Written by Matt Sylvester
When I arrived at the Observatory O.C. in Santa Ana for the RIDE show (late, I must admit), I was surprised at the lack of activity outside the venue. For those familiar with the venue, you may understand my surprise at a near-empty parking lot and no security line to get in.
Did I come on the wrong day? Was the show at a different time? I had expected it to be a nearly sold-out show considering that the last time RIDE was in Southern California was a sold-out show at the Masonic Lodge in 2017.
I got out of my car, picked up my ticket from will call, walked in the venue, still a bit surprised that there weren’t many people around. Upon entering, I was even more shocked when I realized that the band was playing in the Observatory’s smaller venue, the Constellation Room.
I rechecked my ticket and confirmed that RIDE was supposed to be in the main room inside the venue. After asking around, I learned that supposedly, the band hadn’t sold enough tickets to play in the bigger space, so they got downgraded.
Despite the rumor of low ticket sales, the Constellation Room was clearly exceeding capacity. There was a line to get into the room packed with shoegaze fans. Intimidated, I decided to stand back from the crowd and enjoy the melodic riffs.
After a couple songs, I got a tap on the shoulder from a gentleman in a grey shirt. He asked me if I wanted him to get me into the venue. I wasn’t too sure how this random man was going to help me get past the blockade of people between me and the stage. He clarified that he was with the band, and I later found out he was actually their tour manager.
He told me and a select few others around me that he could bring us through the employee area and out the kitchen entrance to the other side of the Constellation Room. I took him up on the offer.
I followed him through the Observatory’s kitchen and green room area to the opposite end of the Constellation Room, where I squeezed in near the bartop. After years of going to shows around the L.A. and O.C. area, this type of dedication to a positive fan experience was shocking.
For the next hour and a half, RIDE reminisced on two decades worth of beautiful music. Going as far back in their discography as their breakout album Nowhere all the way up to their new 2019 album, This Is Not A Safe Place.
Some of my favorite songs of the night were “Future Love” and “Shadows Behind the Sun” which are both from their newest album. Towards the end of the night, they also played an extended version of “Drive Blind,” a song from their first E.P., Smile. Right before the encore, they played their most popular song “Vapour Trail” which has over 9 million plays on Spotify.
For a full setlist, visit Setlist.fm.
The band sounded phenomenal and very crisp. This was probably the best audio clarity I’ve heard in either the Constellation Room or the Observatory O.C. It is hard to believe that most of the band members are soon approaching their 50s in age.
The two leaders of the band, Mark Gardener and Andy Bell (former bassist of Oasis), were very talkative and comfortable with the Santa Ana crowd as well. The mixup between venues and the capacity issues didn’t seem to bother them one bit on stage.
On my way out, I decided to stop by the merch table and purchase a shirt. It’s pretty rare for me to ever shop at the merch tables at shows. The last time was during LCD Soundsystem’s American Dream tour in 2017.
I was eager to support this England-based band because their tour manager had shown me such hospitality. It really seemed like they wanted to make sure their fans were getting the best experience possible.
My inclination that RIDE and their whole team were very wholehearted people was affirmed when I met Karen, the merch table worker. She told me that out of all the bands she has worked for on tours, RIDE was one of the friendliest groups of people she’s ever worked for.
The Santa Ana show was the band’s last U.S. tour date, which meant it was also Karen’s last stop. She told me that usually by this point, she is eager to get away from the band she works for, but in this case, she is actually sad to see RIDE go.
I walked away with a new band t-shirt in hand and a smile on my face, knowing I had just supported a sincere and caring group of musicians, managers and workers. If RIDE ever happens to be in Southern California again, I’d highly recommend checking them out so you can experience the warmth of their music and energy for yourself.