BEING THERE: Mazzy Star @ Union Transfer


Not sure how Mazzy Star wound up being one of those band’s that releases a new album with the regularity of a Haley’s Comet flyover, but as a long time fan of all things Mazzy Star-connected (Rain Parade, Dream Syndicate, Clay Allison, Opal) I’ll not look a gift horse in the mouth. It’s kind of like you’re cool stoner older brother who went to Paris to become a painter and disappeared into the sweet oblivion of heroin for 17 years suddenly showing up for Thanksgiving unannounced. Nobody asks too many questions, we’re just glad he’s here. Mazzy Star certainly weren’t entertaining any questions last night at the way, way sold-out Union Transfer. Firm believers in the old adage that dusky dream-pops bands are better heard than seen, the titular Stars — sultry, somnambulant singer-lyricist Hope Sandoval, near-mute beret-topped composer-guitarist Dave Roback, backed by a four-piece of long time sidemen/women (among them, drummer Keith Mitchell, keyboardist Suki) — appeared only in silhouette against old-timey stereoscope images of mysterious ships in the harbor and the purple mountain majesty of Ansel Adams’ iconic Yosemite portraiture projected on a rear screen. The audience-artist dialogue consisted of exactly two words, “thank you,” uttered by Sandoval mid-set and again at the end of the night. Opening with the mournful, funeral parlor organ chords of “Look On Down From The Bridge” — the last song on 1996’s Among My Swan, the last album the band released before falling silent for the better part of two decades — it was like they never went away at all. Spare, skeletal and just-shy of catatonic from the get-go (1990’s She Hangs Brightly), Mazzy Star’s four-albums-in-20-years evolution has been a study in the art of subtraction, a steady paring down to the bone of nothingness. The first third of the set was a study in said psych-folk austerity, culminating in the disembodied blues of “Lay Myself Down,” from the finely-aged wine of the new album, Seasons Of Your Day. From there it was a slow but steady ramping up of tempo and volume culminating in the mid-set rendering of “Fade Into You,” their deathless and curiously ubiquitous 1993 radio hit, and followed with a clutch of richly-rendered velveteen rockers (“Halah” and “Blue Flower”), reminders of a time when they were much more generous with other people’s hooks. They encored with the witchy-woman hex-folk of “California,” the presumptive single from the new album, before closing out the night with the Doors-ian So-Cal raga of “So Tonight That I Might See,” and then exiting as wordlessly as they entered. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait another 17 years before they do it again. — JONATHAN VALANIA