I love watching new bands play at small venues. Partially for the intimacy of the venue and yes, partly because, let’s admit it it’s a cool feeling to know a band before others do. But my favorite reason to see young bands is because they’re just shaping their sound. They don’t know their live sound that well, they haven’t worked out some sort of routine and they don’t know how audiences will react. For them, everything is new, exciting and experimental and as a concertgoer I can’t get enough of watching bands develop before my very eyes on stage. So when I had a chance to see San Fermin play at World Café live I was ecstatic.
A little background on San Fermin: The project is the brainchild of recent Yale graduate Ellis Ludwig-Leone. The young composer holed himself up for six weeks to work on his first album. The album, recorded with the help of some talented musician-friends, is itself heavily influenced by classical music, which is perhaps why things like horns, male and female vocalists and strings play such an important role in amplifying the themes and atmospheres set by the lyrics to his songs. So far, the only official track release from the album is the outstanding “Sonsick.” One of the best songs released this summer, “Sonsick” is beautiful, both lyrically and musically, a fine piece of chamber pop. Ludwig-Leone really knows how to craft a song in the studio and I was curious how it would translate to the stage.
Cult Choir, the one-man-band also known as Shane Graybill opened up for the band. Also a young artist, Cult Choir showed a lot of potential. He has a strong voice and some clever arrangements. With a full band, this Philly artist could go pretty far.
After his short set on stage, it was time for San Fermin. The large group emerged from the fans sitting at the tables, many of who were supportive friends of Allen, the male vocalist for the band. The members all took the stage, Ellis Ludwig-Leone off to the side with a drum, keyboard and laptop while the vocalists, brass, drummer and guitarists took center stage. The group started with a relatively quiet song, before hopping into the relatively jazzy “Crueler Kind.” The set mostly alternated between quiet ballads and upbeat numbers more to the tune of their first single. “Sonsick” was definitely a favorite, partially because it’s the only song we’ve heard from the group and partially because it gives every member of the band a chance to shine. The group ending with a song called “Daedalus” and though the show only lasted about forty-five minutes, San Fermin showed just how much fun and energy could be put into a short performance.
So what type of band is San Fermin? They’re one of the liveliest new bands out there. Yes, there were a few moments when members of the band seemed unsure of themselves in the new setting, playing unreleased songs to a room half-full of strangers. But overall, every member not only looked incredibly excited and grateful to be performing for an audience, but they were all dancing on stage (Ellis Ludwig-Leone was practically jumping off stage), grooving to the music and bringing the studio versions alive. Watching them develop on stage was incredible and the album’s September 17th release date can’t come soon enough.
San Fermin | Photo by Noah Zuares