Volume 17 • Issue 8 / July 16 - 22, 2004

Montreal band at Castle Clinton draws young crowd

By Aileen Torres

The Stills, a Montreal-based pop-rock band, played at Castle Clinton National Monument last week to a full crowd. The concert was part of the annual Hudson River Festival, which is in its eighth season of presenting free shows to the public, courtesy of the Alliance for Downtown New York, Inc.

Ranger Jim of the Parks Service—a.k.a. “the hardest working man in show business,” according to the host – explained that Castle Clinton was built during the War of 1812 and was the first immigration station in the city, operating from 1855 to 1890. The monument was also the first entertainment center in town in the 1850s.

For the most part, the crowd was very young; mostly high-school age and people in their twenties and early thirties. Hipster-cool was the dominant style. In the front row, a group of teenage girls sat, sporting the post-punk look of the eighties.

The band, comprising four guys in their early twenties who’ve been playing together for about two years, came on stage. The lead singer, Tim Fletcher, wore a heather blue tee shirt and tight black jeans, and slung a cherry red guitar over his shoulder.

Fletcher announced that the band would play their entire album — they only have one thus far, which came out in 2003.

Throughout the concert, the audience kept the beat with their legs and a few nodded their heads, but there wasn’t much movement among the crowd. The musical energy was visceral, without an angry edge that rock sometimes induces. The audience seemed simply to appreciate a lovely evening of good music, tinged with a brit-pop sound and influences from ‘80s bands, such as Echo and the Bunnymen. They’ve been compared to Interpol, one of the bands dominating the contemporary New-York music scene, with whom The Stills toured when they first came to the city. Members of the band cited The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Clash, and Radiohead as influences.

“New York is pretty much our second home,” said Fletcher while introducing their song “Of Montreal.”

The Stills did an encore of two songs. One was a track called “Fevered.” For the final song, “Yesterday Never Tomorrows,” Dave Hamelin came out from behind his drums to sing the lead, clearly enjoying himself as he wandered around and crooned at the front of the stage.

“I know it’s cheesy and not very New York, but could you start clapping?” he asked the audience in the middle of the song.

“New York is always great,” said Hamelin, one of the band’s principal songwriters, in an interview after the show. “We all know our way around. It’s a lot of fun. New York is a lot like Montreal.”

“It sounded pretty good for an outside concert,” said the lead guitarist, Gregory Paquet. “This is New York, so there’s always a bigger response. New York crowds tend to have a reputation for being pretty jaded, but we haven’t felt that.”

“They’re a great band,” said Cece Stelljes, 32, of Williamsburg.

“I thought the show was really good,” said Rod Perez, 31, of Brooklyn.

The Stills are taking the summer off from touring. They are currently writing songs for their new album, which, according to Hamelin, will have “less epic melodicism” than their debut album, “Logic Will Break Your Heart.” They will begin touring again in the fall. And, yes folks, they do love New York.

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