Bad Suns @ B. Ryders, Bakersfield CA 08/01/14

I don’t think this has ever happened to me as a music fan and concert goer: I went to a headlining show because of one song only, the infectious “Cardiac Arrest.” And after seeing the entire live set, all I can say is I’M SOLD. And for only $8!!! The last B. Ryders show I attended was the Atlas Genius gig. That show was great and it was a sell-out crowd. Believe it or not, this Bad Suns show was even better! And there were more people! I don’t know how they crammed more fans into the venue, but it looked as though the capacity had increased by another 30%, it was packed…and extremely hot. It was 11pm by the time Bad Suns took the stage and it was still around 90 degrees outside. Inside wasn’t much better, and the mass of bodies converting oxygen to Co2 only made the inside of the venue feel worse. Bassist Gavin Bennett looked pitiful onstage, cradling his bass and humorously complaining into the mic “it’s fucking hawwwwt!” Even singer Christo Bowman expressed that this Bakersfield gig was the hottest live show they ever played. Muggy indoor heat aside, it was still a kick-ass and unforgettable show. I made the trip solo and wished my lady could have come, she would have enjoyed the music, the majority of which we’d never even heard before. I’ve said it before and it sounds rather cliche, but these songs came ALIVE onstage. The songs were more energetic, powerful and a hell of a lot of fun. The guitars sounded celestial – they shimmered. Guitarist Ray Libby had a magical sound onstage. Bowman’s live guitar sound was awesome as well. They made those Fender Strats sound like the greatest guitars ever built, a bright and sparkling sound that had an 80’s new wave/arena rock soul, but with a modern edge. Great performers, great songs.The music: the songs can be best described as catchy and anthemic alternative rock…but even that description is a bit deceiving. It’s bouncy, exuberant and bright music very much in keeping with The Police and The English Beat/General Public. This was danceable rock with pop hooks. You could shake your booty to it. But there was a poignancy and thoughtfulness to the lyrics. The songs sounded bright and poppy but the lyrics were sentimental and gave the music greater character and a cool mysticism. The vocals…this kid Christo Bowman sounds like a throwback from the golden age of New Wave. A solid tenor who reminded me of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith from Tears For Fears and Tony Lewis from The Outfield. And he has this sweet falsetto that drops from out of nowhere. Very talented singer and guitar player. Ray Libby on guitar reminded me so much of Andy Summers from The Police. Like I mentioned before, his Fender Stratocaster sounded magical, and I’m usually not a fan of that particular kind of guitar. There was a lot of chorus and reverb, a lot of echo, making for an ambient sound, reminiscent of Unforgettable Fire era guitar parts by The Edge. These were atmospheric sounding guitar parts, colorful and impressionistic. Libby played upbeat parts, and lots of arpeggios. They were exciting guitar parts that served the songs, nothing over the top, no obnoxious solos or wanking. About Gavin’s bass parts, I couldn’t help but think of U2’s Adam Clayton. Much like Clayton, Gavin’s parts rumbled away, playing the root notes of chords, helping to give the songs foundation, and for lack of a better term, balls, while the guitars sparkled above…and he looked like Joshua Tree era Bono! Gavin sound was commanding and made you take notice, the bass parts rumbled and locked in with the drums, making for an impressive wall of low end from the rhythm section.

And the drums…WOW…the drums…Miles Morris on drums made me excited to be a drummer again, made me want to jump on my kit and just start playing with renewed enthusiasm and spirit. I haven’t felt that kind of inspiration, that kind of fire under my rear for quite some time. That young, exuberant talent propelled the group with power, finesse, class and cool. A hard hitting but tasteful and exciting player, Miles played like Steward Copeland from the Police, but with more control and discipline. Like Copeland, he would do those fast 16th note phrasings on the hihat while keeping a venue shaking backbeat on the bass and snare. And the snare…OMG. That snare. I swear he was playing the Stewart Copeland Tama signature snare. It sounded like a steel 4.5” x 14.” It had body, definition, but most of all it was tuned way up to provide a sexy yet skull cracking cut on the 2s and 4s. Those were killer rim shots and Miles would play with this exagerated downstroke, landing on the drumheads with great force. It was interesting to see his technique first hand, couldn’t take my eyes off these guys. His ride cymbal was killer. I have no idea what model he was playing, but it was so trashy, almost china-like, nice and thin with a great wash to it. I seriously wanted to take that snare and ride home with me. The drum kit was very unassuming and appeared underwhelming, a basic 4 piece configuration with a pair of hats, a ride and 2 crashes. Although the kit looked nonthreatening, he made the most of it and floored me with his powerful and tasteful playing. He was like a hybrid of Stewart Copeland and Keith Moon. Not one to do rolls or showy fills, Miles impressed by laying down an infectious backbeat with some embellishments and nuances on the bells and toms.

This show was very important for the group. It was the lead off show of their first ever headlining tour. And 12am would signify Christo Bowman’s birthday, which prompted a great response from the crowd. Bowman wasvery appreciative of the Bakersfield crowd and thanked everyone for making the gig a success, and for proving that this night, a great mass of people enjoyed their style of ‘good rock n’ roll, rather than the alternative (I think Bowman was alluding to the Valley’s country and r&b fans). Although the group has only 1 album to it’s name and they performed for less than 60 minutes, they still left me breathless and eager for more. I truly hope these guys come back to the valley. When they do, I’ll make sure to drag every modern rock fan that I know with me. Unbelievable show, unbelievable group. The had me during the first few bars of “We Move Like the Ocean.” They quickly won me over and I made sure to buy their debut CD, Language & Perspective at Best Buy a couple days later.

We Move Like the Ocean
Twenty Years
Dancing on Quicksand
Cardiac Arrest

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Posted on August 3, 2014, in Bad Suns, Concerts: 2012 - Present and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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