The Veldt | Live in New York City 5/18/24

On Saturday, May 18th, throughout the heart of Manhattan, The Veldt performed not just one, but two sold-out shows supporting Ovlov and modern shoegaze legends Ringo Deathstarr on their most recent US tour. For the uninitiated, The Veldt are one of the earliest and most unique shoegaze bands from the US, championed for their heady mix of dream pop beauty, textured noise, and alternative-leaning soul. The band was founded in 1986 by twin brothers Daniel and Danny Chavis in Raleigh, North Carolina, relocating to NYC in the 1990s while recording and releasing three albums, 1994’s classic Afrodisiac, 1996’s Universe Boat, and 1998’s Love At First Hate, the former which spawned essential tracks such as “Soul in a Jar” and “Until You’re Forever.” These three records remain highly influential in a genre in which Black artists have not had as much representation. The pioneering band is also a true “musician’s band” as well, earning opening slots for The Jesus and Mary Chain, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Manic Street Preachers, Oasis, and Cocteau Twins over their tenure. with the latter’s Robin Guthrie serving as one of their biggest early supporters.

In 1989, Guthrie recorded and produced an album that remained shelved by Capitol Records until late 2023, when it was released for the first time via Little Cloud Records. The album, titled Illuminated 1989, featured original versions of a handful of tracks that were eventually re-recorded over the band’s career (“Heather,” “Daisy Chain,” “Willow Tree,” “CCCP,” and so on) but primarily featured several never-before-heard tracks, including the excellent rave-up “Shallow By Shallow” and opening track “Aurora Borealis,” which features backing vocals from Elizabeth Fraser. The album also featured The Veldt’s early take “The Everlasting Gobstopper,” a legendary track that was rumored to exist from this era, having first been released on 2007’s White Music For Black People, the debut record by the Chavis brothers and guitarist Hayato Nakao‘s excellent follow-up project Apollo Heights.

The Veldt @ Berlin-Under A with Honeychild Coleman. Photo by Frank Deserto.

Currently, Nakao and the Chavis brothers are joined live by newcomers Martin Newman (formerly of Pulmeri/DRLNG and sporting the same Cranes shirt I was wearing that evening), Alex Cox, and and Clone/Dead Leaf Echo’s LG Galleon. The first of Saturday’s gigs took place at Berlin-Under A in the East Village, a small, oddly shaped basement venue with curious sight lines, but fantastic sound. Due to the nature of the three-band bill and the upcoming Rocks Off boat cruise show scheduled to take place immediately after, The Veldt’s performance was a short, but powerful set that whet the crowd’s appetite and left us all wanting more, the way any good show should. Featured on the setlist were several newer cuts including “The Color Of Love Is Blue,” “In a Quiet Room,” new song “Forever Green,” and the yet-to-be-released and soaringly heartbreaking “Joi,” Two tracks that appear on both Illuminated 1989 and on other releases were also performed, including the dreamy waltz-like “Willow Tree,” performed with guest vocals by the legendary Honeychild Coleman and of course, “The Everlasting Gobstopper,” where every reverb-drenched note rang true. While the band has had a drummer for their most recent KEXP session, this performance was percussively driven by a powerful backing track. Despite the programmed drums (a sound which I tend to adore and favor myself), the sound was jaw-droppingly immense, due in part to the band’s four-guitar onslaught which was full of sonic power the likes of which I haven’t heard in some time. It was a small miracle that seven people (and at least 60 spectators) were able to fit in the space, but the intimate nature of this gig added extra gravity to the performances – it was truly a special affair.

With quick turnaround times between sets, Ovlov and Ringo Deathstarr quickly followed The Veldt and kept the aural bliss going strong . I was unfamiliar with Ovlov, but their Teenage Fanclub/early emo-inspired sound won me over quickly, with a slew of catchy, fast-paced songs. Headliner Ringo Deathstarr were as perfect as ever, performing an intense, high-energy set that mixed classics such as “Swirly” and “Heavy Metal Suicide” with modern gems “In Your Arms,” “Just Like You,” and infectious single “Once Upon a Freak.”

The Veldt @ Rocks Off Boat Cruise. Photo by Sarah Celentano

After the show wrapped up, I quickly cabbed over to 23rd and FDR Drive to board a boat for a second helping of the bill, which, while also sold out, felt much roomier than Berlin-Under A’s cramped basement vibes. The sets for all three bands were similar, though The Veldt (minus Coleman this time around) mixed up the order by flight of fancy, which added fresh vitality to the set as we drifted along New York Harbor.

The Veldt are finishing up their tour with Ringo Deathstarr and Ovlov in the coming days, but are performing in Japan in a few week’s time (full tour dates listed below). Otherwise, keep your eyes peeled for this formidable live band wherever you may reside, and be sure to catch up on their full discography as quickly as your ears can absorb it.

The Veldt tour dates:

May 21 – Charlotte, NC @ Snug Harbor*
May 22 – Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade – Alter*
May 24 – Raleigh, NC @ Transfer Co. Food Hall*
Jun 12 – Tokyo, Japan @ Shimokitazawa Breath
Nov 7 – Seattle. WA @ Freakout Festival XII 2024

*with Ringo Deathstarr

Visit The Veldt on Bandcamp | Facebook

Live photos by Frank Deserto and Sarah Celentano
Header Photo by Brady Harvey

Frank Deserto

Bassist of The Harrow, curator/writer at Cherry Red Records, and blogger at Systems of Romance.

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