Shades' Strong-Sounding Debut at VAC


Shades, onstage at Visual Arts Collective
  • Josh Gross
  • Shades, onstage at Visual Arts Collective.

Due to traveling in the "right circles," and their appearance on the C.O.T. mixtape, Boise band Shades had a lot of buzz preceding their Aug. 9 debut show at VAC.

And they lived up to much of it, playing a rich set of dark-sounding mid-tempo electro-pop songs that were somewhere between Joy Division and The Knife, all of them saturated with deep reverbs and effects that melted the instruments and melodies into one lush sonic slurry.

Even Shades' songs bled together at the edges, cavernous echoes fading into the next song without banter or introduction from the band. It was a sound one could easily get lost in, and the show was a strong debut for any band. Generally, it's a given that any first gig will be a multidimensional disaster. That was far from the case for Shades; their songs were intriguing, en vogue and well-performed.

But lack of disasters aside, it was the sound, not the show that was on display. Despite the deep bass and often-dancey beats, electro-pop—frequently a product of laptops and keyboards—is often known for underperforming on stage. Shade sported a full lineup of guitar, bass, keys and vocals, but mustered the same level of presence as a laptop duo. They didn't attempt much other than looking pretty, which they did in spades, to make their performance "a show."

It was disappointing, because presentation is clearly a principle the band understands to some degree. They made an abstract video featuring their music over shimmering images of water that matches and highlights the textures in the music, but appeared to make no attempt to incorporate those themes into their live show. And while the audience at VAC didn't seem to care much about presentation, the rich textures of Shades' music presents so much opportunity—something like this, for example—that it almost seemed as if the band is still searching for something. Let's hope they find it. Four dudes standing still isn't a tremendously compelling image even with a soundtrack. But add a little bit of atmosphere and the sound could hit like a sledgehammer.

Until then, for all the potential the band has to be successful both in and beyond Boise, the buzz is just a sound.