Revisiting the past

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I use the terms “foreign” and  “travel” loosely on this blog, to refer to anything strange and unfamiliar on the one hand, and any journey – physical or emotional – on the other. This post is about psychic time travel, through music. 

As is my tradition (in the United States at least), I went to a Stars show by myself last week. The first time I saw them live was around twenty years ago, when they were just starting out and played in the basement of my university chapel. I don’t think I was alone that time but I can’t remember who I was with… All I remember was that I went on the advice of my little sister, I was blown away, and when I ran into the singer/guitarist Amy Millan in the bathroom I gushed to her about her angelic voice and awesome dance moves.

In 2002 I was 22 years old and I had just moved to Los Angeles. I saw that Stars was playing at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood. I had no friends to go with me, so I went alone. I had recently gone to my first movie by myself, which felt really awkward at first and really liberating by the end, and I figured this would be similar. It was not. I felt really awkward the whole time. But still I was glad I went, and in the times I’ve seen Stars since then I’ve almost always chosen to go alone. It seems fitting for music that is thematically all about solitude, nostalgia, longing, and bittersweet loss.

At the show last week I thought about all of the different me’s I have been each time I’ve seen Stars live (which is too many times to count), including the me I was when I flew on a whim to see them play in Paris, not by myself this time, but coming into my own in a way that made me feel very singular.

Sometimes you’re communing with the past so hard that it’s practically running alongside the present, and that’s how I felt at the show – awash in my various ages. The words of the songs and Torquil Campbell’s always flamboyant commentary kept uncannily echoing the feelings all those memories evoked.

At one point he told the audience, “Put your fists up for your ghosts. They’re on the guest list. Bring ´em along,” and I just thought, Yup.

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These musings are apropos of nothing; it’s just that I’ve written about Stars a few times here and I find it interesting how they’re always weaving in and out of my own personal zeitgeist. 

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