Review: Dance with the Dead at VENUE
The moment “O Fortuna” blasted across the darkened stage, summoning Dance With the Dead into their corporal form, I was grinning ear to ear. With a blistering power chord, Justin Pointer and Tony Kim swept the power and drama of the classic track into a roaring synth metal explosion. It was a perfect taste of what was to come: thunderous, rolling synths coated with sweet, harmonized guitar riffs that evoked macabre, cinematic worlds. It was brutal and epic… but it made you want to dance.
Dance With the Dead is a high-octane musical duo from Orange County, California known for intense synthwave tracks fused with melodic guitar lines that will haunt your neon 1980’s nightmares. Since their genesis in 2013, the band has crafted over 5 albums and developed an impressive fan base around the world. Metal-heads, video-game prodigies, frat-jacket behemoths, and post-punk cinephiles filled the enraptured crowd. The excitement was palpable, and the audience hung on every arpeggiated synth and pungent guitar lick.
It didn’t take long for a friendly mosh-pit to build at the front, jostling the willing participants in the center as a mist of beer descended on the crowd. It was hard to not move to the relentless, driving beats which only halted to accent a wailing chord or stabbing electronic punctuation. Tony and Justin, when not deeply focused on their screaming guitar work, compelled the crowd to clap, scream and go berserk on camera as they whipped out a cellphone to capture the frenzy. Tony was one hell of a front man, but the audience’s favourite moments were when Justin joined him at the front of the stage for a soaring, harmonized riff. Dance With the Dead’s fusion of synth and metal similarly merged (or at lest collated) a unique crowd that was bursting with energy and love.
The musical blend was also mirrored in the format in the show, which alternated between EDM-esque performances at DJ station and face-melting solos ripped on guitars within arm’s length of the screaming fans. Other than a muted and humble ‘thank you’ or the lyrics to a booming synth cover of Queen or Metallica, the only words heard on stage were ripped from 80’s and 90’s fantastique masterworks like John Carpenter’s They Live (Tony was wearing a The Thing shirt, so the spirit of the director was felt emanating from every reverbed hit and synth stab).
Overwhelmingly, the evening elicited distant memories of watching VHS tapes of supernatural tales through covered eyes as a child: there’s a warm familiarity in the entrancing atmosphere that Dance With the Dead so perfectly captures. It’s intense, brooding and spoopy in all the right ways, weaving visions of cyber-punk cities, electric demons and glowing green ghouls. Sounds like my kind of Saturday.
Photo gallery by Melissa Dex Guzman.