There’s nothing quite like Kalamashoegazer. The festival feels like a celebration in more ways than one — an honoring of its host city’s diverse yet devoted music scene, and of the beloved cult subgenres of shoegaze, twee and dreampop first popularized by such iconic bands as My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Slowdive in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
Led by the radiant passion and infectious enthusiasm of co-founder/curator April Zimont (vocalist of Kzoo bands glowfriends, Vida Eterna and Tambourina), Kalamashoegazer has steadily built upon itself much like the music it celebrates, culminating in a yearly crescendo of crashing guitars and pure auditory bliss.
“I think this genre attracts people that want to feel something,” Zimont said. “Whether it be extremely loud music that assaults their senses, or something more ethereal, melodic, melancholy and beautiful. My attempt each year is to kind of pay homage to the genre, re-imagining it through these shoegaze-influenced bands that are all over the spectrum of what we think shoegaze and dreampop is, and was, but are also their own thing entirely.”
Like almost no other fest of its kind, Kalamashoegazer has drawn in avid fans and devoted bands from all around Michigan, the Midwest and even across the country. Now more than a decade in, this year’s lineup features Zimont’s latest band, Tambourina, which will make one of its first-ever live appearances. Fellow Kalamazoo band Crash City Saints also will return to the stage, roaring into the festival following this fall’s release of the high-volume LP, Are You Free?.
Chicago band Airiel is headlining the night with its own distinctive sound, just days after releasing its second full-length album. Meanwhile, Whimsical, another Chicago band, is reuniting with all of its original members for the first time in 13 years, just to perform at Kalamashoegazer.
A longtime favorite, Milwaukee’s Brief Candles, will return to the festival as well. And New York’s Dead Leaf Echo and Orations, along with the Grand Rapids-based Houseplants are all making their Kalamashoegazer debuts this year. Even esteemed scene supporter Greg Wilson from DKFM shoegaze radio out in Los Angeles will fly into Kalamazoo to be a part of the festival.
“In the UK, back in the early ’90s when the British press first dubbed these bands ‘shoegaze,’ they also referred to them and all their fans as the scene that celebrates itself and I gotta say, it is exactly that,” Zimont said. “There’s a lot of excitement built into the whole event, with the bands all being very supportive of one another, which is something you don’t always see. A lot of people I’ve talked to who have come out to the fest for the first time were surprised at how inviting this whole scene is.”
This year, Kalamashoegazer is taking over Bell’s Eccentric Café for the first time ever. Previously the fest has taken place at such revered Kzoo venues as Kraftbrau Brewery, The Strutt, Old Dog Tavern and Louie’s Trophy House.
“Bell’s Eccentric Cafe is such a fantastic venue for live music, the sound is incredible, and it is definitely the ideal venue for this event,” Zimont said. “I think Kalamashoegazer will likely be out of the ordinary for regular Bell’s patrons, but I expect we’ll gain some new interest, as I think the lineup is fairly accessible this year. Still, if you haven’t been before, I’d highly recommend earplugs.”
Bell’s Eccentric Café
355 E. Kalamazoo Ave., Kalamazoo
Nov. 4, 4:30 p.m., $15
bellsbeer.com, (269) 382-233