A sold-out crowd of avid music fans packed The Roxy Theater on Sunset Strip in Hollywood, on the last day of January, for a very special concert. Starset, who may have created their own musical genre of Heavy Metal Space Rock gave a “demonstration” of their latest live show to adoring fans in the packed little theater.
The show, featured openers, Gemini Syndrome, and was the first in their tour which will crisscross the country between now and early summer. Charismatic lead singer, Aaron Nordstrom lead the alt-metal openers through a well received and musically intense opening set. Gemini Syndrome is a Los Angles based band that has amassed a loyal following in the last seven years and have become a staple on the heavy metal festival circuit. The band played an intense 70-minute set of heavy tunes reminiscent of the band Tool.
The anticipation in the packed audience was akin to a tightly wound spring. A testament to the band's broad appeal, the crowd was indeed all ages. A middle-aged man at the bar relayed his concern for his young thirteen old sons. “He’s been squashed up to the front of the stage with his two ten-year-old cousins for nearly four hours waiting for the show to start. This is his favorite band, but I like them too. ” Apparently, the band has many avid fans. The band has amassed an astounding 700 million YouTube views. The band is the brainchild of lead singer and keyboardist Dustin Bates, who has an impressive resume, including a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, research work for the US Air Force, and a teacher at the International Space University. Bates has taken his fascination with astronomy to heart creating a whole back story to go with his new musical niche. Apparently Starset stays true to their carefully crafted backstory, including, The Starset Society story, whenever interviewed.
Bates first appeared onstage to begin an electronic track, on a keyboard with a massive computer screen facing into the crowd. What followed next was Wow! Sounding a bit like AFI meets Sigur Ross, the band exploded into life in an electronic, heavy rock, multimedia display unique to the group. Bates darted about the stage looking eerily like Bruce Campbell back in the Evil Dead days. His crisp clear vocals were backed by a thundering hard rock trio. Guitarist Brock Richards and bassist Ron DeChant pranced about the stage dressed ass astronauts complete with Space Helmets with lighting synchronized to the music. As the two-played ear, piercing riffs, their surreal appearance would constantly change as the inside of their helmets would light up their faces when they sang powerful backing vocals. Even more surreal was the presence of drummer Adam Gilbert, also wearing an electric spacesuit, playing behind a transparent screen. The drummer would occasionally disappear as the screen would become part of a stunning visual presentation of space inspired images.
When the band appears live, they are joined by a pair of classical musicians including a female violinist and male cellist, dressed strangely in vintage bomber jackets. But it is the awkward juxtaposition of the bow tie wearing Bates that captures most of the crowd's attention with his intense vocals and charismatic stage presence. The initial number, Into the Unknown, was delayed by a bit of technical difficulty as Bates struggled to engage the electronic backing track. But once he locked it in the band never looked back and fired straight into the next tune Back to the Earth, wowing the enthusiastic crowd. Next, they played two of their most popular songs from their debut album, Transmissions, with included Halo and Down With the Fallen.
The band then played much of the material from their new second album, Vessels. The set was full of song titles in keeping with the astronomical theme, including, Antigravity, Ricochet, Telescope, Frequency, and Satellite. The band also played their newest hit single Monster. The band likes to refer to their live shows as “demonstrations.” If their fans reaction at the Roxy show was any indication, the band has indeed demonstrated a bright and star filled future.