San Fermin @ 9:30 Club

On May 11th, Brooklyn-based indie rock octet San Fermin played to an enthusiastic full house at the 9:30 Club. When I arrived at the venue at around 7:45 p.m., I was easily able to secure a spot near the stage. However, as opening act Low Roar played their set, fans began to trickle in until the venue was packed to capacity and the energy in the room was palpable.

While I’m not exactly sure what my expectations were for San Fermin’s opening act, Low Roar’s one-of-a-kind sound was a pleasant surprise. Throughout their 45-minute set, I tried to come up with some words to describe this sound or other acts to compare them to, and all I could come up with was “a more sinister version of alt-J.” If you think you’d be into haunting, percussion-heavy music with plaintive lyrics and masterful harmonies, be sure to check out Low Roar’s new album, Once in a Long, Long While…

San Fermin opened up their jam-packed, 21-song set promptly at 9:30 with “Oceanica,” an infectiously catchy, warped keyboard-driven tune from their new album Belong, followed by “Bride,” the lead single off this album. As an eight-piece band complete with horns, percussion, and even strings, San Fermin makes complex, multi-layered music that was even more evident onstage than it is on record. However, despite this large group dynamic, I could tell all the band members had tremendous chemistry right off the bat. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had more fun at a concert, purely because the band onstage looked like they were having so much fun making music together.

San Fermin’s high-energy performances of “Better Company,” “Dead,” “Parasites,” and “Sonsick” – featuring saxophone solos, a trumpeter in the crowd, and some particularly lively violin performances from violinist and vocalist Claire Wellin –  kept the audience engaged and excited to see more. Throughout the set, lead singers Allen Tate and Charlene Kaye alternated showing off their vocal chops, occasionally harmonizing together on slowed-down tracks such as “Methuselah.” Kaye’s presence was especially radiant onstage, and her impeccable vocals on the haunting, powerful “Open” and on San Fermin’s biggest hits “Sonsick” and “Jackrabbit” stole the show.

Despite the stand-out performances of the aforementioned band members, however, San Fermin is the brainchild of Ellis Ludwig-Leone, the understated yet immensely talented keyboardist who kept to the left side of the stage during the majority of the show. I left the show feeling energized and awed by both Ludwig-Leone’s talent and San Fermin’s dynamic performance as a whole, and I’d highly recommend attending a show if you ever get the chance. Check out the band’s latest album, Belong, below:

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