No, it is not a term for some elaborate form of foot fetish or an intense footwear stare-down. Let me just take the magic away, put a leash on your imagination, and tell you exactly what shoegaze is. It is a genre of music that emerged in the 1980’s in the United Kingdom. It’s a subgenre of alternative rock and can be considered a sort of seamless union of punk rock with psychedelia. It’s pretty good stuff.
The etymology of the word is, perhaps, equally beautiful. Let me set the stage. Moose is a new and upcoming band in the indie scene. The lead singer Russell Yates is ready for the gig. Everything goes great but the reviews next day won’t shut up about the singer reading the lyrics taped to the floor.
Why might a singer tape the lyrics to the floor you ask? Elementary, my dear Watson. Shoegaze involves, or involved (back in the day at least), using a hoard of different effects pedals which meant the musicians spent a considerable amount of time looking down at the devices during the performances, or as it may appear from the other side of the spotlight. This particular occupational hazard is that bug that turned into a feature. The whole genre of music that was earlier characterized as ‘dream pop’ metamorphosed into, well, an intense footwear stare-down. These musicians were just working their magic, producing ethereal sounds all the while standing still and gazing at their shoes or so it seemed. The word truly described the phenomenon.
When you hear it for the first time, it’s hard to comprehend how shoegaze can possibly be a genre of music, but once you know the story underneath, you wonder how it could’ve ever been called anything else.