"They sound like robots... in the jungle." Sunset Rubdown @ Richard's -- 06/30/09

Sunset Rubdown is quite possibly my favourite project of Spencer Krug, and considering his other bands are Wolf Parade and Swan Lake, that's saying something. (Though, for full disclosure, I am not a huge fan of Wolf Parade. I think it's that I don't care for the other half, Dan Boeckner... but that's for another time).So when they come in to town there's no doubt I'm gonna be there. Especially when playing Richard's.

The first band of the night was Elfin Saddle, and wow. Their website touts them as "the unusual union of a small Japanese woman, a Canadian woodsman, and a ramshackle pile of objects and instruments" though the live act consisted of a third member. And through the course of their set they played the following instruments: upright bass, baritone, banjo, ukulele, kick drum, symbol, full drum set, xylophone, accordion, saw, recorder. At the very least. And the main two members were playing multiple instruments at once. The "Canadian woodsman" (Jordan McKenzie) was playing a kick drum on the floor with hit foot, accordion with one hand, and the xylophone with the other. While singing. It was a very impressive display. Musically, they were very good as well; they had a kind of Bjork and/or Animal Collective feel, but without the pretentious suck. The vocals were split between the two, with some of Emi Honda's songs sung in Japanese, and while they were good live, I could see the vocals, from both of them, being a bit much over the length of a full album. I would have liked them much better had they been an instrumental band. That being said, I still really enjoyed them and am kind of regretting not picking up their album there.
I also attempted to take a video of the last song from my fancy new phone, but the sound wasn't the greatest. The above pic is just a cap from the video, hence the questionable quality.

The second band of the night was another three piece, Witchies from Montreal. They were Perfectly Acceptable Music. Nothing too spectacular, but nothing terrible. With guitar, drums and synth, they had kind of a generic indie rock sound going for them, and after some technical problems to start played a decent set. Ultimately forgettable, however.

And finally, Sunset Rubdown. Having not seen them live before, I was not sure what to expect, since their albums can be very dense. Turns out me fears were unfounded. With leader of the band Spencer Krug alternating between guitars and keyboard, another guitarist, bass, at times two drummers, and what can only be described as a Dan Deacon-esque table of crazy sounds, they had a full, rich, and incredible sound. Starting things off with an older and lighter song, The Empty Threats of Little Lord before bringing the house down with Idiot Heart, a song from the newest album, Dragonslayer. From then on the rest of the set focused mostly on the later two albums, that & Random Spirit Lovers, and the more high energy songs from those, for the most part.
Krug had a great energy about him while playing, like a bottled storm, yet between songs, when talking was very humble and appreciative of everyone. Aside from wishing his father, in attendance, a happy birthday and dedicating a song ("This song is about getting really drunk. This one's for you, dad!") and telling a story of climbing the giant cross on Mount Royal in a blizzard, he didn't have too much to say, though. Some other highlights of the set included Apollo and the Buffalo and Anna Anna Anna Oh!, Winged/Wicked Things and The Mending of the Gown, all of which played with an incredible intensity and got everyone moving.
The main set ended with the awesome, ten minute long saga Dragon's Lair, then they came back out for the "encore", starting with an older & mellow song, Us Ones in Between and then going absolutely crazy ending the night with Nightingale/December Song. Krug introduced the song as one he was unsure that they would be able to pull off live, since it could be "a bit of a clusterfuck", but brought out some extra hands, two members of Elfin Saddle came out to play guitar & bass, substituting while the other members went and played more drums.

While probably not amongst my favourite shows of the year, it was still a damn good show put on by Sunset Rubdown. I have heard rumours that the stalled construction that was to tear Richard's on Richards down is getting going again, and it may be gone soon. If that's the case, this was a perfectly good "last show" to see there.
Though I do hope they have some sort of good-bye-extravaganza with local musicians playing a farewell show. Like Matt Good. And New Pornos. And Destroyer. And then they all jam together at the end.