They played their first song like it was their last.
Spirits of thunder, lightning, wind, fire, the embodiment of the ocean, the abrupt creation of genius chaos—I’ve never experienced something like that, never heard or seen a band that possesses the strings of time and of hearts so delicately but aggressively at the same time.
Seeing Run River North perform at U Street Music Hall Saturday brought an overflow of emotions. I felt like I was at the top of a cliff, overlooking the earth and feeling it breathe, pulse and dance around within me.
By starting off the night with the roaring track “Pretender,” the audience seemed to understand this was not an ordinary concert. We had stepped in a new era of Run River North—one that was no longer filled with folky guides or sweet pauses.
It was a rock howling orchestra, a canvas ripped apart and dipped in the fires of the sun. It was the accumulation of the growth and well, shit, that the band went through while making their second album, Drinking From a Salt Pond.
Frontman Alex Hwang explained they had almost broken up three times after the success of their first self-titled album. He said it was like being in a relationship with six people, but unlike a normal relationship, it was the “emotional baggage but none of the physical release,” which brought laughter from the audience.
In my interview with Daniel Chae, the guitarist and violinist, he mentioned a few of the songs are actually about some of the members of the band. One could feel the emotional ties to the tracks ran incredibly deep, but those experiences were necessary in the sense that if they hadn’t occurred, Run River North wouldn’t have realized what they could create and what they could be together.
Although their first album is self-titled, I believe now the band is truly defining who they are.
The curious intro to the song “Ghost” gave me chills, drummer John Chung’s transparent glasses catching the cobalt blue lights.
The dual violins by Daniel and Jennifer Rim in “Beetle,” along with the soft smiles of each of the members, made me think of the Latin word “Animus Vox,” which means “the voice of the soul.”
The voices of everyone’s soul were tangling and nudging one another, mixing and igniting colors the human eye couldn’t process.
The opening act, Cleveland band The Lighthouse and The Whaler, were the color blue.
Going through a new chapter themselves, TLATW wove the desperation of finding out life’s purpose with their rock quartet. Before singing their popular songs “Venice” and “Pioneers,” guitarist and vocalist Michael LoPresti introduced them with “here’s a little song.”
This fits in with the theme of resurrection and revival for both bands—the previous material the audience knows them for is a small window to the band’s talent and dreams.
There was a moment toward the end when bone and skin unraveled, opening the call of each individual—all the members gravitating to each other: one time it was everyone going to Sally behind the keyboard; then it was to Jennifer, who was happily lost in the realm of her violin; then they all were gathered around the drums and packed together, their mouths replaced by their instruments.
With an encore, Run River North lined up, house lights on and played a stripped version of “Growing Up.”
The audience and the band sang together, swaying, pressing hearts to the lips of the lyrics, talking about childhood and messy ties.
Toward the end of the show, the guitars stopped and you could only hear the singing: a bubble of immortality blooming. I caught the shine of tears in Hwang’s eyes and a pleasant smile from bassist Joseph Chung.
Run River North made their chaos count, and now, their magic and genius will not stop.
Featured Photo Credit: Run River North performs at U Street Music Hall (Gabe Fernandez/Bloc Reporter)
Karla Casique is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.