Reason #20 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

Starlite Room

by emil tiedemann

IT ALMOST looked like a medieval church, depending on where you were standing. Brick walls, an arched entrance, and a flock of bohemians, beatniks, and beirdos waiting for the large castle-like doors to swing open and grant them asylum from the cold. 

It was the middle of February in Edmonton and so the sooner the better. I had been invited by some publicist because of my blog about “everything Edmonton,” and in fact had never even heard of headliner Michael Bernard Fitzgerald prior to this invite, nor had I ever been to a show at the Starlite Room
Calgary's Michael Bernard Fitzgerald (left) performing at the Starlite Room, with Andrew Ball on drums.

I had at least heard of the Starlite though, and was excited to finally check it out, sort of a hidden gem, unless you’re a fan of any music that Pitchfork or Spin magazine might praise. I hope I didn’t paint a picture of pretentious and arrogant hipsters staring you down because you’re wearing “what’s in” according to Abercrombie & Finch’s winter catalogue. I don’t, by the way, and the Starlite is anything but. 

It just all felt kind of different, you know, from the other places I would go see concerts or have too many drinks at. I was the outsider here, but before I knew it, I was one of them! That night - February 11, 2010 - I fell in love twice! First, with this Calgary kid who’s fans all call simply MBF, and secondly, with the Starlite! 

There’s no doubt that the electricity in that room that night was ignited by MBF, but the place just sort of melded into his epic performance, almost like itself was an instrument in his booming band. Without it, the music would suffer, it seemed. It just all came together for one giant eargasm - that’s right, eargasm! - that made me think about fate. 
The Starlite Room is perhaps the coolest music venue in all of Edmonton, located just off of Jasper Avenue in the downtown.

Because that’s what it must have been when I responded to that email from MBF’s publicist, which I had initially ignored and forgotten about. If I hadn’t gone back and re-read it, if I hadn’t RSVP’d “sure, why not,” and if I wouldn’t have gone downtown that cold Thursday night, I would not have fallen in love. 

MBF sang to us as though he had written the songs for us, and together with his bandmates and back-up singers, reminded anyone who might have forgotten what music is all about. The stomping of the feet, the clapping of the hands, the bobbing of the head, and young men and women singing along to lyrics now familiar to me, together like a preacher, a choir, and the congregation in harmony and in rhythm to the beats and howls of their church hymns. It was a magical night! 

Since then, I have seen MBF seven more times, including once in a van parked just outside of the Starlite for an intimate pre-concert concert for a handful of his biggest fans (others might use the term “fanatics”). I even did an interview with MBF at the venue, just before another one of his concerts there. And of course, I have returned to those slanted hardwood floors and brickwork walls for other shows since. During one show, I spent the whole time in the back room - sort of a venue within a venue - that opens on rare occasions. 

And although I will always have an appreciation for that under-appreciated room where under-appreciated music is appreciated by a collective of music appreciators, nothing will return me to that cold February night at the Starlite Room. #thestarlite


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