November 30, 2011
Los Angeles, CA
The truth is: I almost didn’t go. I had just experienced one of the most magical musical nights ever at Largo and wanted to race home to write about it. Also, in fairness to all the amazing musicians I have the opportunity to see, some shows just shouldn’t be “followed”. I’ve taken mini hiatuses from live music after experiencing shows that transcend. I wrote specifically about that after Nine Inch Nails played their final shows.
When experiences like the one that inspired me to write A Love Letter to Largo, or to post three videos of the sound of audience applause demanding a fourth encore at a Thom Yorke show occur, there is more at work than the talent of the musicians. There’s an element of magic. . . divine collaboration. . . universal support. . . which causes transcendence.
I revere experiences like these. I can remain high (metaphorically speaking) for months following a show like the one at Largo Wednesday night. My inclination after shows like that is to go home, open a bottle of wine, write, and watch the sunrise. I sometimes take a break from seeing other, exceptionally talented musicians because it’s not fair to them – nor others in the crowd – if I’m not fully present and “at” their show. Yes, we all do affect each other that much, even when we, or they, are not consciously aware of it.
I had committed to many, including the band, to attend Telstar‘s show following the magical Largo show Wednesday night. Yet, for all of the reasons mentioned above, I almost didn’t go.
But I did go see Telstar that night and I’m writing this, specifically, so that you see them as well, every opportunity you get.
You may be wondering, “Who the fuck is Telstar??”
Chris Unck, Eva Gardner, and Stew Heyduk (“Telstar”) have “official bios” and credits that include P!nk, Feist, Mars Volta, Butch Walker, and Veruca Salt. Not to take away from how impressive that is, but blah, blah, blah. . .
To really appreciate Telstar, you need to experience the people they are. These are the kids you were hanging out with when your parents thought you were studying for finals. They’re fun, they’re funny, they’re passionate, imaginative, playful, creative, exceptionally talented, and they love what they do. They have a lot of friends because they treat people well and they’re fun to be with. They’re the friends you call when you just need to laugh. They’re the accomplices you call when you just need to party. They’re the band you see when you want to have a good time. A Telstar show is like a public service announcement to have more fun, enjoy what you do, surround yourself with good people, relax, and reconnect with what’s truly important.
When managers, labels, agents, publicists, and musicians invite me to a show, there’s always a corresponding “pitch”. “They sound like. . . “, “They’re the next. . . “, “They play with. . . “, “As heard on. . . ” That’s how it works. There are numerous things that compete for our attention and it can be a hard “sell” to get people out to a show.
My invite to see Telstar was in the form of a text message that began with “The band’s name is Telstar. . . ” and went straight to “It’s Chris Unck, Eva Gar. . .” I stopped reading and replied, “I fucking LOVE them!”
Watch this video from a Butch Walker and The Black Widows “secret” show in LA a few months ago:
Butch Walker has an exceptionally commanding stage presence. He’ll hang from the rafters, get the audience dancing on tables, squatting down to the ground, and jumping up to touch the ceiling. That guy could be on stage with the Dalai Lama and a running chainsaw and you wouldn’t notice the Dalai Lama nor the chainsaw. But as you can see from the video above, you do notice the band, which includes Eva Gardner and Chris Unck of Telstar. Their contribution musically, as well as to the spirit of the show, is undeniable. Those secret shows at The Basement Tavern would not have been the same without that band. I showed up, week after week, as much to see the band as to see Butch Walker. Eva Gardner and Chris Unck grabbed Stew Heyduk and formed a band called Telstar??? Hell yeah, I’ll go to that show.
So I went to that show. And, I completely forgot that I almost didn’t go. I forgot about everything. Telstar teleported us back to a time when music was music, not a marketing ploy. Music unifies people. Telstar made everybody in the room feel like old friends. Although the music is timeless, The British Invasion was before my time, so I didn’t get to experience it live. Telstar’s music and show made me feel like we were back in that era.
The separation between the band and the audience would be nearly imperceptible if not for the instruments in the hands of the band (and the fact that they can play). Everyone is part of the show. Everyone is having a good time. There was one instance, between songs, when people were having such a good time that the band waited a moment before they kicked into the next song. It wasn’t about “Hey, look at us!” At Telstar’s show it’s, “Oh good, you’re enjoying yourselves! We love that. That’s why we’re here.”
When they do transition into the next song, it’s time to dance and sing along. It feels like a party, but not like one of those shows with sloppy drunk fans who spill their Miller beer on you. People at a Telstar show will not spill their drinks at any cost. These are the pros – the musicians and the fans. They know what they’re doing and they know it only matters if you’re having fun.
I had a lot of fun with Telstar, but they also made me think. They’ve made me reconsider my long-standing tradition of taking a break after a single transcendent experience. There’s magic everywhere and you can continue to transcend, if you’re open to it.