Photo Credit: Gareth Fraser at musicscramble
Halloween night at The Lemon Grove this year was a slightly different affair to what you might have expected. A hubbub of university students and locals, sporting the occasional terrifying costume, make-up or mask graced the characteristically sticky floor, excitedly awaiting Sunset Sons to appear on stage. The chilly wind and eerie mist outside were easily forgotten in the warm, summer throwback atmosphere; when I came in, I felt like I should kick off my boots for some flip-flops and grab a cider from the nearest festival tent.
Sunset Sons started out as a cover band, specialising in live music, gigs and doing anything they could to get people going in après-ski bars; playing gigs is part of the band’s grassroots, and undoubtedly what they do best. They still carry their crazy stage-presence and energy which gets the crowd jumping up and down, spilling their drinks and clapping their hands. The group’s popularity has gone through the roof following the release of their album Very Rarely Say Die earlier this year, and this summer they played some of Europe’s biggest festivals; and whilst they are, undeniably, perfectly suited to playing open-air gigs, no one would dare claim that they are constrained to them.
Kicking things off with Medicine – my favourite track of theirs – Sunset Sons reeled off a set list composed of a great mix of songs from their debut album, featuring both their slower and more upbeat hits. The crowd knew every song off by heart; the floor of The Lemon Grove felt like it was shaking; and whether it was Sunset Sons or the jumping, stomping and clapping crowd who were louder, I’m not quite sure.
As soon as the band played the first notes of She Wants, the crowd started shouting the lyrics back at them: “Should have been a doctor, should have been a father…”. Such was the crowd’s eagerness that, later on in the gig, lead singer Rory Williams decided to have a sing-along with them. But, unlike so many gigs these days, the classic “repeat after me!” tactic didn’t come off as cheesy or staged. Williams spoke to the crowd with a striking amiability and casualness; it felt as though he was simply chatting to some of his mates, and he seemed just as excited to be there as we were, dancing all over stage and singing along with unbounded enthusiasm.
After lots of singing, dancing and shouting for an encore, I left The Lemon Grove to get back to the real (cold) world. As I walked away from the gig, filled with the excitement and contentment one always has after a great concert, I was particularly struck by how refreshing the whole thing had been. The band’s interaction with the crowd was so genuine and honest, it felt like a breath of fresh air in a music scene which, these days, can seem saturated with arrogant and aloof musicians who do not speak to their audience so as not to ruin the “artistic experience”, or so that they may remain “in the zone”. Sometimes, you just want to kick back, have a good time and dance to some bloomin’ brilliant live music. And if you do, Sunset Sons are the band for you.