It was a cold, wet and raining Saturday night when this reviewer made his way into Melbourne and headed to Max Watt’s to see Starset on their first ever Australian tour!
When this reviewer arrived at the venue just on 7 pm, there was only approximately six people lined up; I said hi to a security guard friend of mine before going to get dinner. Coming back just before doors opened at 7:30, I was pleased to see that the line to get into Max Watt’s had grown to at least 50 people and was stretching down Swanston St; unfortunately coming from the front of the line I didn’t get to see just how many people were there, but it had grown impressively in that half hour timeframe.
Walking down the staircase into Max Watt’s, the ears of concert goers were being treated to a Metallica feast as we were waiting for the first support act Transience to grace the stage. The Melbourne quintet made up of Robert Cuzens (vocals), Tim Davies (guitar/programming), Luke Mastrocola (drums), Bob Parry (guitar) and Andrew Thomas (bass) graced the stage at 7:45 pm to a steadily growing number of fans making their way from the merchandise table or bar to their positions along the outer walls of the venue.
Transience played a 30 minute set that consisted of four songs, the opening song had this head slowly starting to nod along whilst taking notes; Thomas on his lime green bass guitar paired with Mastrocola on drums really tapping into and taking over the body’s natural reaction to want to move to the beat! This was all topped off with Cuzens’ voice hitting some nice clean high notes, not to mention his screams really cut through the loud in your face instruments! By the start of the second song, more people had started standing around the back/sides of the inbuilt mini pit at Max Watt’s; excluding four people in the middle of the pit, no one was really occupying space behind those on the rail; this trend continued for most of Transience’s set. The third song ‘Endless Change’ started right on 8 pm, the reason being the first two songs that opened the set combined into a 15 minute onslaught of the ears! The fourth song of the set was also the last; with the set ending at this meaning that each song was an average of seven and a half minutes each! The crowd that was on the positive side of 110 were all enjoying themselves on varying scales, ranging from the gentle head nodding to the full body moving and on the spot dancing.
Unfortunately due to the stage set up, there wasn’t much room for the support bands to move around, but that didn’t detract from the energy that Transience had tonight; Mastrocola was enjoying being able to get all his energy out behind the kit; which when paired alongside the lime green five-string bass of Thomas, really lifted the tempo for the last 5 minutes of their set.
During the 20 minute wait between Transience leaving and fellow Melbournians Branch Arterial taking the stage, the ever growing crowd were treated to such classic songs as ‘I Fought the Law,’ the Guns ‘N’ Roses version of ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ and ‘Dead or Alive’ by Bon Jovi!
Five strings seemed to be the fashion statement of the night, as Kade Turner of Branch Arterial sported one as well, albeit on the complete opposite of the visual spectrum as this was a nice dark stained wooden bass. Listening to Branch Arterial doing their sound check was a very good insight into what was to be expected throughout their upcoming set! People were scattered all throughout Max Watt’s as Branch Arterial started their set at 8:35 pm; it was nice to get to enjoy live music without the constant pushing and shoving that generally comes with being on the rail.
The quintet that was made up of Turner, Nigel Jackson (vocals), Jason Worthy (guitar/vocals), Tim Chilman (guitar) and Adam Zaffarese (drums) played a fast paced and chugging 40 minute, five song set; Jackson was hitting high notes as cleanly as Tim McIlrath from Rise Against and Turner reminded this reviewer of a younger, shirt wearing Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers! The first song came along and lifted the energy of the still growing crowd, only ending so the crowd could show their appreciation; the second song was chugging and just as impressive, as it also made you bob your head along! There was a slightly longer pause whilst Jackson thanked Starset for allowing them to play tonight, as well as showing support for fellow Melbournians Transience.
The following three songs that made up the rest of Branch Arterial’s set came and went in a raw, loud, in your face blur; the dual vocals of Jackson & Worthy were the softening touch that stopped Branch Arterial from being charged with committing assault on your ear drums. Jackson thanked Starset once again for allowing them to perform tonight, before launching into their final song and concluding their set at 9:05 pm.
