Published on September 30th, 2013 | by Jessica Mickey0
Review: Brave Baby’s Big Boom and Slow Runner’s Swan Song
Slow Runner, Brave Baby Dusty Slay
Charleston Music Hall
Last Friday evening, the Charleston Music Hall hosted a bittersweet evening of indie pop with a double shot from popular up-and-comers Brave Baby and the now to-be-continued Slow Runner.
Kicking off a little after 8 p.m., local comedian and emcee for the evening Dusty Slay made his way to the stage to entertain the smattering of punctual audience members. The stage, decorated in a hodgepodge of taxidermies and high school trophies, easily provided Slay inspiration for some off-the-cuff material. The audience eventually trickled in (most local music fans aren’t exactly used to a rock ‘n’ roll show starting before 10 p.m., even if it’s in the fancier-than-most Charleston Music Hall), and after Slay was casually given the green light to bring on the first band of the evening, the curtain rose, revealing Brave Baby, comprised of lead singer/guitarist, Keon Masters, guitarist/bassist Christian Chidester, drummer/singer Wolfgang (Ryan) Zimmerman, guitarist/bassist Jordan Hicks, and keyboardist Steven Walker.
It has to be pointed out that Brave Baby, out of all the bands in the area, may have one of the largest local followings, which appears to be mostly made up of College of Charleston students and young professionals. They have a reputation for packing the room wherever they play in town, and though the hall is too big for even them to fill, their youthful and loyal fan base was most definitely in the house.
Going from the title track on their debut album Forty Bells into the insanely catchy “Lakeside Trust,” their devotees rose to their feet and rushed the front area of the stage, dancing, fist pumping, and singing in unison, “There was a fire!” Going into some new songs, Zimmerman took over lead vocals on one, surprisingly channeling a Stephin Merritt-esque sound. Speaking of the sound, something about the Music Hall really complimented Brave Baby. Its truly the best we ever heard the band live, tastefully mixed and arranged with crisp, clear vocals. Whoever was behind the board that evening deserves a high five. The boys rounded out their set with “Cooper River Night,” “Living in a Country,” and “Magic and Fire” to boisterous applause and requests for an encore, which the band declined. After all, more than anything, this was Slow Runner’s night.
Following a short break and brief set of some newer material from Slay, it was time for the headliner’s not-quite final show. Methodical chimes rung out, leading into an instrumental as the curtain again rose, introducing the heart and soul of Slow Runner — Michael Flynn and Josh Kaler — with bassist Jonathan Gray and drummer Jack Burg, as well as Ron Wiltrout on marimba and percussion and Clay White and Nathan Koci on brass.
Moving into the 2006 breakthrough album No Disassemble, the group jumped on “12.19.03,” showcasing near perfect musical precision, sweet Casio-style accents, and swoon-worthy lyrics. Flynn greeted the crowd, telling them, “We’re going to have a lot of fun playing depressing songs of unrequited love,” a perfect intro to the plucky “Love and Doubt,” off of 2008’s Mermaids.
The evening was a retrospective of sorts, with Kaler and Flynn visiting songs on all their albums, including the bouncy “Auto-Happy,” off their last album Damage Points, which brought an enthusiastic bunch to the front of the stage. It’s hard to not want to pogo to the joyful lyric, “You make me sing to the house plants.” “And then the dance party got really weird,” Flynn laughed, a bit too prematurely. As the keys kicked off the smooth “Long Division,” of 2007’s SHIV!, his brother Morgan bounded on stage dressed as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, ecstatically kicking and dancing until a wardrobe malfunction occurred when his “shell” fell to the ground and he coyly shuffled off the stage.
After visiting a few more tracks off of SHIV!, Kaler and Flynn welcomed guitarist Bobby Plexico and bassist Donnie Hummel to the stage to join them for “You’re in Luck,” a track that Plexico and Hummel had played on in the original studio recording. A chorus of “boos” filled the auditorium when Flynn announced that they had one final song, “Strange Days,” but the duo came out for an encore. They each said a few words of thanks, and warmly hugged each other, with Kaler adding, “Y’know how people say ‘making it?’ Well, I feel like we ‘made it.’” It turned out to be a hilariously juxtaposed statement to make before presenting an unreleased song that was written as the duo was on tour with a roster of emo bands and felt out of place. It cleverly lamented of playing the “first of three,” driving all day to play the same songs over and over again, and how the other musicians on the tour may be more famous, but they’re also less charming.
The full band returned to the stage, and Slow Runner’s swan song was played before a cheering, grateful crowd. The audience knew that they had just witnessed the end of an era. As sophisticated, technically genius, and mature the band has become, there’s still an innocence and child-like wonder that encompasses their compositions. It’s a beautiful, rare combo that will surely be missed in the Lowcountry music scene. Until next time.
All photos by Jessica Mickey.
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