Stunning Energy at Sainthood Reps Show

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Last Saturday night, the audience at San Francisco's Regency Ballroom was instantly floored by Sainthood Reps' energy, and captivated for the length of their 35-minute set. From their pounding drums, louder and harder than the Beastie Boys, to their catchy melodies, peppier than Green Day, Sainthood Reps brought an innovative yet familiar sound to their unusual show.

It began with rhythmic, echoing drum hits, and the passionate lyrics of lead singer Derrick Sherman. The raw power of Sainthood Reps' soaring guitar riffs was engrossing, especially when the band featured unexpected harmonies, and the driving beat moved every song forward. The energy enveloped bass player Jani Zubkovs as well - in one particular song, he bounced from beginning to end without stopping, playing all the while.

The most unusual part of the performance was the rhythmic complexity of many of the songs. They would start out in a solid square meter, and then suddenly shift into a triple meter for the chorus. These changes took me completely by surprise, perhaps because they're so rare in commercially popular music, and they added to the inventive nature of Sainthood Reps' sound.

Later, Sainthood Reps showed off their sonic diversity with a slower, more dream-like song. The melodies were on display here, and the insistent drumming and gentle guitar created a surprisingly sensitive backdrop. As with the faster songs, Sherman clearly believed in his lyrics, and that commitment transcended the occasionally-garbled words.

Sainthood_Reps-346x247.jpgThroughout their set, I was reminded of the mid-career Beastie Boys, defined by feedback-filled harmonies on guitar, heavy reverb, and driving, crashing drums. The dream-like experimental quality of those Beasties albums remained, but it was given a more sensitive refinement by Sainthood Reps. The lyrics were certainly delicate, and (when I could understand them) fairly thoughtful, but the real joy of Saturday's show was the urgency of the music. I could easily see myself listening to Sainthood Reps on a long car ride, relaxing into the music, and letting the insistency of the sound wash over me.

The audience for this show was exceedingly polite and static. Unlike the techno raves that EBAC has covered, and even many of the rock shows, where audiences would jump around or dance in place, Saturday night's crowd largely stood and listened, occasionally bobbing a head during an exciting moment. This was true even for most of the headline set by Brand New, during all but their most raucous songs.

Ultimately, Brand New's set was pretty disappointing, especially for the die-hard fans like me who blasted their songs every minute of high school. We'd all come to hear the classics, which Brand New eventually played in the largest (and most satisfying) twenty-something sing-along I've ever seen. But their new stuff was lacking in both imagination and conviction, and the audience seemed to be waiting for the songs to which they knew the words. Still, all of Sainthood Reps' songs were new and unknown, and they managed to captivate that same audience for the entirety of their set.

Some bands rely on the noise, the sheer volume levels, to get their music across. But Sainthood Reps has a really cool, unique vibe underneath. Every minute of the show, a ton of energy was pouring out. But the real key was that the energy remained even when they weren't playing loudly. It's easy to maintain that energy when your sound is cranked up and blasting out of 20 gigantic speakers. But if you can keep that feeling going while playing the sweet, quiet, chilled-out moments of the set, that's how you know that the energy is real, and that's when Sainthood Reps proved themselves worthy of live performance.

EBAC thanks Sainthood Reps for access to this show.

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