REVIEW/PHOTOS: Starwood, Disposable, and These Idol Hands channel alien energy at Jazz Cafe in Plains
It’s no surprise that when Philadelphia’s resident alien rock band Starwood landed in the Wilkes-Barre area, they brought with them a diverse musical lineup that would strike most crowds as strange, but those gathered at the River Street Jazz Cafe in Plains were ready for a strangely fun night on Saturday, Feb. 9.
A week before their CD release show for their debut album, “Unbound,” Scranton “sleaze rock” group These Idol Hands opened with their sleaziest song, “Black Diamonds,” and immediately hooked the audience with their alternative hard rock sound that balances both classic and modern influences. Joined by Gods of Space frontman Jacob Waxmonsky on guitar and backing vocals, they blew through every original song on the entire EP, throwing in a fast cover of The Misfits’ “Hollywood Babylon.” They ended with vocalist/guitarist Jonathan Runco and Waxmonsky trading lines back and forth on “Ultrasex,” which closed with an extended jam that seals just how badass these guys sound.
The New Jersey trio Disposable was next, playing a mix of ska and surf punk that was elevated by the boundless energy of singer/guitarist Chen De Lao. Once he replaced his ax with a ukulele, it seemed like things would slow down a bit, but the band only picked up the pace and seemed to have a blast doing it as the vocalist bounced off the walls and leapt from his amp. They will return to rock the place again in a few months as they open for Big D and the Kids Table on May 3.
“Cyber art rock” band Starwood, an acronym for “Sociopathic Time Altering Robot Warrior Of Organic Design,” may be from the Planet Vitrus, but they knew that their longtime connections to Northeastern Pennsylvania would raise the level of anticipation for this visit, so they were determined to increase thrusters for this special trip. Featuring former members of defunct Scranton band Felix Sarco underneath those shiny silver and black cybernetic space suits, the group led by vocalist Gabriel Starwood blasted off with the diverse songs from their first two albums, “Transmission” and “God of the Drones,” as well as new tracks not yet recorded, like set highlight “Boss Fight” that evoked the rush of a retro video game battle. Peppered with playful banter about robot sperm and odd vocal effects, the keyboard-driven satirical sci-fi madness ended after 50 minutes, but the mesmerized dancers in the crowd easily would have stayed on board for more. It seemed as if Gabriel was reliving centuries of memories as he acted out the unusual stories embedded in those tunes on stage, played for laughs but seriously emotional in their delivery.
Some extraterrestrial tampering may have affected the photos from that wild evening, and even video meant to capture the weirdness came out distorted and pixelated, likely due to interference from alien technology that we humans will likely never understand. If Planet Vitrus is to survive, let’s hope we never will.
by Rich Howells
Rich is an award-winning journalist, longtime blogger, photographer, and podcast host. He is the founder and editor of NEPA Scene.