LIVE REVIEW: San Fermin @ Brooklyn Steel

On May 13, San Fermin returned to Brooklyn, where they got their start, to put on a show worth remembering. Though the venue, Brooklyn Steel, just opened, several band members mentioned during the show just how important it was to be playing a homecoming gig, and they performed their hearts out to show their love and appreciation for the journey they’ve been on so far.

San Fermin is the brainchild of Ellis Ludwig-Leone, who produces and writes songs for the band. San Fermin’s third album Belong was just released in April of this year, and it reveals a more solid, confident side than prior albums. Part of that comes from the lyrics’ vulnerability; for Belong, Ellis confronted his anxiety and fear of disconnection, making it more raw but all the stronger for that. Not only has Ellis become a more self-assured and immersed bandleader, but the synergy between all band members are at a peak. This came across immediately and enthusiastically in their performance.

The show started off with “Oceanica” and “Bride,” two tracks off their latest album that both hold the ethereal yet foreboding aura that’s to be expected from San Fermin. Frontwoman and multi-instrumentalist Charlene Kaye was an elegant Siren in a silver jumpsuit who swung her head and danced with fluid movements perfectly matched to each song. At one point, she grabbed a guitar and stood on the drumset, illuminated in light, arms extended and holding the guitar overhead as she strummed, relishing her grounding lead role amongst the discordant charm that embodies much of San Fermin’s music.

On tracks like “Methuselah”  Kaye made space for her co-vocalist Allen Tate, their voices complimented, encouraged, and enriched one another perfectly as they passionately delivered their messages while the rest of the band was enveloped in shadow, giving the illusion of two people singing simultaneously while occupying separate worlds. When the two sang duets together, such as with “Parasites,” there was a radiating admiration between the pair that reverberated as deeply as Tate’s baritone.

When Kaye took to the drums during the encore performance of “Happiness Will Ruin this Place,” “Astronaut,” and “Oh Darling,” it allowed for other members of the group to shine as brightly as she had. “Oh Darling” saw striking vocals from the newest member of San Fermin, violinist Claire Wellin.

There was a mutual respect between everyone on stage that permeated the show deeply. Between songs, they gradually introduced members of the band and held for applause. Ellis was introduced before the band left the stage for its encore, and the applause was (unsurprisingly) staggering, taking maybe even him by surprise. The reverence held by the band for its leader was felt by each person in the audience as we cheered in an attempt to convey our appreciation for what he’s created.

San Fermin’s Brooklyn Steel show was a pinnacle of their musical career, one that highlighted a band that has grown into itself and embraced its full potential. Seeing such a performance in the city where the band got its beginnings can only go down as a momentous occasion within that musical career.