Sun Club | Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman for WXPN | http://jeremy-zim.com/
Brother Sport: Sun Club & The not-Districts hit the end of the line
It can’t be just a coincidence that the first time I wrote about Sun Club over a year ago, I said that “I can’t help but project them as a Maryland version of our own hometown boys, The Districts.”
Since then, we’ve seen their paths cross again, seemingly at random in a North Philly basement. And of course, if you saw The Districts at any show on their most recent headlining tour (except the Electric Factory), then you know something stuck: Sun Club were the primary support for just over 30 of the biggest shows yet for both bands. On Saturday night, the roles were reversed, as Sun Club celebrated an album release show for their new LP The Dongo Durango at Kung Fu Necktie, and had the not-Districts join them as support.
If there’s any band that can give Rob Grote & his crew a run for their money in terms of sheer energy when owning a stage, it’s these Baltimore boys. Though they didn’t play the big hometown show at the Electric Factory, they didn’t let that stop them from scheduling one of their two album release shows here for the very next night.
After a cracking-but-short set from Baltimore friends Sherman Whips, a couple of familiar faces took the stage — Rob and Braden from the Districts, plus their friend Breshon Martzall comprise Straw Hats, which finds the usually highly mobile Grote pinned down behind the drum kit, yowling into a mic while Lawrence and Martzall hold the line with guitar and bass, respectively. It’s a wall of sound. Massive, nonstop power-rock. Nobody knows the words, but it’s not stopping anyone. A lot of #young #men take to the loosely packed floor at KFN and start slam dancing. Not moshing, straight-up slamdancing — uncontrollable high-kicks in tight jeans, folks getting jostled to the back and sides, you know the deal. It’s cool but I don’t love it. But it’s good to see them having fun, loosening up and playing something a little different than they had been for the past month straight, just really letting it all go.
After giving everyone just a couple of minutes to catch their breath, Sun Club got all of their many instruments set up on the small Kung Fu Necktie stage — no small feat. I’m always surprised by how much these guys can rip around the stage and not knock anything over or hit each other. Guitars are flailing and nodding up and down, drums being pounded with one hand while keyboards are prodded with the other — it’s orchestrated chaos, in the best way. Guitarist and lead vocalist Mikey Powers gyrates and uses his knees for all they’re worth when not roaring into the microphone, each band member completely owning the little space they’re given.
The Dongo Durango makes exactly as much sense as it doesn’t. Example: The only lyrics intelligible in the song “Worm City” is the chorus, where everyone yells “WORM CITY,” yet seeing that track played out live remains one of the most fun and brilliant concert-going experiences of 2015. Sun Club’s brand of ragged surf-punk is something that’s best experienced live. I could tell you it sounds like exactly what you’d expect from five guys who grew up in Baltimore’s scene, making music with peers like Animal Collective, Wye Oak, Dan Deacon, Future Islands, Beach House and more, but those comparisons won’t mean anything until you’re dancing your heart out, yipping and yelling at the top of your lungs to tracks like “Language Juice,” or massive, anthemic set closer “Tropicoller Lease.”
A couple times, when I stopped dancing to catch my breath, I’d scope out Kung Fu Necktie to gauge where the audience was with all of this. At a couple of their other Philly shows — like previous tours where they were opening for Cayucas, or Ra Ra Riot — the audience has been less than into it. But here? This was their night. Bouncing, dancing, smiling, happy people. Early in their set, a smiling and sweaty Grote jumped to the front and beckoned the rest of the audience to close the distance to the stage. For the rest of the night he was there, air drumming along and singing loudly, clearly proud and excited for his newfound Baltimore brothers.
Seeing Sun Club blow it out for their Philly fans and family was nothing short of radical. What’s coming next for them is anyone’s guess, but we’re sure they’ll be back here before too long.