S U R V I V E is not a household name, but its members are more so: Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein are the men behind the excellent, nostalgic-yet-restrained soundtrack for Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” The two were lauded for perfectly capturing the mood and sensation of childhood in the ‘80s with their analog synth-laden soundtrack.
The band’s stage setup at Panhandle on Saturday was about as intimidating as the demogorgon of the show — a line of keyboard rigs with no less than eight analog synths and a plethora of wires gave the setup the sense of being a spaceship’s control console.
Despite it being mid-afternoon, the band received a full light show (which worked decently well, given the heavy cloud cover). That’s important, because the four guys onstage displayed little to no sense of showmanship. They walked onstage to their rigs, played through a set that featured no breaks — each song blending into the next — and left. Neither Dixon nor Stein addressed the audience, and all four were focused intently on their keyboards, never bothering to look up or acknowledge the cheers from the crowd. Even upon the performance’s conclusion, the audience was graced with little but a half-hearted wave from Dixon and Stein as they walked off.
That’s not to say it was a wholly unenjoyable set. A distinct anomaly from the other acts at the festival, the band demonstrated that the power analog synth instruments still hold, and hearing them fully amplified was an encompassing experience. Focusing on the lights and the sounds, one could sink into the mix, imagining the band as the highly focused crew piloting a ‘80s-era sci-fi spaceship through the void, those in the crowd just along for the ride.
The music itself ebbed and flowed, swelling into massive riffs and thumping drums before receding into its main mode: the restrained, almost sparse sound that worked so well in “Stranger Things.” Those walking away from Panhandle after the set likely left with a new appreciation for the technical skills of the players and their depthful knowledge of their instruments — just, perhaps, not of them as performers.