Montreal band ignites Rifflandia audience

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September 19, 2013

By Nadia Grutter

“Finally, someone saying something worthwhile,” said the guy encroaching on my umbrella space.

Stars’ co-lead singer Torquil Campbell had just thanked the audience for “helping create culture” when the band took the main stage during Victoria’s Rifflandia Music Festival’s final hours. Playing Rifflandia was a first for the Montreal-based indie band, but they worked the crowd like veterans.

“This is perfect!” yelled Campbell when a sudden downpour invoked frantic backpack searches for plastic ponchos. He stood at the edge of the stage, raised his arms and commanded the park with one of the band’s newer releases, “The North.”

“It’s so cold in this country…”

All eyes turned back on Amy Millan, Evan Cranley, Chris Seligman, Pat McGee and, of course, Campbell. Someone even shushed me.

Despite the melancholic nature of Stars’ music, lead singers Millan and Campbell warmed up the crowd with energy comparable only to the distant lightning. This is the fourth time I have seen Stars live, and the fourth time I have been charmed by the pair’s hilarious onstage antics. During the sexually suggestive chorus of “We Don’t Want Your Body,” Campbell chased Millan around the stage, mischievously wiggling the microphone wire behind him like a tail. The two sang to each other with such authenticity that it felt like watching a real conversation.

The band’s love for sharing the stage translated to the audience, whose dismay at the weather quickly turned into shared excitement (and shared umbrellas). When Campbell held out the microphone during the 2004 hit “Your Ex-Lover is Dead,” the crowd sang back the lyrics cohesively.  Everyone smiled at the pride with which Campbell brandished his melodica and swooned over Millan’s short dress. And people can blame the rain all they want, but tears were definitely shed.

After a short set of songs back from the Set Yourself on Fire days to their 2012 album The North, Torquil made one request before their last song.

“Dance! There is nothing else to do but dance.”

At this, most people in the audience threw up their hands and did just that. Campbell disappeared from the stage, reappearing moments later with a handful of children who danced the hardest of all of us. He and Millan twirled around the kids, igniting their last moments onstage with the wonder and freedom good music should stir in us.

I left the show with wrecked Converse and an insatiable urge to hug everyone I passed. It’s rare to see such a down-to-earth show from a successful band and leave having experienced the music, not just watched it. Stars’ first performance at Rifflandia confirmed the significance of simplicity and truth—not just in music but in everyday life.


University of Victoria student Nadia Grutter listens to music and writes when she’s out of classes

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