Luka Kuplowsky & the Stardust Players :: Live at the Golden Lion

“The world is only big and grand when nothing is personal” wisely intones Luka Kuplowsky on the title track from his latest album, Stardust. The Toronto-based musician crafts his songs with a similar belief in small gestures, soft flourishes, and moments between moments. Delivering his poetic musings with a tender voice and unhurried pace, Kuplowsky’s music is an oasis of calm with the quiet power to draw listeners together.    

Back in January, Kuplowsky assembled an all-star band from the city’s jazz and improvisational community (whose members have performed with U.S. Girls, Martha Wainwright, and Beverly Glenn-Copeland) for a three-song performance embedded inside an atmospheric short film. Collaborating with filmmaker Colin Medley, who also directed Kuplowsky’s video for “Stardust (Reprise)”, the 12-minute mood piece captured live at The Golden Lion dining club is inspired by the minimalist movies of Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki.

“Kaurismäki always seems to have at least one scene in all his films set in a bar or restaurant with a live band performing,” says Medley. “Unlike other directors, who may just show a quick shot of the band playing to establish their presence, Kaurismäki lets these musical moments play out in full. Knowing that Luka, like myself, is a massive fan of Kaurismäki’s films, it made sense to try to place him and his band in one of these scenes.”

“The Golden Lion is a Ukraininan dining club in south Etobicoke, not too far from where I grew up,” adds Kuplowsky, who also works as an adjunct film professor. “I remember going there around 11 or 12 and being struck by how vast and ornate the space was. We were celebrating my Baba’s birthday and my brothers and I were wearing stiff white dress shirts and black ties.”

“When Colin and I thought to film a live performance homage to Kaurismäki, The Golden Lion sprung to mind. It shares the dislocated time and place of his films and serves the European ideal of the dinner and disco; white tablecloth and beer. The owners kindly allowed us to take over the space for an evening and within the span of three hours we had constructed our own Kaurismäki universe. To briefly revisit a childhood space and play a set of music through the lens of a Finnish director is a real trip.” | j locke

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