Friday, June 19, 2009

Sunset Rubdown Live

Another well-respected indie rock group, Sunset Rubdown, graced the main stage of the Black Cat on Sunday night (June 14th.) My friend took me to this concert as a birthday weekend treat, and boy was it worth staying up past my bedtime.

Like on their studio albums, Sunset Rubdown's live music is loud, heavy, and intense. Backed by a set of musicians including three different drummers, two guitarists, and percussionist/vocalist Camilla Wynne Ingr, Spencer Krug belted out a set of epic proportions with his distinctive moan-voice. The stage was packed with musical instruments, including two keyboards, two drumsets, basses, guitars, xylophones, and even mouth organs. Krug asked for the lights dimmed (which is why the videos below are so dark) so the stage was only lit by small glowing orbs placed strategically near the performers. Adding to the dark ambience was the air conditioning, on full blast directly above our heads and facing the stage. Sunset Rubdown, like almost every other notable indie rock band, hails from Montreal, so my guess is they wanted climate control to make themselves feel more at home. We were lucky enough to be standing right next to some friends of the band who came along on the first part of the tour, and they shared some stories with us about Spencer: apparently, during his first tour, he sweated so much because he wasn't used to the heat that he short-circuited his keyboard. After hearing that, I was quick to notice every time he pulled out a hand towel to wipe his forehead during the show.

The set consisted mostly of lengthy pieces from their new album, Dragonslayer, which happened to be excellent and just what I wanted to hear. Krug and co. opened with a pairing of an old favorite, "The Empty Threats Of Little Lord," with lead single "Idiot Heart," creating a 10-minute masterpiece that set the mood perfectly (video below, sorry for poor quality.) Guitars, drums, and piano chords crashed all around us as the band moved into "Silver Moons" and "Black Swans" before playing some better-known songs from Random Spirit Lover like "The Taming Of The Hands That Came Back To Life," "The Mending Of The Gown," and "For The Pier (And Dead Shimmering)." "You Go On Ahead (Trumpet II)" followed, then the group debuted a new song (of which I don't know the title) that sounded pretty promising. They closed with the epic "Dragon's Lair" which sounded much better live than on the album. The encore was much more low-key than the real performance, and it felt like it was just out of courtesy to their loyal fans that they played "Snake's Got A Leg" and "Us Ones In Between" from their early albums before packing up to go.

What I liked best about the performance, aside from the incredible live versions of some of my favorite songs, were the personalities of the band members. Unlike a lot of modern indie bands, they had no pretensions. They dressed in normal clothing, were extremely polite, said "thank you" each time the audience applauded, and continuously repeated "you're so kind," as if they were amazed people actually liked listening to their music. They joked with the audience between pieces, laughed at random things drunk people shouted out, and even took the time to introduce each member of the group and thank tourmates Witchies and Elfin Saddle (who were pretty decent as well.) Even though I didn't actually speak to them or interact in any way, I felt like I knew the people behind the music much better after seeing them live.

Here's a short clip I couldn't resist taking during "The Taming Of The Hands That Came Back To Life":

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