Starset graced the stage at 9:30 pm to the cheers of the long awaiting Melbourne crowd who whilst growing to well over 300 people, were still spread out around the outside walls, as well as the outside of the inbuilt mosh pit. The ambience and the intimacy of Max Watt’s really played into the hands of Starset when it came to the visual aspect that was on display tonight; the drum kit of Adam Gilbert not only had a giant video screen behind him, but there was a smaller one on each side of him.
Touring member Jonathan Kampfe graced the stage first with his cello, followed by Gilbert taking up his spot on the elevated and enclosed platform on which his kit sat upon. Brock Richards (guitar/backing vocals) and Ron DeChant (bass/keyboard/backing vocals) graced the stage at the same time before Dustin Bates (lead vocals/keyboard/soundboard) was the last to grace the stage; Gilbert, Richards and DeChant were in matching white spaceman suits whilst Bates and Kampfe were in matching black outfits.
The set opened with ‘Into the Unknown,’ during which the crowd was introduced to the first of many CO2 blasts throughout the night, some of which from the spacesuits that Gilbert, Richards and DeChant were wearing themselves! The spacesuits also had six small circles that lit up on the chest piece of the space suit (two vertical rows of three), as well as white lights not only on the outside of the visor, but lights on the inside of the visor that synched up with the colour of the chest lights.
Second song ‘Halo’ was introduced by Bates, who took a small pause to acknowledge the visibly energetic and excited Melbourne crowd tonight; the crowd singing along word for word which caused Bates to incite a fan lead introduction to ‘Down with the Fallen.’ The response that Starset received clearly blew Bates away, not for the first time throughout the night might I add!
The fourth song of the set list was led into by Bates asking the crowd if anyone owned their second album Vessels before asking if we wanted to hear some new music from it. The crowd were shouting out songs that they wanted to hear before Bates started delivering the lyrics to ‘Frequency.’ The Co2 cannons got a good workout through this song, with the stage being filled multiple times during the song, at times completely engulfing at least one band member and sending a nice cool refreshing wave over the front of the crowd.
Starset continued delivering a tight, fantastic and pleasing show, as they worked their way through ‘Ricochet,’ ‘Telescope,’ ‘Satellite,’ ‘Everglow’ and ‘Carnivore’ in a blur of lights and tight knit unison on stage. The ambience that Max Watt’s created and a massive lift of energy from the ultra-appreciative fans in attendance was really highlighted during ‘Carnivore’ when the vocals of the band were drowned out by the fans!
‘AntiGravity’ followed ‘Carnivore’ and upon concluding, Bates informed the crowd that they have been the most responsive crowd on this tour, which resulted in a major cheer from the crowd; Starset used that wave of energy as a launching pad to burst into ‘My Demons.’ Once ‘My Demons’ had concluded, Bates asked the super responsive and ultra-appreciative crowd if they wanted something heavy, before launching into ‘Bringing it Down.’ Both DeChant and Richards were engulfed by CO2 as they stood in front of the screens either side of Gilbert’s drumkit; the fans standing on the floor were rocking backwards and forwards, heads banging in unison!
After ‘Future,’ Bates went on to mention the Starset Society to the crowd, informing them of the beliefs/intentions of the group, as well as what they wish to achieve in the future. ‘Monster’ was the final song of the setlist on stage tonight, but before it started Bates commended the Melbourne crowd on its energy, quoting “It may not be the biggest crowd but the energy is insane,” which resulted in the crowd lifting to another level for the final time tonight!
The band walked off the stage to the disappointment of the crowd at just after 10.40 pm, which resulted in them chanting for one more song; the band obliged and came out to play a three song encore, consisting of ‘Starlight,’ ‘It has Begun’ and ‘Telepathic.’ Starset ended up leaving the stage for the final time at just before 11 pm, before coming back out for the meet and greet after getting changed and having a bite to eat!
Max Watt’s was the perfect intimate venue for the experience that Starset deliver during a live set; the lighting show was really accentuated by the small venue size, which also played perfectly into how effective the CO2 cannons were in setting the mood! If you didn’t get down to see Starset perform last night, you really missed out on a great show.
Into the Unknown
Down with the Fallen
Bringing it Down
It has Begun