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San Fermin brings big band geek energy to Brooklyn Steel


by Haley Paula Stein

San Fermin, Brooklyn-based chamber pop eight-piece (named for the infamous Spanish festival involving the running of the bulls) wrapped up their American tour last Friday. On the road to promote their latest release, The Cormorant I, the band played expressive, dynamic music to a fresh-faced audience at the Brooklyn Steel.

Fronted by the vivacious composer and multi-instrumentalist Ellis Ludwig-Leone, San Fermin proved that they have a lot to offer in a performance. A non-exhaustive list of instruments played during the hour-and-a-half set included keyboards, violin, bass, guitar, saxophone, drums, and maracas. At one point a trumpet got caught in a guitar chord, and the crowd shared a little chuckle with the band for their endearingly awkward transition. There were several occasions of big laughs on stage. The bandmates clearly have a good time playing together, and a hearty passion for the music. There was a kind of youthful purity to their set, a very light and fun big band geek energy. 

San Fermin shined brightest when they dove head-first into their dramatic anthems, stunning with tracks like “Bride” and the more recent release “The Hunger.

Leading ladies, Karlie Bruce and Claire Wellin, are impressive vocalists, offering range and feeling in their honey-smooth voices.

The lulls involved San Fermin’s slower songs. “Cerulean Gardens” could have been left out of the performance and none would have mourned, I suspect. During that song, I looked over to see one audience member yawning. Then I yawned.

True to their shining form, San Fermin brought back the energy to close out with a bang. Charlene Kaye, the former lead singer of the band, was welcomed to the stage as a surprise guest, much to the audience’s roaring approval. Kaye dazzled the crowd with a lively rendition of 2013’s “Sonsick,” during which, enthusiastic trumpeter John Brandon jumped into the audience, waking everyone up.

San Fermin gave a memorable and spirited performance, gifting audiences with unreleased tracks from their next release, and giving us all something to look forward to with the forthcoming completion of The Cormorant project.

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