Apologies in advance. Mazzy Star doesn’t allow photography or filming of their shows, including this performance at the Cathedral Sanctuary at Immanuel Presbyterian last Tuesday. So unfortunately, that will be lacking, with the exception of their opener “Flowers in December,” which I managed to capture, before being asked to stop. I was a bit taken aback. But honestly, given some thought, it doesn’t really matter, since these downtempo paisley dream-pop artists perform in the dark, with only minimal back-lighting and monochromatic projections for illumination. This is definitely a show to listen and feel, rather than see.
Rumor has it vocalist Hope Sandoval has a bit of a shy personality, so she prefers the lights down low. I’m guessing that came as a surprise for those expecting to actually watch Mazzy Star perform. And I heard at least one audience member ask to brighten the stage between songs, to which a reply of two mirror balls was given. But I’m guessing those visuals were already planned, and the request was just coincidence. I don’t really mind, though. I’ve seen Mazzy Star a few times prior, in varying shades of literal darkness. And each time, it’s been a calming experience, peaceful, serene, sometimes spacey, and ultimately meditative. That tends to happen when you’re sole sense is the sound, and the sound alone.
Mazzy Star’s performance at the cavernous SoCal cathedral was about as casual and cathartic as you’d expect, almost folksy in a meandering electro-acoustic kind of way, with even a little country twang in their sauntering step. Tracks like “Ride It On,” the aforementioned “Flowers in December,” or the one that everyone knows, “Fade Into You,” set the leading tempo to lo-fi and lax. Sandoval would occasionally mark the mood with xylophone chimes or harmonica flurries. But the stuff I really relished were the spacey psychedelic magical mystery trips, like “She Hangs Brightly,” breezy in thistle-brushed beats, or “Rock Section,” freaked-out in its fuzz and haze. Plus, it’s always a pleasure to hear some Hammond organ in the mix. Sort of sets the flashback machine to the right wash of paisley.
Mazzy Star’s been around since the late ’80s/early ’90s, formed in Santa Monica (of all places), with core members Sandoval and David Roback remaining the only constants. For their live shows, they expand to a five-piece ensemble, including My Bloody Valentine’s power drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig, who’s been a regular since 2012. He’s also an integral member of Sandoval’s solo act Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions, which tends to skew slower, deeper, and spacier. Anyway, Mazzy Star’s been on a bit of hiatus, five years or so, having just returned to the stage around the middle of last year. Their latest tour is marked with a new EP, “Still,” and a few nights in Los Angeles at the Cathedral last week.
I really wish I had more material to offer. But like I said, there’s not much to see in the visual spectrum. Below is the “Flowers in December” clip I mentioned earlier. That little string of LED lights is where you can see Sandoval’s silhouette, if you look close enough. Sadly, when the light is this low, the focus tends to waver. Fortunately, the sound is excellent in this particular venue, which translates effectively to this recording.
Mazzy Star perform “Flowers in December” @ the Cathedral Sanctuary at Immanuel Presbyterian.
Here’s Mazzy Star’s full setlist, minus the final track, “Rock Section,” which only made it on a 1993 live recording in Paris called “Black Sessions.” For the life of me, I don’t know why they never made a studio recording of this one. It’s a wonderfully raw psychedelic rocker that feels caught in its own time and place. I’ve included it as a YouTube embed, since Spotify doesn’t stream it. Enjoy!