Show Review: Stars at The Masonic Lodge 11/29/17

by Oliver Brink on December 6, 2017

A concert in a graveyard? Why not!

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What exactly is it about Canada that produces such intriguing rock and roll acts? The great North is home to dozens of groups that broke through international barriers and still continue to impress to this day. Of course there are the obvious examples like Neil Young, Rush, The Guess Who, Arcade Fire, and NoMeansNo, but there is also that unique brand of indie/art with groups like Metric, Godspeed! You Black Emperor, The New Pornographers, and Broken Social Scene, the indie super band of which Amy Millan and Evan Cranley are members. Easily one of my favorites of all of them is Stars who take up a special place with their lush production and exploration of the various themes of love and heartbreak. In support of their recent double LP release, There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light, the band took over the Masonic Lodge at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery for three whole days of intimacy with their long-time fans and first timers alike.

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The Masonic Lodge is probably one of the most interesting venues in Los Angeles. It’s smaller than one expects, and entering the venue is almost like being lead into another world. I entered through a tiny parking lot, into a rustic looking courtyard, and then again up some stairs with a huge vintage Bus Shelter poster of Harold and Maude, before finally rounding a small corner in a hallway and into a room no bigger than the average comedy club. Standing in the intimate space found myself becoming incredibly nostalgic about the small town concerts I grew up going to. It was perfect for a band like Stars, whose songs tug at one’s heartstrings as well as stirring one’s feet and hips around. Fans of the band are also probably some of the nicest people I’ve met at a show. Everyone chats enthusiastically about the band and other music and even the fact—or especially—that we’re at a show in a Cemetery. While that little detail isn’t something incredibly new to me—I usually attend one or two Cinespia film screenings here every summer—it definitely brought forward thoughts on the fleeting feeling of experience into my head, resonating with some of Stars songs about love’s fickle touch. Regardless of these pseudo philosophical ramblings, the fact remains that everyone here, myself included, is excited to have fun.

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The band—consisting of Torquil Campbell, Amy Millan, Pat McGee, Evan Cranley, Chris Seligman, and Chris McCarron—however, has more fun than anyone. Their recordings are very dense, but are stripped down a bit for live performance which allows the band to play like the rock stars that they are. Unlike your typical “7 albums later jaded rock star” they embrace the crowd with all the love and enthusiasm imaginable. While every band finds a way to connect with it’s crowd—unless they are the aforementioned jaded rock stars—there are few bands who do it at this level with so much adoration and joy for the people in the room. Rather than just feeding on the crowd’s energy they are giving their energy back to the crowd. It creates a very euphoric sense in the audience that sticks for a good long while after.

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Because the band was playing without any supporting acts—aside from a close friend of the band who was DJing music from the stage rather than the sound board beforehand—the intimate connection they shared with the crowd was tangible, as if sparks were shooting from the amplifiers and the instruments, spreading from person to person and back to the band. Through all of this drummer Pat McGee was playing with his left wrist and two fingers in a cast and as a testament to the uniquely open connection the band shares with their audience a guest drummer name Allison Hi-Hat was brought on board. Torquil introduced the fact that they met her on the internet and had only played with her that day but they launched into “Hold On When You Get Love” and she nailed it.

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Their energy and positivity is infectious and on stage banter included quips about playing in a graveyard, comparing love songs to tinder, and how friendly people are when you treat them with kindness. Perhaps most inspiring was Torquil’s allusion to our current political situation in which he stated “Every time I come to America I meet warm, weird, friendly people like all of you and you just need to remember that there are so many more of you than there are of them.” It goes without saying who they are.

Oliver Brink

Oliver is a lover of film, music, theatre, and art. He writes and works out of Los Angeles.

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