The presence of open incandescent light bulbs on stage at the Appel Room (formerly Allen Room) enhanced the already gorgeous atmosphere of the Lincoln Center venue that overlooks Columbus Circle and Central Park South with its ebb and flow of headlights. At the same time, the atmospheric “baroque pop” of San Fermin (with a total of eight members) was enhanced by the presence of the six-piece Metropolis Ensemble (three brass/horns and three strings). San Fermin were showcasing songs from their forthcoming, second album Jackrabbit out in April on Downtown Records. Primary song-writer Ellis Ludwig-Leone was off on the side at his keyboards, remaining low-key, as his bandmates were the center of a vibrant, almost hour and a half, performance. The rest of San Fermin includes John Brandon on trumpet, Stephen Chen on saxophone, Rebekah Durham on violin, Michael Hanf on drums, Tyler McDiarmid on guitar, and Charlene Kaye and Allen Tate alternating on vocals.
I enjoyed San Fermin’s organic fusion of instruments and vocals which formed varyingly evocative or bombastic tunes. The pensive “Reckoning” (I think), with its luring violin repetition and Tate’s pained chant of “all I can do” was one of my favorites. Tate possesses a rich baritone voice akin to Matt Berninger’s but it’s got the smoothness of Stephen Merritt. The main set concluded with the title track from the new album, the powerful “Jackrabbit”, a song which will surely invite future audiences to sing, or at least clap along. Charlene Kaye’s soaring voice and the dynamic lights were transfixed.
When the band reached their final song, Tate thanked the Metropolis Ensemble and prefaced the next song by telling the audience that, if they felt “like moving or dancing or standing”, even though “they were at Lincoln Center”, he wouldn’t tell before the band went into the Strokes’ “Heart in a Cage” that opened with a blaring saxophone. Midway through propulsive tune, someone shouted “c’mon let’s go!”, which encouraged some in the crowd to run down the steps and closer to the stage.
San Fermin put on one of the most energetic shows that I’ve seen at the Appel Room. It’s hard to imagine how an album can contain all that bombast but presumably San Fermin will do a full tour to support its release, which will give them a reason to celebrate again and again on stage.
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The American Songbook series at Lincoln Center’s Appel Room continues through the end of the month with Shovels & Rope, Talib Kweli and more. More information can be found on their site.
San Fermin Tour Dates:
Mar. 6: Birmingham, AL (Alys Stephens Center’s Jemison Concert Hall)
Mar. 7: Savannah, GA (Savannah Stopover Festival)
May 15: Gulf Shores, AL (Hangout Festival)
Woman in Red
Heart in a Cage (The Strokes)