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Seeing Stars: An interview with Torquil Campbell

Stars, from left, Pat McGee, Chris Seligman, Amy Millan, Evan Cranley and Torquil Campbell play Buffalo's Town Ballroom Wednesday.

BUFFALO -- Torquil Campbell is tired. But he's nearing the homestretch.

Campbell, Amy Millan, Evan Cranley, Chris Seligman and Pat McGee will convene as Stars beginning at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Town Ballroom in what News Pop Music Critic Jeff Miers called "one of the season's most hotly anticipated club gigs."

Campbell spoke to Live from Cincinnati where the quintet was on the next-to-last night of its coast-to-coast North American tour that started in September.

"It's been great," Campbell said of the fall tour in support of Stars' June release "The Five Ghosts." "It's been really, really, really long. I can feel it at this point pretty badly. But the shows have been fantastic."

In fact, Campbell is no stranger to Western New York. A Toronto native, he spends time in Montreal and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. where his wife is an actor in the Shaw Festival.

"Buffalo is practically my neighborhood," he said.

In fact, Stars is part of a decade-long groundswell of popular indie Canadian bands such as Arcade Fire, New Pornographers and Broken Social Scene (the brilliant collective that counts members of Stars among its ranks) breaking through and achieving massive crossover appeal with American audiences.

Campbell credits the Canadian government's policy toward its arts. The Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings was set up in the early 1980s to promote the Canadian music industry. And requirements were passed to guarantee that a certain percentage of content aired is by Canadian artists.

"The political will was there to create an environment that was favorable for music," Campbell said. "And as a result of that you started to get an industry, a tradition and a scene."

Campbell talks about the importance of arts funding and education:

Stars got its start in that flourishing industry 10 years ago and "Ghosts" is its fifth full-length release in that time.

While Campbell has derived inspiration from painters such as Matisse and Picasso, a couple of life-changing experiences set the tone for the new album.

Seligman had a strange haunting experience, which kicked off the eerie aura surrounding the album. Then Campbell's dad died midway through the recording. And his daughter was born. It raised myriad questions for the 38-year-old singer about life and loss.

"Where do people go?" he asks. "Where do the people you once knew go? And where do the people who died go? They live inside your mind but are they present? And if they're present then how do they feel? Are they lonely? Are they afraid? Do they want us to know that they're there?"

Campbell talks about the inspiration behind "Ghosts":

With such interpersonal material, Stars had to find a delicate counterbalance between up-tempo dance-pop such as "How Much More" and the whimsical sway of "Changes" — two of the album's standout tracks.

"That's the tedious part of writing a song, in a way, is tempo," he said. "You try it in a lot of different ways, basically, is the only way to find out a song works. You get in a room and play it lots and lots and lots of times until you find something that feels natural."

The result is always evocative pop that recalls New Order, Kraftwerk and the Junior Boys wrapped up in haunting melodies that linger long after they're gone.

Town Ballroom, of course, is generally regarded as one of Western New York's most haunted establishments. It opened as the Town Casino and hosted all the big names in night club entertainment including Frank Sinatra.

Campbell seemed genuinely intrigued when told about the venue's history.

"How appropriate," he said laughing.

Doors for the all-ages show will open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 advance, $25 day-of-show (, box office).

--Joseph Popiolkowski

Bob Dylan playing Rochester in November

Musician Bob Dylan performs onstage during the 37th AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Michael Douglas at Sony Pictures on June 11, 2009, in Culver City, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI)

Bob Dylan will perform at the Rochester Institute of Technology on Saturday, Nov. 6, organizers announced this afternoon.

Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. tomorrow (Friday, Oct. 1) via Ticketmaster.

According to the listing on, all seats are $54.95 ($45 plus $9.95 in fees).

The concert will be held in RIT's Gordon Field House.

Tickets can be purchased at all Ticketmaster outlets, as well as online and at the field house box office. They can also be charged by phone at (866) 448-7849.

