Live Review: Starbenders – The Joiners, Southampton – Oct 15th 2023

There’s a surprise for fans of Hunting Hearts who open the night. There’s only one member of the band onstage, as it transpires that the rest of the band are ill. So it’s a solo effort from the lead singer, armed with just an acoustic guitar. As the song I Want To Love You To Death finishes Beck exclaims “that song is about fucking werewolves”. They put on a great show, full of tongue in cheek moments, as well as a tender moment dedicating one of the songs to their partner who is videoing everything from the audience. The lack of a full band also doesn’t stop a small but dedicated fanbase from providing backing vocals, and even some percussion as they stomp their feet to the final song.

Starbenders take to the stage and they’re clearly not messing about. They open with Blood Moon, possibly the heaviest sounding track from the new album with its driving punk rhythm supplied by Emily Moon. She may look like a fragile flower behind the drumkit, but the way she’s hitting those drums Looks like she’s trying to murder them. This is then followed up by fan favourites Holy Mother and Bitches Be Witches with Kimi Shelter in full unholy communion mode, before we go into full goth mode with Marianne. Aaron Lecesne throws his bass around like he’s downed a dozen espresso shots before coming onstage, he’s more caffeinated than Popeye on spinach. Guitarist Kriss Tokaji may not be throwing himself around as much as the others but that doesn’t mean he’s not having fun either. It’s like the slowest striptease ever as his shirt goes from buttoned, to unbuttoned, before finally losing his shirt altogether by the end of the show. There’s a surprise for the fans, one of them is audibly excited, as Blood is played. Apparently it’s the first time it’s been played on the tour. It’s testament to how well the album has done that the majority are singing along, the tunes are catchy and the lyrics easy to pickup if you’re not familiar with them. There’s time for one last oldie before the set is finished off with another three songs from the new album. They go down a storm, and are arguably three of the best tracks on the album, The Game, Sex, and a personal favourite, If You Need It. All in all it’s a Sunday night well spent, two great bands, some great music, and not a note out of place. It’s a testament to the venue as well that the sound was spot on. Starbenders looked and sounded like they were in a much bigger venue, and they absolutely deserve to be. Hopefully next year we’ll see some festival slots added to their touring schedule as well as a much bigger tour.

Words and Photos: Alienation Photography

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