After spending half the year on tour around the world, playing in almost every state and at major overseas festivals, experimental pop band San Fermin have finally returned home to New York City, for three nights of performances at the Bowery Ballroom. Tonight, the second night of the three, the crowd filled out to the corners of the beautiful venue. With mostly various hip couples of all shapes and colors, as well as groups of men of various facial hair choices and girls with just as various bangs, you could feel the diversity of the fan base that San Fermin have built up in their relatively young life. The band itself is full of variety, with 8 players, including two vocalists, two horn players, a violinist, a drummer, bassist and guitarist. The musicians often contribute vocals and even switch instruments when the situation calls.
Entertained by the fantastic and catchy rock music of support act Holly Miranda and her band, the eager crowd waited for San Fermin to take the stage after their 10:20 call time had already passed, the low, candle-like glow of vintage Edison light bulbs around the floor of the stage slowly fading in.
San Fermin took the stage to great familiar cheers, and piano and violin of “The Woods” came in, shortly followed by the subtle and mellow spoken-word style of vocals of Ellis Ludwig-Leone, who channels a balance of Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen. The sound filling the hall slowly built up, and crashed out into a crescendo of horns and chaos, as the warm yellow light bulbs close out to a full rainbow of laser light show.
San Fermin are such a versatile band, going from soft and sweet pop ballads to jarring EDM style noise and baritone sax riffs. Their second song tonight, “Ladies Mary” is one that exhibits female vocalist Charlene Kaye’s talents, her very feminine and bold vocals in the high register complementing and contrasting with Ludwig-Leone’s sotto voce bass-register singing style.
The highlight of the show was song ‘The Count” in the middle of the set, one of the bands more frantic and chaotic, heavy and riffy, and showcasing the amazing talents of baritone sax player Steven Chen. This tune, and its Skrillex-worthy breakdown, had the whole crowd headbanging. The studio version of the song somehow couldn’t capture it properly, one of the many reasons San Fermin is best enjoyed live. San Fermin’s ‘tag team style’ of performance involves the vocalists fronting for a verse, then stepping aside as the horn section (trumpeter John Brandon and sax player Chen) storm to the front of the stage and rock out, proving themselves as the true stars of the band.
The final song of the set, “Jackrabbit”, proved to be well-known among the audience, who sang along with its warm melodies. As it drew to a close, the band thanked the audience, and left the stage with a knowing smile. Of course, nobody left the theater, and the band quickly returned after three calls for an encore to play the beautiful film-soundtrack-esque tune “Renaissance” and end with a very original interpretation of the “Heart In A Cage” by the Strokes, in duet vocals and with saxophone and piano taking over the famous guitar riff.
A very satisfied crowd, and a great homecoming. As everyone stayed until the end, the leaving queue for the coat check at the Bowery was an hour long.