Buffalo Oktoberfest tonight at Central Terminal

The Central Terminal will host the eighth annual Buffalo Oktoberfest today from 5:30 to 11 p.m.

Organizers are trying to re-create the atmosphere of an authentic German event, said Marty Biniasz, marketing and public relations coordinator for the Buffalo Central Terminal Restoration Corp.

There will be food, music and -- of course -- beer.

In addition to German-brewed Spaten Lager and Warsteiner Oktoberfest, beers brewed by Buffalo's Flying Bison Brewing Co. and at Pearl Street Grill & Brewery will be available.

Tickets for the event are $10, or $5 with college ID.

If you're feeling festive, you can get in for free if you wear a dirndl, lederhosen or bundhosen (which are just longer lederhosen). 

The Central Terminal is located at 495 Paderewski Drive at Memorial Drive. Here's a map.

Listen to Biniasz talk about some of the different facets of tonight's event:

--Aaron Besecker

Video: A Day in the Park For '80s Lovers

Step into LaSalle Park today and you'll be stepping into a bit of a time machine.

Hello Yesterday! An '80s Festival kicked off at noon and runs through the night, capping off with a performance by Flock of Seagulls.

Here's what News Pop Music Critic Jeff Miers had to say about today's event.

Check back See above for video, including which includes an interview with festival director Christopher J. Blake and some of the fans in attendance, including a Buffalo doctor who came dressed as Prince.

--Aaron Besecker

Michael Buble coming to HSBC Arena Dec. 1

Michael Bublé will perform at HSBC Arena on Dec. 1, the venue announced this morning.

Tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Sept. 24.

Ticket prices are $92, $72 and $52, and can be purchased online at, at the HSBC Arena box office, participating Tops Markets or by phone at 888-223-6000.

Poll: Best free concert series of summer

As the summer music season winds down, Buffalo News Live wants to know: 

2:58 p.m.: In case you missed our last poll, get your vote in for your favorite Thursday at the Square concert of the year here.

30 Seconds to Mars show in Falls postponed

The 30 Seconds To Mars show that had been scheduled for for Sept. 13 has been postponed until January, The Rapids Theater posted on its Facebook page this afternoon.

The band is scheduled to attend the MTV Video Music Awards on Sept. 12, "and they do not feel they will have enough time to get here for our show," according to the Niagara Falls venue.

Previously purchased tickets will still be honored on the new date, which has not yet been finalized, the venue said.

--Aaron Besecker

Goo Goo Dolls to play at Seneca Allegany

The Goo Goo Dolls have scheduled another Western New York show.

The band has a date at the Seneca Allegany Casino & Hotel at 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 30.

Tickets go on sale at noon Sept. 3, and will start at $65.

Tickets will be available through, by calling 1-800-745-3000 and at all Seneca casino box offices.

Want to know how the band's new record sounds? Pop Music Critic Jeff Miers' review of "Something for the Rest of Us" will be in Tuesday's paper. You also can check out Jeff's blog, Miers on Music.

Here's Joseph Popiolkowski's review of the Goo Goo Dolls' show at Darien Lake in July.

--Aaron Besecker

Grammy-winning Los Lobos headline the Square tonight

With their newest record out this week, Los Lobos will perform at tonight's free Thursday at the Square concert.

Here's a review of the band's new record, "Tin Can Trust."

You can get a free download of a new song, "Jupiter on the Moon," at the band's website.

Here's a recent review of a Los Lobos show, as published in Gusto.

Here's a video clip of the band performing at the White House:

Opening are JJ Grey & Mofro. Here's one of their videos:

Tonight's show starts at 5 p.m. in Lafayette Square.

View Larger Map

--Aaron Besecker

'Just Announced' concerts and shows in Western New York

A regular feature in Friday's Gusto is a list of newly announced shows and concerts in Buffalo and Western New York.

Here's the latest edition, complete with links to purchase tickets.

--Aaron Besecker

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