MARK GARDENER at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Saturday (April 12), 9 pm, $10. 416-532-1598.
The most impressive fact about Mark Gardener's current solo tour is that he's doing it at all.Gardener even surprised himself when he decided to play a handful of gigs on his own. The former frontman of noise-pop quartet Ride was a key player in the British shoegazer scene, so named after one too many floppy-haired guitarists spent an entire gig staring at his feet.
For a few years, before being eclipsed by the swagger of Britpop, the jangly, distorted pop of bands like Ride defined the 90s British indie pop sound. Longevity, though, was never assured. While the British pop industry is great at churning out the greatest band on the planet every other week, it's just as quick to toss them away.
Beyond poorly attended reunion tours and ill-advised attempts at a new dance-friendly direction, it's rare for former scenesters to make another stab at pop success. Certainly, that was one of the things furthest from Gardener's mind when he moved to a barn in rural France a few years back.
"I lost track of myself for a couple of years," Gardener explains with a laugh on the road between Los Angeles and San Francisco. "I was in India for five months, and I'd spent the past year living like a hermit in this old stone barn in France. I always said that when I got to my early 30s I'd do my Neil Young thing. I haven't got the old beard and the dogs yet, but I'm trying.
"Getting back into music has been a very gradual thing. I didn't really know what to expect, but this whole trip has really knocked me out. I really didn't realize how the legacy of Ride had continued and actually grown over here."
He hasn't actually pulled his old band together (former bandmate Andy Bell is, ironically enough, now playing with Oasis, one of the bands that helped pull the plug on Ride), but Gardener's current tour is at least partly tied to the past.
A Ride greatest-hits disc was released last year, and with no real expectations Gardener arrived in North America to find himself playing to sizable crowds and fans singing along with 10-year-old songs. Maybe nostalgia isn't such a bad thing after all.
"It's odd to turn up here and realize you were a cult band in America," he laughs.
"A lot of the music from back then, whether it was us or bands like My Bloody Valentine, has actually stood the test of time. I mean, we all said in our interviews that we were creating this timeless music that would live forever, but I don't think anyone actually believed it. Suddenly, 10 years later, the songs are still there. It's brilliant."firstname.lastname@example.org