The Blue Stones: Live at The Lizard Lounge, Lancaster, PA

Blue Stones

Oh, how long I have waited for the opportunity to enjoy an evening of live Canadian music here in Central PA.  This past Sunday we welcomed Windsor, ON, and JUNO nominated band The Blue Stones to our backyard for a show at The Lizard Lounge, and they did not disappoint.  When Tarek Jafar (guitars/vocals) and Justin Tessier (percussion/vocals) originally formed The Blue Stones, they were facing uncertainty about who they were individually.  What they did know, however, was that they shared a passion to make great rock music together, and would hit a home run with their well-received 2018 full-length debut album, “Black Holes.”  Currently working on their sophomore album, Tarek and Justin shared both some new music and their highly energetic show with a packed house in the heart of PA.

Rising indie-alt rock songstress JJ Wilde (Kitchener, ON) opened the show with her full band, performing a high-energy 40 minute set to loosen up the room.  Opening with some bluesy guitar cries and a marching drum beat, JJ commenced the show with “Trouble,” before going on to share all four tracks from her 2019 “Wilde Eyes, Steady Hands” EP, and a selection of new material too.  Many in attendance were more than familiar with these tunes, singing in unison to songs both new and old.  Often categorized in such esteemed company as Liz Phair and Courtney Love, I immediately drew connections to the intensity and style of Toronto alt-rocker Joan Smith.  Fueled by plenty of aggression, JJ balanced the heavier side of her repertoire with lighter indie tracks such as “Cold Shoulders” and “Parents Convention.”

With the recent release of her brand new single, “Funeral For A Lover,” JJ took time to discuss the origins of this tune.  “The subject matter might be a little heavy, but I think it’s very important to talk about mental health,” she shared.  “I think that people struggle with it every single day and a lot of times are scared to talk about it, or they can’t, and all I want to do is just stop that, because I think it is very important to talk about it.”  Witnessing this brief moment of vulnerability and pain, JJ’s powerful bridge would stay with me for the rest of the evening: “If I could pick you up I would / Take all your fears away I would / If I could make you see yourself through my eyes.”  “If we did [talk about it], there’d be a lot more people still here, if you know what I mean?  If it wasn’t such an untouched subject,” she added. “That’s all I want to do, I want to have people talk about it.”

JJ Wilde Set List:

  1. Trouble
  2. Wired
  3. Home
  4. State Of Mind
  5. Gave It All
  6. Cold Shoulders
  7. Parents Convention
  8. Funeral For A Lover
  9. The Rush

 

During my ninety minute drive to the venue, I tuned into The Verge on SiriusXM radio, and learned that “Shakin’ Off The Rust,” the latest single from The Blue Stones, was the number four song on their weekly Grocery List top ten chart.  So how fitting that this alt-blues rock duo would kick off their 55 minute set with this great new tune, the first of 12 songs performed on this evening.  Bands often open with lesser-known tracks in order to tweak deficiencies in sound, but this was not the case here, engaging the crowd immediately with a hit tune and sounding great in the process.  “We’ve been in the studio quite a bit lately, and we’ve got some brand new stuff for you, I promise you that,” Tarek announced, prior to a performance of an unreleased track titled “Grim.”  And we’re very, very excited about it, I promise you that.”  Of course, the band would share nine tracks from their popular 2018 album too, much to the satisfaction of their avid fans.

With a recent resurgence of their singles on The Verge these last few months, it was great to witness The Blue Stones perform “Be My Fire” and their smash-hit (18 million Spotify streams) “Black Holes (Solid Ground).”  Equally impressive was seeing Tarek yield the first chorus of the latter to the room, replaced with a rousing audience-only chant delivered perfectly.  “This is a nice and cozy room, I feel like we’re all a little family in here,” Tarek shared.  “You know, we had an argument earlier about how to pronounce this city’s name.”  Receiving correctly pronounced responses of Lancaster from several on the floor, Tarek agreed with the feedback.  “That’s not what I said,” Justin retorted in jest.  “Boo.  Boo me.  That’s just so English [sounding].”  Temporary differences set aside, the duo would impress once more with an outstanding version of “The Hard Part.”

Opting to share another unreleased track, “Oceans,” Tarek and Justin would ultimately bring the show to a close with a loud and lively version of another hit single, “Rolling With The Punches.” All artists would spend time chatting with their fans after the show too, another great reason to catch some of your favorites in intimate venues such as this.  What a great night of music from two talented Canadian bands, and what a great way to cap off the weekend.  There are only a handful of remaining US dates on this Hidden Gems tour, before The Blue Stones take a brief hiatus, and then swing over to Western Canada.  Be sure to catch them now if they are in a city near you, because, believe me, you´ll be glad that you did.

The Blue Stones Set List:

  1. Shakin’ Off The Rust
  2. The Drop
  3. Be My Fire
  4. Magic
  5. The Hard Part
  6. Midnight
  7. Grim ***New Track***
  8. Lay
  9. Little Brother
  10. Oceans ***New Track***
  11. Black Holes (Solid Ground)
  12. Rolling With The Punches

 

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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