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The Blue Stones rock the Starlite on ‘Pretty Monster’ tour

This Canadian blues-rock duo stopped in Edmonton while touring their latest record.

On Saturday November 19, The Blue Stones lit up the Starlite Room with special guests indie group Low Hum and hard-rock band BRKN Love. The duo from Windsor, Ontario features Tarek Jafar on lead vocals and guitar, and Justin Tessier on the drums and backing vocals.

Pretty Monster is the band’s third studio album that dropped on November 4. This record follows their 2021 release Hidden Gems, which features the driving atmospheric track “Spirit” — one of Jafar’s favourites to play live.

Off of Pretty Monster, Jafar felt a deep personal connection to the song “Healing” which he states was intended to be a motivating anthem for listeners coming out of the pandemic.

Katie O'Connor The Blue Stones duo Tarek Jafar (right) and Justin Tessier (left) performing at the Starlite

Although Jafar expressed the difficulties of being on the road for extended periods, he loves getting into the groove after playing consecutive shows.

“Everything starts to click, and every night is like a well oiled machine … that’s where the fun really starts because you can let go of the stresses of everyday things going wrong; you’ve done it enough times now that everything is airtight.”

Feeding off of the incredibly lively crowd at the Starlite, The Blue Stones exhibited the fruits of their labour with an airtight performance. The pair brought immense energy to the stage with dynamic rhythm and electric riffs.

Katie O'Connor Tarek Jafar on lead vocals and guitar

The band’s music draws on a wide range of influences, from hip-hop artists like J Cole to the alternative rock group Mutemath. The bluesy duo The Black Keys, who Jafar states “carved the way for a lot of modern duos,” have also had a big impact on The Blue Stones’ sound. If given the chance to tour with any musical artist, Jafar said The Blue Stones would love to tour with the British rock group Foals, who they played with once on a regular show in Columbus, Ohio and are big fans of.

The songwriting process for The Blue Stones usually starts with an idea Jafar has for a melody of guitar or piano part, which he adds lyrics to later on. Jafar said that Paul Meany, the producer of Hidden Gems who worked with Twenty One Pilots on Trench, opened his eyes to the importance of lyrics.

“Before, I would kind of write lyrics as the little cherry on top … but he was like ‘you should really think about what you’re saying.'”

Katie O'Connor Justin Tessier on the drums and backing vocals

More recently, Jafar has drawn on personal experience and stories he hears for lyrical inspiration, aiming for what he calls an “undeniable connection when you write something from the heart.”

Pretty Monster, largely produced by multi-GRAMMY Award-winner Joe Chiccarelli, captures the unique sound of The Blue Stones through recordings of live performances layered with additional parts that maintain a genuine rock grit. Because this record exhibits the musical development and authentic sound of the band, it is Jafar’s favourite record so far.

Supplied Pretty Monster album art

Edmontonians sang along to the pop lyrics of the single “What’s It Take To Be Happy?” off of Pretty Monster and grooved to “No Angels,” a track that highlights the band’s blues influences. The crowd went absolutely wild for the band’s killer performance of the riveting “Black Holes (Solid Ground),” a heavier rock song from their debut album Black Holes.

Jafar wants listeners to know that he and Tessier “pour [their] souls into this stuff … and want these songs to have a genuine impact on people.” The live show definitely reflected the duo’s passion for music making and the connections they make with their fans.

Pretty Monster has something for everyone; the record seamlessly integrates melodies that will please fans of popular radio with the edge of modern rock.

Katie O'Connor

Katie O’Connor was the 2023-2024 Managing Editor at The Gateway. She previously served as the 2022-23 Deputy Arts & Culture Editor. She is in her fourth year studying English and art history. Katie attends every concert that she can, and spends most of her free time traveling, writing, or reading with a cat on her lap.

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