Elephant Stone + Meggie Lennon @ L’ Escogriffe – 21 February 2020

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Photo – Bowen Stead & Daniel Barkley

On Friday, February 21st Elephant Stone launched their 5th album “Hollow” at Bar L’ Escogriffe.  I was really looking forward to seeing them perform at a small venue, unfortunately, I was not the only one.  The intimate club was way too small for the completely packed crowd. I arrived on time but there were no seats left and no spot near the stage.  I couldn’t move without somebody rubbing up against me and it was difficult to breathe.  My plus one had cancelled and I was alone. I asked myself “why am I even here?”

I stood in the doorway and contemplated leaving when I noticed an older gentleman staring at me.  I’m not sure who he was but I believe that he worked at the club. He was going out for a smoke and had detected my pained expression.

He nodded at me just as the opening act began and smiled. I felt the energy in the room shift as Meggie Lennon’s soothing voice washed over me.   The crowd began to sway along with Meggie as she undulated over her synthesizer. And then before disappearing in the crowd he said; “Vous savez que la musique est très importante dans la vie.  Imaginez la vie sans musique.”

 I decided to stay.

Growing up in the 70’s, The Beatles were a major influence on my musical journey but it wasn’t until I heard Elephant Stone that I realized why I’ve always been drawn to the sitar.  My dad’s record collection was mainly comprised of old ethnic music so when he came home one day with two 8-track tapes with an image of a child on it, I figured they were for me.  I’m not sure how old I was but I do remember that they were bright red, made of plastic and so easy to use. All I had to do was push them into the slot and magically, music began to play.      

(The Concert for Bangladesh is a live triple album of two concerts held on August 1, 1971 at Madison Square Garden.  It featured George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Leon Russell and Eric Clapton.  Created  to aid the homeless Bengali refugees of the Bangladesh Liberation War, it set the model for future multi-artist rock benefits.)

Based on the “your vibe attracts your tribe theory”, there were a lot of women in the crowd.  I spotted a familiar face right in front of the stage and messaged her.  I was surprised to see her and enquired where she heard about Elephant Stone. Would you believe she discovered them from my article on Montreal Rocks?  She was also alone and invited me up front.  It was a sign.

As we laughed at our “chance” meeting, Rishi appeared, softly stepping out in his bare feet and began tuning tune his sitar.  We all began to cheer as the band took their places and prepared to bring us on a magical mystery tour.  

Elephant Stone opened with two tracks from earlier albums before treating us to new music.  First was “Heavy Moon”, which eased us gently into the night and then the transcendental “Don’t You Know”.  Almost everyone began to dance and sing. The few who didn’t, stood transfixed in anticipation.  When Rishi cradled his sitar, we all fell under his spell.  

Before even addressing the audience, it was clear that the band was happy to be back home. I was close enough to catch Miles Dupire grinning at Rishi from behind his drums, appearing very relaxed.  Robbie MacArthur played his guitar like he was auditioning for Steppenwolf.  Jason Kent really cut loose when he stepped away from his keyboard and took over the bass.  During that climactic part of “Don’t You Know”.

They played the first six tracks from “Hollow” in the order that they appear on side A.  I am really enjoying this album on so many levels.  Although the lyrics seem desolate at times, I still get the message of hope.  The first few cords of the acoustic guitar in “We Cry For Harmonia” invoke memories of George Harrison‘s “My Sweet Lord” (which was featured on The Concert for Bangladesh).

“For all the ghosts that we keep 
We cry for Harmonia! 
We will we will rebuild 
We will start something new”

I love the way each song leads to the next one telling a fantastical story as Rishi explains in an interview with Shindig.

“We’re not blind to climate change and what’s happening. So, I’ve been just writing it. It was all about us destroying the earth, going to planet B, ending up there and then the planet’s dead, because there are people before us that did the same thing, and then it just perpetuates itself and then it touches upon religion. They start worshipping false idols to salvation. And in the end, they reject it. It’s all very Tommy.”

“Hollow” has been a great source of comfort during my lonely days of quarantine. Looking back at that night at L’Escogriffe, I can’t believe how much things have changed in only a few weeks.  I will never complain that a venue is too crowded or I am too tired to attend a concert.  The words of a stranger who stopped to ease my mind still resonate.

“Music is very important.  Imagine your life without music”

Setlist :

  • Heavy Moon
  • Don’t You Know
  • Hollow World 
  • Darker Time 
  • The Court and Jury
  • Land of Dead
  • Keep the Light Alive
  • We Cry For Harmonia 
  • Andromeda
  • Child of Nature
  • Sally go Round the Sun
  • Setting Sun
  • Love the Sinner Hate the Sin
  • The Sea of Yr Mind

Annette Aghazarian

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