Lightning cracked across the sky as crowds gathered at Delmar Hall to see American rock band Starset on a balmy 70-degree day in December in St. Louis. The ominous weather painted the perfect backdrop for the absolute otherworldly experience that was about to unfold. The small venue felt packed almost immediately, which is uncommon for show at Delmar Hall. Fans lined up out the door and onto the patio to buy merch before the first opener even took the stage.
The place hummed with the electric energy that only comes with a room full of people ready to rock their faces off.
The first band to play was called All Good Things and if you’re a fan of rock music, the name will definitely ring true if you see them! As they stormed the stage with immediate energy, the crowd instantly was alive with hooting, hollering and head-banging. I love small venues for this reason… there isn’t the separation that you get with larger venues; the crowd is all in it together, for better or worse. The five-part alternative rock band from Los Angeles — who started out making music for television, movies and video games — only started playing live shows after fans of their music tracked them down online and demanded that they start performing. With that in mind, it’s a bit of a shock that they controlled the stage like a group who have been doing so their whole lives. They blend metal and rock in a way that feels dramatic, emotional and very, very epic. Lead singer Dan Murphy’s vocals melt into the heavy guitar lines, as the band’s guitarists (Andrew Bojanic, Liz Hooper and Miles Franco) jumped and head-banged around the stage. Their drummer, Tim Spier, threw his entire body into his performance, delivering the heartbeat that pulled all the other elements together. All in all, this band’s sound makes listeners feel like they are living through the climax of life-changing adventure. Delivering an explosive dose of anthemic heavy rock mixed with memorable melodies, the band truly puts a new spin on what metal means.
After All Good Things’ electrifying show, I stepped out onto the venue’s outdoor porch to have a drink and contemplate how sore my neck was going be the next day (this was just the first of three bands and it already hurt!). Immediately, my attention was taken by the insane amount of lightning happening in all directions. It was really warm for a December night, which felt weird and the lightning without any rain made things feel even more ominous. Suddenly, the porch erupted with the sounds of everyone’s phones receiving emergency alerts! Large parts of St. Louis were under a tornado warning for the next 45 minutes, with more alerts expected to happen as the night progressed. As the venue staff herded everyone back inside to a safer location, I got a call from home telling me that as soon as the tornado warning is up, I need to make my way home. I checked my watch, the next band came on in just four minutes and the tornado warning still had over 30 minutes until it was safe to go back outside. With my mind racing, I went back into the crowd to watch the second band, The World Alive, take the stage.
Looking back, it’s hard to imagine how I was able to be front and center during such a crazy metal show, and remember so little about the performance.
My mind was obviously elsewhere at the time, but looking back at my photos from that night bring back memories of the band’s lead vocalist, Tyler Smith, running around the stage, jumping with the crowd and interacting with them in a way that is not as common in metal and rock shows as it is in some other genres. Between energetic and screaming-filled songs, Smith also joked with the crowd about whether or not their drummer could do a drum solo. I also remember thinking that if the world wasn’t potentially ending outside, that this show would have been an absolute blast…
Unfortunately, that is where my night ended. As soon as the tornado warning lifted, I sped home and spent the rest of the night hiding in the basement with my family as we rode out two subsequent tornado warnings that would happen that night together. I was not able to see Starset, which is a cosmic injustice that I am determined to correct eventually. Who knows when I will get the opportunity though, as the band only has a handful of shows left of their 2021 North American Tour, after which they will spend the first part of 2022 touring in Europe and Russia.
Photography by Sean Rider