NEW York-based band San Fermin performed at Deaf Institute in Manchester last night. Quays News entertainment reporter Charlotte Sumner was there for us and this is what she thought…
San Fermin – an exquisite eight-piece band from Brooklyn, whose music from the recently released album ‘Jackrabbit’ was wonderfully written and composed by pianist Ellis Ludwig-Leone – took stage to the upstairs of students’ favourite club spot Deaf Institute.
Due to Manchester’s notoriously murky weather, and chaotic traffic, I arrived at the venue later than expected, thus, just managing to hear ‘Hunter’, the last song sung by support act Farao, aka, Kari Jahnsen.
Giving off slightly similar vibes to three piece girl band Haim, Jahnsen’s cool dress sense paralleled with her equally nonchalant, yet edgy voice. ‘Hunter’ opened with gentle synths, oozed with melancholy vocals, producing electronic- acoustic soundscapes.
When San Fermin took to stage, lead vocalist Allen Tate urged crowd members to move right to the front; the eight-piece band just about managed to fit onto the tiny platform to perform to their audience, who were also quite cramped in the small interior of the space.
Though this didn’t appear to be an issue throughout the night, as it made the performance intimately intense and powerful.
They are described as a ‘baroque pop’ band, yet I think it’s impossible to put a genre on San Fermin, whose songs have elements of folk, classical, pop, and indie-rock music, just to name a few.
Ellis Ludwig-Leone (pianist), John Brandon (trumpet), Stephen Chen (saxophone), Rebekah Durham (violin/vocals), Michael Hanf (drums), Charlene Kaye (lead vocals), Tyler McDiarmid (guitar), and Allen Tate (lead vocals) make up the band, and seeing them live was an exhilarating experience to say the least.
Reminding me personally of a far more subtle, sleeker and edgier version of Glee, every member of the band reflected their own unique personalities and talent.
The show kicked off with the song ‘The Woods’ which promptly transported the audience into a world of Grimm’s fairy tales, cleverly written by the imaginative and unique Ellis Ludwig-Leone. Allen Tate’s voice spilled out every ounce of emotion into the lyrics “I was a boy and I was good / but there are witches in the woods” followed by the baritone sax solo by Stephen Chen, who throughout the night proved to be incredibly gifted, with a great set of lungs, and maintained infatuated with the music, just like the rest of the band, and audience.
It’s hard for me not to compare Tate’s voice to frontman of The National Matt Berninger, who both sound staggeringly similar with their matching cadence and harmonious contour; producing the same effect of holding a crowd in complete awe and fixation.
Keeping an intriguing stage presence which stuck throughout the performance, there’s something about Allen Tate that made me want to know more about him. On stage he shared a distinctive, warming chemistry with Kaye; when they sung together the duet-like, folk song ‘Parasites’ his eyes were locked on hers until the end of the uplifted, storytelling song.
But not all attention is focused on Tate, as other lead vocalist Charlene Kaye had a way of captivating the audience too, with her strikingly witchy green dip dyed hair, and pure, but mysterious vocal chords, as well as her flowing, flexible dance moves.
Particularly on the track ‘Philosopher’ Kaye’s vocals were strong and sturdy, opposed to her usual delicate angelic tones, which deliver the potent message the song entails about dreams; the adversaries and the aftermath of them, and how they will affect you once they’re over. Her presence instantly turned more bold and dramatic; the lights illuminated the hall in harsh, stubborn pinks and reds to set the tone, the orchestra began to play as she opened with the line “When I grow up, I think that I could be an actress”.
John Brandon then stepped into the limelight, overwhelming the crowd with his insanely brilliant playing of the trumpet. Brandon, infused with adrenaline (just like the rest San Fermin) leaped off the stage, onto the bar for his trumpet solo, in which the crowd applauded, just like other members of the band who were cheering him on.
Violinist Rebekah Durham stunningly struck chords on her violin to the opening of ‘Reckoning’, which exemplified how significant her contribution is in the band; it’s clear Durham has sweated blood and tears to get where she is now (just like the rest of San Fermin) and presents herself as an outstandingly prominent musician who radiates talent, passion and a love for performing live.
‘Jackrabbit’ was probably the most anticipated song of the night, and this somewhat theatrical performance went down an absolute treat for the audience.
Alluding to the fairy-tale of Alice in Wonderland with the perpetual lyric “Down, down the rabbit hole”, this ‘drink me’ song by Ludwig-Leon depicts his true talent as a composer and writer; the whole venue truly came to life. Endorphins were released from every ounce of my body and a smile could not be stopped from mine, or any other members of the crowd’s faces.
Overall, San Fermin provided a truly magical and aweing experience for their audience, and illuminated the beautiful brilliance of modern orchestra music. I left their show feeling an overwhelming sense of childhood nostalgia, due to their outstandingly dark fairy-tale like songs, but also appreciating just how great live music is from talentedly, passionate musicians.
By Charlotte Sumner