The evening of Monday, March 31st, was a relatively warm one. Clear skies, no rain, no sleet, no lake effect snow. I suppose, in Cleveland at least, that counts as “warm.” Overall, it was a temperate and enjoyable environment to find ones self standing outside the Beachland Ballroom in for a change.
Inside, things were downright hot and rather crowded. Playing to a nearly packed house, Canadian indie rockers Stars took their time getting themselves onto the stage as two young roadies buzzed about like fast forward humming birds, duct taping freshly cut red roses to every object that crossed their line of sight.
With sprigs, sprays and bouquets of white cherry blossoms, carnations, and red roses exploding from the amps, the drum kit, the keyboards, and the mic stands, the stage looked as if it was prepped for either a wedding or a wake. Known for their emotional and narrative lyrics, that both celebrate and lament relationships past and the ghosts of ex-lovers, I suppose that this setting was incredibly appropriate. Dressed in a button down shirt, hoodie, and boat shoes, frontman Tourquil Campbell appeared, followed moments later by his band mates, including frontwoman Amy Millan, who was sporting a heavily bandaged finger. Kicking off their nineteen song set with “Take me to the Riot,” off of 2007’s ‘In Our Bedroom After the War’ Stars sounded every bit as good as their recordings, despite Millan’s pre-show apology regarding any strange sounds that might resonate from her guitar due to the six stitches freshly sewn into aforementioned finger.
“Window Bird,” another favorite from ‘In Our Bedroom After the War,’ featured Millan’s effortlessly beautiful vocals. Soft yet consistent, there is something incredibly girlish and endearing about the ways she sings. As the song ended, Campbell began plucking roses from the bouquets and theatrically tossed them into the audience.
After a passionately delivered “One More Night,” off 2004’s ‘Set Yourself on Fire,’ the distinct smell of pot began floating through the air. Coincidentally, this also happened at the last show I attended at the Beachland, only then, when (Arcade Fire’s) Win Butler caught the scent, he smiled and shook his head disapprovingly. Tourquil Campbell, however, embraced the situation, took a moment aside in which he maybe inhaled or maybe didn’t inhale, then passionately sang on, with a silver halo of smoke over his head, dissipating and drifting towards the ceiling.
Dedicated to “the drunken ghosts of the Beachland Ballroom” was “What I’m Trying to Say,” followed by “Midnight Coward,” and crowd favorites “Set Yourself on Fire,” and “In Our Bedroom After the War,” with Campbell sometimes playing his trumpet, sometimes playing his keymonica, (perhaps the greatest instrument of all time) and sometimes snuggling up with Amy Millan as she gently strummed along on her acoustic. Bassist Evan Cranley energetically danced about sporting a fedora and a snazzy pair of black and white wing tips, with the rest of the band mostly rocking from well hidden places in the ample, flowery foliage.
Before leaving the stage, Campbell and Millan took time to thank their fans for coming out. Claiming to have sold fewer than 23 tickets the last time they played in Cleveland, they were pleased to be experiencing such incredible support. The crowd cheered, more roses were tossed, and Stars exited stage left.
Opening the encore with a brief anecdote regarding the band visiting the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame, and Tourquil expressing his utter disgust/refusal to go due to Madonna getting props there before The Smiths and/or New Order. (Right on, bro.) As they led into “The Night Starts Here,” audience members began screaming requests, to which Campbell replied “Yea, well, I’d like a fucking peanut butter and banana sandwich.”
Earlier in the evening, Pash, a youthful indie four piece signed to Exotic Fever Records and hailing from Washington D.C., warmed up the crowd with a short and spirited set. On their maiden voyage to the great city of Cleveland, Pash was charismatic and bursting at the seams with energy, despite being crammed onto a small stage already overloaded with gear belonging to Stars, and also, as previously mentioned, many many flowers. Looking as if they’d stepped from the pages of an Urban Outfitters catalogue, Pash played several original songs including “Down” and “The Best Gun,” both of which featured singer Mer Munoz’s soaring vocals.
Briefly leaving the stage, Pash returned with indie rocker Martin Royle. Royle then took the lead singer slot, with Pash providing more than adequate background rocking. Royle, a bit of a quirky fellow, opened his portion of the set with a gentle yet funny lullaby titled “If Time Ran Backwards,” in which he contemplates what life would be like if instead of growing old, we grew young. Royle followed this up with an uncomfortably accurate song titled “Sex with Your Ex,” and closed the short but entertaining set with “Charlie the Russian.”