Shadowplay: January 1995


“Rock and roll never died, it stayed in the shadows. Now the new generation of rock episodes from the dreamtime with the energy of Shadow.”


Shadowplay has been around Salt Lake City since 1989. They’re one of those bands that everyone’s heard of and you think you may know someone who’s played with them. It’s quite possible, since the lineup has changed several times in the past five years. But the main reason most of us have heard of Shadow play is Zam Abdullah, their bass player.


Zam seems to be one of the most tireless musicians in Salt Lake. After almost six years, he’s constantly inventing new ways to promote his band. Whether it’s putting flyers on pizza boxes at Free Wheeler,(his day job), sending boxes full of advice to the editor of the Private Eye Weekly. Dressing in drag for a Halloween gig, or performing at a pig roast. If you ask anyone who even looks like they’re associated with the media., they’ve heard from him. (In fact, I was informed that I was writing this article for SLUG by Zam himself.) The only choice is to go see the band.


In the dark, intimate Cinema Bar, Andre, the guitarist and Terry, the drummer are introduced. They sit around a table as quiet as two little boys who have just been hushed. This is when the intrigue sets in. Even though the crowd consists of Terry’s mother and the sound guy, it becomes apparent that an explosion is about to occur. Herein lies the appeal of Shadow play. On the guitar, Andre cooks like Julia Child. If you could find another guitarist with his talent, you’d probably see wild stage antics, including dropping on knees and foaming at the mouth, but Andre is the epitome of cool. Don’t let his nonchalant stage presence fool you. Just look at what his hands are doing! Terry is tall with a boyish crooked smile and since his mother’s there, it seems as though he’ll be on his best behavior. With machine-tight accuracy, he let loose a thrashing on those drums equaled only by a by a delicious pounding in bed. Zam’s voice doesn’t seem like it would come out of his androgynous rocker fame. Instead of fading out, every note he hits spirals out and grows with his rich, velvety bass in the background. Shadowplay is completed by lyrics teeming with social commentary. Their two newest songs are titled “Gangster Girl Revenge” and “Fuck Like Rabbits”. “Fuck Like Rabbits” is an interesting and funny commentary on “the urge to spawn” in Salt Lake City. They make clever use of rhythm change and raise a good question, “Now what do I do with all these babies when I spawn? Even though entertaining, Terry’s mom wouldn’t clap for a song with such a title. 

With good promo and talent, the next question is why doesn’t Shadowplay draw a large crowd? When asked, Andre responds, “We’re still swimming upstream. We’ve haven’t gotten there yet.” Far from giving up, Zam offers “A lot of underage people like us. It’s expensive to rent space (like the basement of
DV8) to play for them.” Unfortunately, he has to learn to hallucinate his crowds.”I want to play for live people, not ghosts.” Pointing out his promotional efforts, he jokes, “Perhaps if we ignored the public, they’d like us. Many really popular local bands developed their following in high school and it grew from there. Shadowplay is a “bunch of loners getting together to play music.” Terry decides that the band definitely needs more support. “There’s nothing that just the three of us can do for the local music scene.” Except go on tour. They are seriously considering going on tour and taking a break from Salt Lake for a while, but nothing is definite. They may have found an answer. Is the only way for this band to draw a crowd that will give them as much energy back as they put out to go on tour? If they gain popularity and return as a national act, they’ll surely tap into the large masses that turn out to support big acts. It seems as though the way that Shadowplay and other deserving bands will get the feedback they want is if Salt Lake’s musical palate is not formed by old high school buddies or the rest of the country. If you’re planning to ignore this band, it’s not going to work.

Read more from the SLUG Archives:
Feature: Commonplace
Record Reviews: December 1995