LIVE REVIEW: Run River North @ The Constellation Room

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Photo Credit to Josh Telles
Photo Credit to Josh Telles

There’s a phenomenon called an “island vibe.” This means a person or place is so mellow and easygoing that it rubs off on the surrounding environment. When I drove up to The Constellation Room in Santa Ana there was an obvious island vibe: the people waiting in line had huge grins on their faces, the parking attendants and venue owner were helpful and chatty, even the burly security guards couldn’t help but grin a little in anticipation for the sold out show. I myself could not wait to see Run River North perform again.

This past spring Run River North came to my campus, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and played a 15-minute set that was incredible but way too short. After I heard one of their songs, which was the only one I caught before their act was over, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t listened to their music before. They had a wonderful tone and balance to their music, and a mix of instruments that make some truly wonderful melodies.

Run River North, previously known as Monsters Calling Home, is a Korean-American indie-folk band whose heritage glimmers through their craft in surprising ways. Though the band hails from Los Angeles, members Alex Hwang (lead vocals and acoustic guitar), Daniel Chae (electric guitar and violin), Jennifer Rim (violin), Joseph Chun (bass), John Chong (drums) and Sally Kang (vocals, keys, mandolin and tambourine) are all children of immigrants, a reality that catalyzed the band’s work ethic early on. All of the members contribute vocals and help with writing lyrics. Joe says the reason why they work so well together is because they “have more fun” when they do. The band released their self-titled album Run River North earlier this year.

Though active since August 2011, Run River North attracted tons of attention due to an interesting interaction with Honda. They didn’t have a studio to record their music videos in and discovered that the Hondas they all drove had great acoustics, so they shot the clip for their song “Fight to Keep” driving around in their cars. After posting the video to YouTube they were contacted by Honda and asked to come to New York to perform for 600 executives of the company. Those Honda execs surprised the band with the news that they had actually been booked to play on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

That performance generated a lot of exposure for the band from all types of people. Usually when I write about shows I try to describe the audience. For this homecoming concert, however, no labels applied. When Run River North performs they create a space of full music immersion. Age, ethnicity, economic background, all these divisions are forgotten once they began to sing. It is rare that you can find a band that can make the entire audience move and sing as one. During one of the songs I looked out to the crowd and not a single person was still, to me that is magic.

With Alex dancing around the stage barefoot, John completely immersed in the beat, Jennifer’s gentle notes, Daniel’s wide smile, Joe’s chill stage presence and Sally bringing the group together, Run River North has created a unique show that is hard not to love. At points Alex danced so hard his beanie fell off. A lot of the crowd was comprised of friends and long time fans from Southern California, and although Alex admitted to being “really bad at Where’s Waldo” the entire audience felt the reciprocated appreciation. During “Growing Up” the crowd became, even if accidentally, the seventh vocal member. And later on Run River North went old school folk and performed the beginning of a song a cappella. During the last part of the set Alex even got off the stage and started a mash pit of sorts. The encore ended things on an uplifting note, with a final song that asked for people to face their problems with love not hate. “It’s a lot easier when people don’t try to hold onto their fists and just let it go,” Alex told the audience.

It is a rare and beautiful thing to see a band perform with such earnestness. Run River North exude grace and kindness behind, expressed simply with elated grins. They have a contagious stage presence and fervency to their movement that pulls the audience into their show. Run River North is silly, warmhearted and all together amazing. I would suggest to anyone that loves dancing, singing, music or fun (or just goodness in general) to check them out immediately. They are touring all over the United States in Summer 2014, with their next show on June 21st in San Francisco.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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