Two Boys, One Show: Mazzy Star, Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR

By Hollister Dixon and Arya Imig

After 17 years, Mazzy Star decided to make a new record, Seasons of Your Day, and go on tour to support it. The band kicked off the tour in Portland, and despite the expectations we had, Arya and I felt somewhat let down by the show. Below is the conversation we had about the performance, and how we feel after a few days.

Hollister: I don’t know what to say. I kinda started feeling underwhelmed.

Arya: Oh man, so many people walked out, dude. [Referring to the mass exodus following the band playing “that one song”, in this case “Fade Into You”]

H: That’s really ridiculous. But somehow not surprising. Did it feel kinda weird to you, too? Or was it just me? Something about the show was sorta off.

A: I don’t know about weird. It was about what I expected, given the reputation and music involved. This wasn’t a Cut Copy rave hall show, it was literally the music and only the music speaking for itself. Whether that’s alienating or not is an interesting question.

H: It felt really alienating. I thought the performance was good, but the problem was that a) the band performed almost in darkness, and b) it sounded pretty damn close to the record. It lead me to wonder, would it have just been easier to listen to the records at home in my living room, instead of standing in a giant room with a bunch of people drunkenly yelling?
You know me, I eat up reunion shows like nobody’s business. But that one felt less celebratory, and more… I guess it just felt like they were going through the motions a little bit.

A: Yeah in a lot of ways that’s exactly what they were doing. If performing live is such a god damn chore for her [Hope Sandoval, Mazzy Star frontwoman], why bother?

H: I almost feel like nobody told her that you can just make a record and not go on tour to support it. I have to wonder if the fact that Portland was the very first show of the tour might have affected it, but apparently Seattle didn’t get much out of her, either.
I get the whole “shy, semi-reclusive musician” thing, but I’ve seen a handful who have seemed grateful to get up there. Why perform, if you don’t want to? In the end, I feel sorta bad for everyone else. You and I got in free to cover it, but what about the people who paid like $40 after fees for that performance? How would you feel if that’s what you got for a show that spendy? I know it isn’t that spendy, but $40 is a fair chunk to spend on a ticket at the Crystal Ballroom, and in Portland in general, unless it’s the Schnitz or the Rose Garden or whatever.
A few days on, I feel like I wasted my time. I kinda feel bad for the people who walked out saying, “I’m never going to see that money again,” and now have a bad taste in their mouth about such wonderful, beautiful music.

A: I saw some pretty bummed expressions. And when I wandered over to all ages, people near me were spouting kinda pissed off things like, “Oh yeah let’s play another slow one”, but that was like somebody who was just a douchebag unfamiliar with them.

H: I’ll admit, the bulk of their oeuvre is unfamiliar to me, but I still know the score. It’s not as though they’re a very dynamic band, sonically speaking. They made/make blissed out dream pop. Of course they’re gonna play another fucking slow one.
What could have been better about the show? Would you see them again, after that?

A: I don’t really feel like I would see them again except if it was in a more intimate venue like the Aladdin or the Doug Fir.

H: Was that a weird case of the opener being somehow more interesting to watch than the headliner?

A: It was kind of a very stark contrast, but I appreciated it for not dragging out the monochrome.
As for what could have been better, certainly a show like that could have felt perhaps more powerful among fewer people … for how intimate that music is the space did not suit it and it wasn’t a matter of sound or anything, i thought the sound was actually pretty good where I was. Things sounded pristine. Or, as you think, almost too pristine. What was positive – i loved hearing the harmonica playing live.

H: Oh my, the harmonica made me swoon.
I’ve never had a problem with pristine, but the issue I took was that it sounded like it was a straight-up recording, if I closed my eyes. I guess, it wasn’t that it was pristine, it was that it was a little too… lifeless, maybe?
I don’t know if “lifeless” is the word, but it felt like they were just playing the notes and singing the words, instead of actually feeling them. Like I said: going through the motions.

A: I.E. pristine: don’t play the semantics game, if it sounded like the record then it sounded pristine and you had a problem with it sounding like the record.

H: Fair. I just wanted a little more mud, I guess. I didn’t want a carbon copy by a band that wasn’t really even interested in making the copy.

A: Yeah, true, it was carbon copy. Honestly though her nerves are probably at fault, because she can’t deal with improv. I thought they looked into some very swayable grooves at times. It’s definitely a wanderlust sound though; I told David [Sexton, friend of the show] they evoked the claustrophobic feel of a desert at night.

H: I can kinda see that, actually. That’s a very interesting way to put it.
When it comes down to it, I don’t feel like it was a BAD show, just disappointing. The music was fantastic, but unremarkable in its execution.
I’ll look forward to reading reports from other shows on this tour. I’d feel bad if they played a complete tour like that, with Sandoval never getting the steady footing to put on a really, really good show every night, or at least enjoy it.

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