Los Angeles based folk rockers, Run River North seemed surprised to be playing to a sold-out crowd at Vienna, VA's Jammin Java on April 15th, but then the band has had a lot of well-deserved attention lately.
You could say that the momentum began with a prank that was pulled on the six-piece band last year after the group, then known as Monsters Calling Home, recorded a music video (“Fight to Keep”) in their Honda car. The automaker invited the band to perform – supposedly at a Honda promotional event - but pulled a last-minute switcheroo that put them on Jimmy Kimmel Live! before an audience of millions. (Watch the prank go down.)
Since then, after a 6-song demo and a name change, the newly-christened Run River North has signed with the Nettwerk label, released a self-titled debut album, been featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition and Conan O’Brien’s website, played SXSW and toured with the Goo Goo Dolls while taking detours for headline shows like this one (the tour wraps up in Green Bay on the 27th; complete list of dates below).
Still, lead vocalist/singer-songwriter/guitarist Alex Hwang seemed positively shocked when the crowd cheered his announcement of the song, “Growing Up,” one of the album’s key tracks. “How do you guys know that?” he asked incredulously. He and the rest of the band - Daniel Chae (vocals, strings), Jennifer Rim (strings), Joe Chun (bass, vocals), John Chong (drums, vocals) and Sally Kang (vocals, keyboards) projected that joy of being discovered – and appreciated – in a set that was sometimes soft and tender, often boisterous and exuberant.
And the full house met them at every pass, responding to an anthemic folk-rock musical mix that has elements of Arcade Fire power, Of Monsters and Men-like male/female vocal interplay and inspirational lyrics that deal with the struggles of the Asian-American dream. (All of the band members come from families who moved to Southern California from Asia in search of a better life.)
Drawing their set, naturally, from the album, which was recorded with producer Phil Ek (Band Of Horses, Fleet Foxes, The Shins), Run River North also offered an evocative slowed-down version of The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside.” And, in a new twist on the audience-participation moment, Hwang told the story of a very persistent fan who hounded every member of the band’s management team so that he could take the stage and invite his girlfriend to the prom (luckily, she accepted).
"Next time," he teased, "we'll only do marriage proposals." Given Run River North's engaging musicianship and contagious optimism, bigger stages and heftier invitations are, no doubt, straight ahead.
Complete Dates For Run River North w/ Goo Goo Dolls
04/18 Biloxi, MS Beau Rivage Resort & Casino
04/19 Nashville, TN 3rd & Lindsley
04/21 Lexington, KY Lyric Theatre & Cultural Art Center
04/22 Chicago, IL City Winery
04/23 East Lansing, MI Pasant Theater @ The Wharton Center
04/25 Middletown, OH Finkelman Audiorium – Miami University
04/27 Green Bay, WI Meyer Theatre
Run River North headline show:
05/02 Philadelphia, PA Ortleib’s
You can follow me on Twitter @mariannemeyer.
Use the “subscribe” button up top and you’ll hear right away when a new concert review and slideshow is posted.
And feel free to add comments below.