Yesterday I drove to Detroit, aka “rock city,” to attend a much-anticipated concert by the group Bad Suns. The setting was the basement of the city’s legendary St. Andrews Hall, which hosts a steady stream of emerging artists.
This basement venue, called The Shelter, could be considered an afterthought compared to the grandeur and history of the upstairs space, but a sold-out show and the infectious energy of this group and their devoted followers made this small, sparsely decorated space seem comfortable.
To me, the 180 mile drive was definitely worth it, for the chance to see and hear some quality music on an unusually warm October day. With better planning, I might have had more time to enjoy Detroit’s active nightlife scene, though I did stop in to another eclectic night spot, Grand Trunk Pub, for a quick drink before leaving town.
The Shelter is best known for sponsoring hip-hop competitions in the late ’90’s, where Detroit native Eminem first gained traction as a rap artist. In 2002, featured a replica of the venue in his semi-autobiographical film 8 Mile.
Upstairs, Saint Andrews Hall has its own notable heritage, being the original home for Detroit’s famous St. Andrew’s Society, formed by a group of 35 ambitious Scotsmen in 1849. The mission of this Society’s 160-year history has been to further the interests of Scottish descendants and tradesmen hoping to capitalize on the city’s strong industrial history.
Bad Suns have an amazing following, considering they’ve only played together for four years now, and no member is over 23 years old. On Saturday, the band’s character, tight set list, and professional delivery continually infused the crowd, who routinely shouted lyrics and jumped in place at critical moments of fan-favorites We Move Like the Ocean and Rearview.
On stage, Christo Bowman’s presence as a frontman and guitarist was impressive, and his gratitude for the crowd’s participation and interaction with the band throughout the night was notably sincere.
The remaining members, Gavin Bennett (bass), Ray Libby (guitar), and Miles Morris (drums) delivered workman-like performances by concentrating (as they should) on each of their unique contributions to the Bad Suns sound.
The current 19-show tour ends in hometown Los Angeles and supports their sophomore release, Disappear Here. Their highly-successful debut Language and Perspective, peaked at #24 on U.S. Charts and quickly established them an act with serious potential, with hits like Salt and Transpose.
On Saturday, the quartet gave fans 75 solid minutes of the best of their musical library, making the most of The Shelter’s limited capacity to carry the band’s massive sound on location. Live shows can never be expected to deliver the promise that recorded music does, but the overall mix could have been described as muddy in spots, unless you were standing front and center.
I’ll gladly look forward to seeing them again and wish them continued success. For more information on the band, check out their Tumblr page by clicking here.