, about a fifth the capacity of the Boston venue they played a few days later.

Knifeplay are a sextet (bold economic decision for a small band in these days) hailing from Philly, and I’d caught a previous show last year when they toured with Squirrel Flower. Their sound was a sublime match for the bill, less emphasis on pedal effectts and more on the overall mood evoked. The vocals in particular were strong, their final song would not be out of place on a Mazzy Star lost cuts compilation.