A stage with cords tangled endlessly around mic stands and amplifiers is lit only by the illumination of Christmas lights and faint, red spotlights. As NYC band Stellastarr* pile onto a San Francisco venue's carpeted stage, faithful fans who have been standing in the front row since the doors opened four hours ago grab their cameras and sport T-shirts with the band's logo on it, a silvery silhouette of an asterisk. Beer and sweat permeate Bottom of the Hill's air, amidst the walls adorned in concert and festival posters from years past, in all colors on the spectrum.
Bassist Mandy Tannen is first to tune her instrument, the other band members following suit before they start playing new material to showcase before virgin ears. Light murmurs wave over the crowd before the band starts, and people shift in and out of the crowd to pay trips to the bathroom or the bar. Once she starts off playing the introduction to "Lost In Time," most of the crowd stops what they are doing, what they are talking about, and looks up at the band that was gone for almost two years to see what they have to deliver. Lead singer Shawn Christensen takes hold of his mic in his right hand and begins to let loose the deep, warbled voice that has made his band famous. The faces that look up to him and his band for the rest of the night will have a satisfied smile.
Stellastarr* has been in and out of the music circuit for the past two years, releasing a sophomore LP in 2005 before stepping back into obscurity - namely writing new material for a disc to be released some time this year. Saturday's show at Bottom proved their time away has been well-spent, but a little more honing needs to be tapped. New stuff like "Winter Song" and "Warchild," the latter being available on the band's MySpace page, visit the harmonious vibes of indiepop synth that have made Stellatstarr*'s sound stand tall above the rest, with Christensen's voice reaching depths that compliment a more mature sound. Tracks like "Coming Down," though, show a more nervous group possibly afraid to take the plunge and own a track that can be positively delicious.
"It sounds like Rick Springfield, and then it can't be classified by anything," notes drummer Arther Kremer in an interview after the band takes to the smoking patio following their set. "Music can be repetitive, and we're just trying to see where it's going to take us."
To the sold-out show, it was music to their ears. There are great things in store for the NYC quad this year.
"Lost In Time"
"The People" (working title)
"Sweet Troubled Soul"
"A Million Reasons"
"Winter Song" (working title)
"In The Walls"
"Somewhere Crosses Forever"
"Coming Down" (working title)
by Jenn Hernandez