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The Blue Stones at The Fulford Arms- Hidden Gems World Tour

The Blue Stones, a Canadian alternative-rock duo, played in York in one stop on their World Tour. The band promoted their sophomore album ‘Hidden Gems’ at the Fulford Arms.

Tarek Jafar and Justin Tessier met in high school in Windsor, Ontario. Growing up just across from Detroit, on the Canadian-US border, they absorbed both cultures. Jafar (vocals/guitar) and Tessier (drums/vocals) started playing music together in 2010 but only as a ‘DIY’ band, as they addressed in a recent Podcast. Without a professional team behind them, the guys organised their own concerts, tours, and social media. Afterwards, Tessier left Winsdor and Jafar moved to England for his studies. The musicians were only able to do a couple of summer gigs each year which made them work together more efficiently. 

A management company based in Cleveland, Ohio, contacted the duo after hearing them on Spotify, kicking off their professional careers. On their first US tour besides locations in Ohio, The Blue Stones played in New York showing them how far they could go.

Justin Tessier and Tarek Jafar, The Blue Stones
Picture credit: Sameer Jafar

Their most-streamed song, ‘Black Holes was released as a single and then on the band’s first album of the same name in 2018. The song has been streamed 34,002,075 times on Spotify, at the latest count.

The Blue Stones’ very recent second album, ‘Hidden Gems’ was released on 19th March. The producer for the project was Paul Meany, who previously worked with Mutemath, Twenty One Pilot, and LANY. Meany ‘helped the band to not only explore and create music in a new way but discover themselves throughout the writing process.’

The World Tour of ‘Hidden Gems’ started in Bristol on 14th March. York was the second stop. The tour was sponsored with a grant to help The Blue Stones play in several European locations, including London, Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Berlin. 

The Canadian Government established a grant to help up-and-coming bands pursue success outside the country. And perhaps spreading the message to the world, not Nickelback is the only Canadian band worth listening to.

Having heard The Blue Stones for the first time, their underground, indie-rock tones instantly reminded me of The Foals. Jafar and Tessier themselves compare their music to The Foals, The Mutemath, Nothing But Thieves and The Neighbourhood.

On the night of the concert, The Fulford Arms was packed with all kinds of different people. People of different ages dressed up in various styles gathered to have a taste of ‘Hidden Gems’. The tone for The Blue Stones was set by Andrew Cushin and his band, youngsters from Newcastle who despite only enjoying success recently even recorded with Noel Gallagher. Their deep, somewhat dark music prepared the audience for the Canadian duo’s unique sounds.

Picture credit: Fruzsina Vida

They started off strong with ‘Let it Ride’ followed by ‘Be My Fire’ and ‘Spirit’. The tune, ‘Spirit’ has classic garage rock elements while also carrying depth. It takes up the hard period when life becomes a treadmill and one feels disconnected from everything.

‘I don’t trust myself

I feel like somebody else

I feel like somebody else

Yeah, there’s thunder in my head

And it rumbles through the dust on my shelf

Yeah, there’s thunder in my head

Unfamiliar like I’m somebody else’

Another piece with complex meaning is ‘One By One.’ It is ‘a song about getting caught up in an addictive cycle: it’s too good to break, but it tears you apart from within. I think a lot of people associate addiction with a substance, but addiction can form a process or a person. The feeling of reaching for an outstretched hand, and it only ends up pulling you down deeper’-as the musicians addressed.

A personal favourite ‘Make This Easy’ has a more aery, cold but cheerful tone despite the bitter lyrics about a difficult breakup. It reminds me of a lighthearted Sunday afternoon (hungover) walk, just before the sunset.

‘We’re holding on to memories past

Somethings just aren’t meant to last

[Chorus]

Why are you here with me

If I can’t do you nothing, just leave

I see you contemplating, the truth

Lеt me make this easy, for you

Lеt’s make it easy’

Regardless of the rather small venue, The Fulford Arms made it an unforgettable rock concert. The atmosphere was ecstatic, complete strangers united by chanting the songs together in the dark space lit by stroboscopic lights. The Blue Stones was the first proper band I’ve seen since the strange pandemic-reality (hopefully we are about to leave behind) started. The guys reminded me how much I missed concerts- sweaty, nights of shouting and jumping with no oxygen. But who needs air when the music-euphoria keeps us going?

The whole audience spoke with one voice, myself included. For our hysteric encouragement, The Blue Stones played one extra song, one of the biggest classics of all time. The last few minutes of the concert was the cherry on top when the packed pub was shouting together ‘I can’t get no Satisfaction.’

The Blue Stones certainly satisfied my hunger for a proper underground night. And who knows, as Jafar suggested with a banter, they might have continued the afterparty in Betty’s!

Tickets for the upcoming concert destinations are available here.

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Picture credit: Fruzsina Vida