Some musicians simply create music, while some create art. Every now and then, you’ll find a group of musicians who have the ability to meld music and theatrical art into sounds that will penetrate you in ways you never imagined.
So Long, Stargazer is one of those groups whose sound penetrates you.
I have known about SLS since their inception, as they were brought forth from the ashes of the critically acclaimed My Beloved Tragedy. Circumstances prevented me from seeing them live before Friday, and I was hoping against hope that some form of the prior group lived on. What I was not prepared for was the quartet’s artistic ability to reach in and embed wires into your heart, before giving you the metaphorical tug.
The group is fronted by the impossibly talented voice of Chase McCants, who stands as a titan at the front of the stage with his synthesizer. He shares vocal duties with keyboardist Kristin Green, while Tommy Davis provides all of the guitar work with his six-stringed PRS Custom. Nick Wray fills-out the ensemble on drums.
King Avenue 5’s concert area was sparsely populated as the foursome took the stage, but the moment Davis’ guitar kicked in on the aptly titled The Dawn & The Drive, everyone was on their feet and moving toward the stage. The Dawn & The Drive is a two and a half minute instrumental that introduces each musician separately until all four are playing their arsenal together.
Wray’s cymbals built up the anticipation among the crowd, as the song transitioned straight into Fall Behind, which opens with Green’s chilling line “Didn’t you think there’d be signs? We could be steps away or only halfway there.” McCants started singing on the second verse, as the two played their perfect vocal harmonies together.
Up next was Wreckage, which brought a harder sound and faster tempo. Midway through, McCants stepped back and let Davis take center stage for the first of his many fiery solos. He’s not the type of guitarist that is going to own the entire stage, but he will crush it when called upon.
McCants ended up leaving the stage and letting Green take over for their newest song, I Am Now. The remaining trio seemed a little disjointed and distant on this number, but the strength of Green’s voice helped fill the void.
McCants rejoined the band for I’ll Surrender, which opens with a catchy Vanessa Carlton-esque piano piece, while Wray crushed his kicks and snares. It seemed as though the small break did McCants well, as he found a power in his voice that we had not heard in the first couple of songs.
It was then that something truly interesting happened. The lights went down and smoke clouded our vision. A single green light shone down on Green as she slowly opened with a hauntingly familiar piano piece, which ended up being a cover of (arguably) Canada’s worst musical import, Alanis Morrissette.
I never thought that anyone on this planet could make a song like Uninvited sound good, but did she ever nail it. It was equal parts visual mastery and sonic flawlessness. At the end of the song the guitars picked up and we again saw ourselves ready to continue our expedition.
McCants announced that the next song had been written by Green while he was away touring with the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar”. City Sleeps was easily their least inspiring number of the night, with a weird vocal clash overshadowing the driving work of the drums and guitars.
The disappointment was short lived, as they launched into the soaring Ready/Up, which was written by Davis, and featured some of McCants most emotive and physically expressive performances of the evening. The cohesion was back between the vocal duo, especially highlighted on the line “So what’s to fear if the meaning’s clear?”
The evening was capped with the final track on their debut album, Look Up, titled Sky Breathe. The band announced that it was a song about depression, and how sometimes you just need someone who can save you. For some, it may be your boyfriend, girlfriend or family, but for McCants and Green, it was the band.
“I know you say, always look up to the sky” was the line that jumped out at me. However, I can see why the band chose to play it last on their set. There was a bit of energy lacking from the group, but in this instance, it was the vocals that carried the musicians to the end.
From a visual standpoint, the band was breathtaking. There was energy and much artistic expression. From a musical standpoint, you could tell that this was a maturing band who have the ability to blend things the way they wanted to, making music the way their souls demanded.
The hallmark of So Long, Stargazer seems to be their ability to mesh their unique visions into an accessible and excellent piece of art-rock. There may have been a few glitches here and there throughout their set, but overall it was a pleasant and powerful display of passion that brought the entire crowd at King Avenue 5 under an umbrella of awesomeness.
- The Dawn & The Drive
- Fall Behind
- I Am Now
- I’ll Surrender
- Uninvited (Alanis Morrissette cover)
- City Sleeps
- Sky Breathe
So Long, Stargazer – Wreckage