STARS + Hope For A Golden Summer + Donkey Heart @ Art En Majuscule

By Katie Seline - Wrong Side of the Bed - 09/30/2005

What I love most about this city is its easy access to great bands in intimate settings. Last Friday I was privileged enough to be able to attend the 150 tickets-only Quiet Fire II show at Art En Majuscule, in the warehouse district of the Old Port. This would be the end of my Pop Montreal binge, and was without a doubt the greatest possible way to pack it in.

Keeping with my newfound habit of arriving late for everything, I missed openers Donkey Heart, who I thought had broken up -- apparently I was wrong. In any case, as I walked through the cobblestone alley to Art En Majuscule, I knew that this was going to be a great night. The building that houses the venue was built on the ruins of the New City Gas Co., which was built in 1859. You really have to go to this place to understand how truly magical it is. Simply put, it was the perfect place to be holding this benefit. There was no stage, making everything all the more personal and inviting, allowing the audience to be right up in front of the musicians.

Hope for A Golden Summer is a five-piece from Atlanta and Athens, GA and who are enough to soothe the soul of even the most jagged of music lovers. Their set was one of the most captivating performances I have ever seen and its beauty lay in its simplicity. Singer Claire Campbell, whose voice can be compared to the likes of Beth Orton, harmonizes perfectly with Paige Campbell. Their melodies are soulful and enchanting and their sound borrows from old southern folk and bluegrass styles. There is nothing not to like about this band. At the very least, one can find true enjoyment in their use of saws and a crate of old coke bottles as instruments. HFGS can best be compared to an old-fashioned lullaby. The band is passionate and unique; it was a wonderful way to kick off my evening.

Next up was what everyone was waiting for -- a chance to see a band that we all knew was going to be absolutely amazing in such an upclose and personal environment. Stars is a group that have enjoyed moderate success. With two full-lengths under their belt (the first being the rather unknown album Heart) and despite being one of those “hey didn’t I hear that song on The OC?” bands, they remain just under the radar, which is odd considering all of the hype over the last year surrounding Montreal’s music scene. Perhaps this is due to the date of release of their most praised album, Set Yourself On Fire. The album came out around the same time as The Arcade Fire’s smash album Funeral, which basically stole any thunder available from any other band in the indie-rock music scene at the time. Whatever the case, this under-the-radar status is the beauty of Stars. Their lack of pretension and all-around amazing musical talent, paired with the fact that people haven’t been able to get sick of them in the way that they seem to have with The Arcade Fire allows for that little something special to remain intrinsic to them.

Set Yourself On Fire breaks my heart every time I hear it. The songs are real and raw, the sound is solid and fervent. Some call it cheesy, I call it beautiful, and I am willing to admit “Your Ex-Lover is Dead” is just about enough to make me cry. I knew that this show was going to stir up something that I hadn’t felt at a live show, no matter how good, in a long time -- the ability for a live song to really make me feel something. Every song that the band played made me want to run up and hold onto singer Torquil Campbell and never let go. As he pronounced “here’s a song for the person you hate the most”, just before breaking into “Your Ex-Lover is Dead”, I knew that this show was going to be one of the best for me this year. They played everything off Set Yourself on Fire, a few old ones and a great song called “All The Umbrellas In London,” which is a re-worked cover of the Magnetic Fields song. The audience sang along at the top of their lungs, and everyone fell in love.

If you’ve heard Set Yourself on Fire and are not quite sure, I urge you to see the band the next chance you get. They will blow you away with a sound that is pure, with an innocent and entertaining energy and with songs that will make you cry. I left the show with such a giddy, overwhelmed happiness that made the whole festival all that much better. It was the perfect way to end three days of great music, and what’s more, it was for a great cause.

For more information on Art En Majuscule visit:

[Catch Katie every Wednesday afternoon with Wrong Side Of The Bed from 4-6pm only on]