Andrew Bates

electric newspaperman

Seeing Stars in Vancouver made me feel unreservedly, just like in high school


Myself and Jenelle Davies at Stars at the Commodore in Vancouver. Left: In 2013. Right: Six and a half years earlier, in 2007.

Myself and Jenelle Davies at Stars at the Commodore in Vancouver. Left: In 2013. Right: Six and a half years earlier, in 2007.

It felt so good, just like six years ago.

The Stars concert in Vancouver at the Commodore April 6 was lovely on it’s own. You’ve probably heard they’re amazing live. You have heard correctly. Stars remain my favourite band, although it isn’t like they’re always at the tip of my tongue (though they certainly have been recently.) They’re more of a historical milestone for me, a first love that I’ll always feel for.

The concert was amazing. They played Krush, an EP song from 12 years ago that folded directly into last year’s Loose Ends Will Make Knots like there wasn’t a decade inbetween. They played Midnight Coward and, as if to say “hey, are you the kind of nerd that knows this is a spiritual sequel to Elevator Love Letter?” They played another heartbreaking rendition of Personal, which myself and my concert buddy Dessa Bayrock whispered back and forth to each other. I got to totally lose myself in their music, and it was great.

Stars are a band, I think, that I came to in high school at a time when I was figuring out how to truly express myself. In high school, where I poured myself into a tight group of friends, writing and drama, I learned to relate to other people better, as you eventually do there. But I was really good at not being sure of myself, and I feared making mistakes, especially when it came to romance.

I would sit, listening to concert tapes where they talked about getting drunk and sloppy and making mistakes at Sneaky Dee’s, a bar in Toronto, and realize that good or bad, doing things and learning from them would be the best I could do. I talked about them endlessly.

When the girl who would become my first love asked me out on a date, I stammered and asked for time to think about it. My friends told me what a jerk move that was, and told me to go after her. I ran six blocks to try and catch up, headphones in my ears playing Your Ex-Lover Is Dead. “It’s nothing but time and a face that you lose/I chose to feel it and you couldn’t choose.” It reminded me to trust my feelings. When we broke up, I curled up and listened to Heart to deal with it.

In 2007, I took the bus from Penticton to Vancouver to watch Stars twice in one day, once at a matinee show and once in the evening. My friend Jenelle and I watched from a distance at first. Between shows, we found Evan Cranley and Amy Millan behind the theatre, and they signed our albums. I tried to stammer to them why their music mattered to me, but never managed it, and ask them to play Heart. It was the only change they made on the regular set list between the two shows. She signed herself with the words “Love Harder.”

Stars, more than anything else, are about remembering to love harder. Their music exists at the intersection between sex and death; where desire and conflict seep into personal interaction, the root of everything worthwhile about the human experience. I’m still not perfect at it. The newest single, “Hold on When You Get Love, and Let Go When You Give It” is something I’m still trying to do properly. Loving is big and hard and scary. But live for yourself and for other people, and you can manage it.