Spencer Krug’s Sunset Rubdown delivered a lengthy and exhaustive show to an excited crowd in New York City. Clocking in at an hour-and-a-half, the Montreal-based band played twice as long as other headliners usually might. There were some extended pauses between songs, like when Krug switched from keyboard to guitar (and back again), or when he broke a string, but that silence was filled with humorous banter between the crowd, Krug, and especially keyboardist Camilla Wynn Ingr. And when Sunset Rubdown were on at Bowery Ballroom (QRO venue review) on Tuesday, October 9th, they were on.
Playing the second of two New York dates, the group stuck mostly to work off their latest, Random Spirit Lover (QRO review), which had its official release that very day. However, they started things off with two tracks from last year’s Shut Up I Am Dreaming, “Us Ones In Between” and semi-title track “Shut Up I Am Dreaming of Places Where Lovers Have Wings”. Somewhat surprising as openers, unless you’d been at the Music Hall In Williamsburg show the night before (Krug even remarked, “For those of you who were here last night, this is how it started then. This isn’t for those people”), they still worked, with the band laying things bare right from the beginning.
The middle of the set, however, was devoted to Spirit Lover, starting with “For the Pier (And Dead Shimmering)”, which took the audience right into the heart of the record. Krug moved to guitar, and things got more raucous, with the anthemistic “Up On Your Leopard, Upon the End of Your Feral Days”, and a distorted, expansive, untitled new song. The set’s power slowed up a bit when Krug returned to the keys for “Stallions”, but “Trumpet, Trumpet, Toot! Toot!” gradually brought the crowd back to a boil. Sunset Rubdown slipped somewhat near the end with older pieces like Shut Up’s “The Empty Threats of Little Lord”, “Stadiums and Shrines” from the same year’s self-titled EP, and “Three Colours” (off of their debut, 2005’s Snake’s Got a Leg). But then, despite having already played well over an hour, Krug, Ingr, and drummer/keyboardist/guitarist Jordan Robson-Carter returned to play Spirit Lover’s incredible opener, “The Mending of the Gown” – without drums (“We’re gonna do something we never, ever tried before,” said Krug). Less frenetic than on the record, it was no less impressive, and the full-band night-ender “The Taming of the Hands That Came Back to Life” had a ‘been through the fire and didn’t get burned’ nature that set it above its recorded delivery.
Sunset Rubdown playing "The Mending of the Gown" live @ Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY:
Also see them playing "Three Colours"
Before “Taming”, Krug admitted, “Shit, we were really not planning on being up here this long.” Yet neither the band nor the crowd was tired, and engaged in a back-and-forth throughout the night. Even before the first notes had been played, a fan at the back yelled, “I love you Camilla!”, to which she replied, “Do I know you?” The fan said yes, but then another audience member cleverly added, “MySpace!” There was the call, “Spencer Krug for President!”, which, despite Ingr calling it “a really bad idea”, Krug noted, “I love that the only slam against that is that I’m Canadian.” When Krug broke a string, he asked for a ‘Dante’, only to remember, “Oh, he’s downstairs drinking.” There was quite a silence when Krug took his time shifting back to the keys; Ingr asked, “Why are you so quiet?”, to which a fan at the back (possibly the same one who professed his love for her) paradoxically shouted, “I’m shy!” Again, Ingr was ready with a response, “You’ll get over it”, and when the fan mock-pleaded, “Promise?”, she mock-comforted, “Sure. Do you have a school counselor?”
But the pièce-de-résistance came between “Trumpet” and “Colours”. First, a [male] fan yelled, “I have a huge man-crush on all of you.” Puzzled, Krug replied, “All of us? But a man-crush on a woman is just a woman– just a crush.” Ingr immediately jumped in, “Shut up! I get one too. Don’t hog it…” (the fan merely added, “I’ll explain later”, which was somehow the funniest line of the entire exchange). And after all that, as Spencer finally replaced his guitar string, he asked Robson-Carter to start the beat early, to give the audience something to chew on. Fans began clapping along, keeping rhythm even when Robson-Carter would stop for a moment, testing them, or when Ingr started improving a lo-tech Casio keyboard solo.
Originally begun as Spencer Krug’s solo project, away from his duties in Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown has built into something much more over these past few years. They’ve got a large repertoire that only grows larger, live. They’ve got a loyal and engaged – if perhaps too engaged – fanbase. And yet, they’re not too big to get caught up in the music and play all night long.