(pronounced "San FermEEEn"), have experienced a meteoric rise to popularity. The original crew played a thrown-together set back in 2012, signed a record deal almost immediately as a result, and began a rigorous, expansive tour opening for acts like St. Vincent and Arctic Monkeys. And it's no wonder when you consider their talent as players and their intricate, music-nerd level compositions. Last week I caught their album release party at Music Hall of Willamsburg and reveled in the San Fermin live experience for myself.
I arrived early looking to get up front, but it was for nought, considering that there were about eighteen people in attendance including staff for the entirety of opener White Hinterland's set. It's a shame too, because her Björk-goes-to-Brooklyn sound was pleasantly spacey. I'm a sucker for one-woman-band loop-station artists, though, so maybe it was that, or her bleach-blonde, pink-suit aesthetic, but either way I dug it.
There had been this obnoxious, gangly character dancing around behind me, aggressively propositioning people to let loose and move with him, to whom I paid no attention lest he grab hold of me as well. And by the time White was finished, this silly groove-solicitor had ticked a fair amount of people off, one of whom snapped and pretended to want to fight him. The guy must have thrown ten fake-punches -- no one was actually holding him back -- before the bouncers ejected both agitators to effusive applause.
The floor now safe and fake-violence free, a large crowd piled in behind me to catch the main event. When San Fermin finally came out, the spectacle was akin to a circus troupe piling into a clown car. They're a big group for MHOW's stage, and adding to the congestion they had a string section accompanying them this night. Surprisingly, however, there was only one collision of band members during the show, and the collision wasn't too bad.
Their sound is BIG and unique. Widely considered baroque-pop -- name one other baroque-pop band without Googling it and I'll buy you a sandwich -- their songs center around emphatic vocal lines and the occasional fusion rhythm. Think quick changes, cinematic breakdowns, and layered instrumental patterns.
And they matched the restless energy of their music with explosive stage presence; Vocalist Charlene Kaye and Trumpeter John Brandon paraded around the platform emitting the legal limit of pop-swagger. Male lead vocalist Allen Tate matched that energy with an equally as extreme lethargy that works given the Snorlax-bass -- this is not an insult -- quality of his voice. John Brandon gets the award for coolest band member, though; he's a man-bun-rocking trumpet player who walks around like he's a Blues Brother. And he really knocked it out of the park when he jumped into the crowd and made his instrument scream a triumphant final bellow as shocked fans stared enamored. I couldn't have asked for anything more as a photographer, either.
What really sets San Fermin apart is their boldness. It's easy to stop at being really talented, forgoing innovation for tried and true methods of musical success. But these guys/girls are clearly pushing to separate their sound from the saturated indie circuit. Their live act is tons of fun and they definitely leave it all on the stage.
Enjoy the shots from the show, pick up the band's latest album, Jackrabbit, here
, and watch a live performance of the title track below.