Live Review: Low Roar & San Fermin @ The Roxy, April 26, 2017
Low Roar, a dreamy folk/ambient project by Ryan Karazija, Bay Area musician by way of Reykjavík (formerly of Audrye Sessions) presented its new album Once in a long, long while…, at the Roxy. Accompanied by two gents alternating on bass/guitar and keys/samples, the band opened for San Fermin, playing in a small space downstage, a sort of echo of the awkward fit of the thoughtful band to the Sunset Strip, next door to hedonistic dens like the Rainbow and 1OAK. (If their name alone didn’t complete suggest their low key nature, their name was absent from the Roxy marquee; not sure if that was an oversight or by request.) But their fans (and perhaps some new ones*) are representing tonight among the San Fermin faithful.
Fresh young faces clustered up front, eyes locked to Ryan, some to mouthing along to lyrics. It’s an intimate set, under low lighting (sense a theme yet?) but has some moments of volume and white noise, if not loud enough to drown out a particularly chatty crowd back at the bar. His focused singing is at the core of the songs, conveying emotion while working within a relatively narrow vocal range. “I’ll keep coming,” their top Spotify play at the moment, a standout from second album “0,” gets a rawer live treatment adding some new big sample pad drums. The acoustic guitar that figures prominently across the records only gets used once tonight on (I think) “Friends Make Garbage, Good Friends Take It Out” (he has a knack for titles). The focus is on the electronics in this live configuration–but the underlying tunes are study enough whatever the arrangement. New album opener “Don’t be so serious” is the most uptempo offering tonight, setting up a nice electronic groove, perhaps a hint of more danceable things to dome. Low Roar is often solemn, but never dour. A sense of humor and pure pop moments are peeking through the clouds more and more.
*In an odd twist indicative of these hypermediated times, Low Roar gained a huge bump in fans through key placement of songs by renowned video game designer Hideo Kojima which from him disseminated to his 2+ million Twitter followers. Whatever it takes to be heard these days; Pitchfork to date has had nothing to say about the band.
San Fermin, the seven-piece outfit out of Brooklyn (expanded to eight tonight, adding a violinist), brings their energetic live show to the Roxy. The project, the brainchild birthed by Ellis Ludwig-Leon (live, he cedes the frontperson roles to Allen Tate and Charlene Kaye) may be loosely categorized as indie rock, occasionally in the vein of The National, while verging on straight ahead pop here and there. They weave in some nice baroque chamber pop flourishes, tasteful electronics, looping vocal samples and nice modern classical textures, giving the overall production an uncommon elegance (Ludwig-Leon spent some time working with Nico Muhly in the past). It’s refined stuff that gives off a vibe of positivity. It’s an adventurous mix but goes down quite easily. With horns and violin and a smattering of samples en tow, the records translate well live; their 3rd LP, Belong, is just out on Downtown Records. They clearlyi are a honed stage act, playing off each other, taking turns introducing the players between songs, trading off Tate and Kaye led songs. They’re at their best on the uptempo stuff (most of the night; “Oceanica” and “Jackrabbit” maybe standing out) over the slower numbers (such as “Open” or “Bones”, a duet between Tate and Kaye) drift towards more typical radio fare, which is fine; they deserve a radio hit.
They come back around to the West Coast in the fall for Outside Lands and Life is Beautiful festival slots.