San Fermin, Natalie Prass deliver one-two punch in knockout performances at The Independent

San Fermin

San Fermin

By Justin Yee //

San Fermin with Natalie Prass //
The Independent – San Francisco
May 21st, 2015 //

You know that feeling you get when you see a band perform live and it looks like they are having the best time ever that you regret ever slacking off during piano lessons as a kid? Sound familiar?

Oh wait, never mind.

That’s exactly how I felt when I watched San Fermin and opener Natalie Prass nail their sets in front of a sold-out crowd at The Independent last Thursday.

Natalie Prass

Natalie Prass

This show had been marked on my calendar for quite some time after I stumbled across a Natalie Prass performance during South by Southwest and was completely taken aback. To be honest, I didn’t have too much knowledge of San Fermin other than I recognized the name and I was familiar with their lead single “Sonsick” off their 2013 debut album. After some research, I learned that the Brooklyn-based band is the brainchild of composer and songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone, who holds a composition degree from Yale and assisted composer Nico Muhly, who is known for his work with Sufjan Stevens, Grizzly Bear and Björk. That’s quite the résumé, but I was curious to see how his blending of classical music training and indie pop translated to a live setting.

San Fermin

San Fermin

San Fermin performs as an eight-piece band that consists of Allen Tate (vocals), Charlene Kaye (vocals), Rebekah Durham (vocals/violin), John Brandon (trumpet), Stephen Chen (saxophone), Tyler McDiarmid (guitar) and Michael Hanf (drums). Despite being the head of the operation, I thought it was interesting to see Ludwig-Leone have a relatively unassuming stage presence. He was set up stage left on keys introducing songs throughout the night but seemed more interested in allowing each member of the ensemble to shine individually. This might be the recipe that produces such a powerful, high-energy live show, as everyone feeds off one another by displaying their own unique talent that together produces a complex, yet beautiful sound. It kind of reminded me of a dance circle when someone jumps into the middle to flex their “moves” and everyone around is cheering them on, hooting, hollering and giving high fives. Not that has ever happened to me, but this was the case when Brandon jumped into the crowd to deliver a two-minute-long trumpet solo or when Kaye and Tate went back and forth on lead vocals during crowd favorites “Jackrabbit” and “Emily”.

The band will continue its rigorous touring schedule to support its recently released sophomore LP Jackrabbit throughout the summer and fall, opening for big-time acts like alt-j and Lord Huron along with a handful of festival slots coming up at NXNE, Osheaga, Reading Festival, Leeds Festival and Austin City Limits.

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