Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mazzy Star at the Fillmore, Silver Spring

Reluctant Stars: I suppose a smile's out of the question?
The bloke behind me at the Mazzy Star concert last night had a profoundly cerebral reaction to the band’s first song. “Whoooooooo!” he shouted, about five seconds in. He knew the song, you see, and was excited to hear them play it live. It turned out that he knew all the songs that Mazzy Star played, because five seconds into every song, he shouted the very same thing, his hands cupped around his mouth to enhance the volume of his message. Which was, “Whooooooo!”

He was genuinely pleased, I’ve no doubt about it, and wasn’t just wanting to let us all know that he knew every single Mazzy Star song. There was also an element of surprise contained in his “Whoooooooo!” Like he really hadn’t expected them to play that song at that particular moment. As if, coming to a Mazzy Star concert, he’d thought they might play their version of Beethoven’s fifth Cello Sonata. Or a few Gene Autry numbers. Perhaps something from former Orange Juice drummer Zeke Manyika’s long forgotten solo album, or their take on Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man. But no, get this, Mazzy Star ended up playing nothing but Mazzy Star songs. “Whooooooo!”

It goes without saying that I felt ill-will towards The Fan Behind Me. And as the night went on, this ill-will extended towards Mazzy Star, despite the beauty of their drowsy, reverb-swabbed ballads about… I’ve no idea what they’re about. One song is about how far away California is. For all I can understand, the rest could be about singer Hope Sandoval’s recommended temperature for washing light colours. This, however, is the least of the band’s communication issues.

Aside from half a dozen candles, the band played in the dark, so we couldn’t actually see them. Granted, this meant that there were very few wankers thrusting their phones into the air to record precious footage for the delight of friends and family over Thanksgiving. On the downside, we couldn’t see them. You know when you say, ‘I went to see Mazzy star last night’? Well, I went to not see Mazzy Star last night. Mazzy Star are too sensitive to be seen on stage. This means the tickets were extra cheap because they passed the savings from not having to employ a lighting technician directly on to the fans. Or perhaps they would have, if they didn’t treat their fans with such disdain for being fans.

As well as shrinking from the horror of light, they also can not bear verbal contact with the audience. They’re just too otherworldly, high up in their own elevated realm of distant stars and celestial musical musings (otherwise known as ‘their own arses’). Not that I’m expecting folk club banter, but would a muttered ‘Thank you’ be too much to ask? Or is that an overly mundane expression for these delicate artistes? Would pronouncing such a commonly used phrase irredeemably besmirch the purity of their counter-cultural compositions? That’s probably why they have no lighting technician – they overheard him saying thank you to the cashier at Starbuck’s and fired him. Hey, we don’t say thank you in Mazzy Star.

I realised about three songs in that the way to enjoy this concert (which I’m sure MS would tell you – if they spoke - that this is absolutely not what their music is there for) would be in the state known as monged-out-of-your-box (unfortunately, I wasn’t). “Interviews are difficult,” Sandoval told The Guardian recently. “Performing live is difficult. But nobody's forcing us to do it.” Really, Hope (who’s 47, not the 17-year-old she comes across as), it’s no big deal if you want to stay at home in a room full of candles. I’ll do the same, and be $30 better off, listening to your gorgeous voice without the intervention of Mr. Whoo.


AMD said...

This sounds almost exactly as I imagined a Mazzy Starr gig to be. I trust Brandi Carlile was better fun.

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

Yes, Brandi was somewhat chattier. I was surprised that Mazzy Star played an encore - it's the kind of thing you'd expect them to eschew on principle. In fact it turned out to be the musical highlight as they finally varied the volume and the pace. I also forgot to mention that Hope stood with some kind of e-reader, I think, directly in front of her at head height the whole night, so even if there had been lights, a large portion of the crowd wouldn't have seen her face.

nathan3e said...

Ian! You have returned!

Sometimes people are supposed to be pricks and aren't (Henry Rollins, who slept on my couch twice, willingly, and is a fantastic person) and sometimes they are, and provide additional evidence every time they appear in public (Mazzy Star, John Lydon, etc).