Bowery Boston presents
Tickets on sale Fri. 10/13 at noon!
9pm doors / 18+ / $18 advance, $20 day of show
— INTRODUCING SHAMIR
BY DALE W. EISINGER
He enters like a dream. It’s a new dream – a dream no one’s had before.
It sounds like a type of sword, a whisper in a nightclub, or a flash of of a jungle cat’s eye.
This marvelous kid who radiates love.
That’s how I remember meeting Shamir Bailey – a 20-year-old from North Las Vegas who grew up not on the strip but in the desert, across the street from a pig farm. A love of all music led Shamir to my Brooklyn doorstep in January 2014. He had heard of the noisy rock band I play drums in – YVETTE – and sought out our small label – GODMODE – to potentially put out his own rough-hewn pop. Shamir had sent demos to Nick Sylvester, the head honcho at the imprint, and Nick took to his voice. His first time on a plane was when he flew to New York to make music with Nick. “If It Wasn’t True,” the song that started it all, fused Shamir’s androgyne croon with Nick’s love of classic house music. He stayed at my apartment that week, went to an Arto Lindsay show at Death By Audio, and played country covers on his acoustic guitar every night. He had knitted hats for every single person on the label.
Everything after that seemed to happen quite quickly, but never not naturally. In between shifts at Topshop, he put out the “Northtown” EP – named after his hometown – which sold out before it even went on sale. He played his first live show in New York – one of those ‘I Was There’ kinds of shows, where Shamir was so overcome he came off the stage and gave everyone in the audience a hug. (He’s done the same at every show since.) He signed to XL Recordings, and began working with Nick on the full-length. He temporarily moved into Silent Barn, the DIY arts space in Bushwick. He interned at the XL/Beggars office in New York, where I’m told it took months before the other interns even knew he was an artist on the label. He toured Europe with a bunch of our Godmode friends as his backing band, did a BBC session in John Peel’s old Maida Vale studio, and played Le Grand Journal in France – his first live TV appearance. There’s Shamir’s voice of course – there’s nothing else like it – but what strikes people most is just how damn nice he is.
Out the other side of all this comes “Ratchet,” Shamir’s first full-length LP. It’s a disco house r&b marvel. Ecstatic but hardened, urgent but expertly weathered, sparkling with the grit of a desert geode. It’s a record about growing up in Vegas, though not the Vegas you think you know. I keep thinking about that pig farm near Shamir’s house. The pigs were slaughtered and fed to the casinos. The casinos’ slop kept the swine fed. This is where he grew up, in the margins of vice and excess. Never has the idiom “diamond in the rough” applied so literally.
“If this is the city of sin, are we already living in hell?” That’s Shamir’s “Vegas.” So what do you do? You “Make a Scene.” He’s not cocky, jaded, or an ingenue. But neither is he the opposite of those things. There’s an obvious fluidity to Shamir. He transcends boundaries – genre, gender, age, geography. He feels solitary because there is literally no one else like him. “Demon” expresses a hard-to-articulate melancholy – this kid is so pure he knows when you’re toxic. He rejects the “Darker” side, and reminds us happiness is a choice. When things get bad, you usually can, in fact, “Call It Off.”
In this rapid year leading to his debut full-length, we finally get the coming-of-age album we didn’t know we needed. “Head In The Clouds” may be where “Ratchet” leaves us hanging. But something tells me Shamir’s got his feet on the ground. He just stands that tall.