Everyone at The Fine Line will probably look back and remember last night’s performances as some of the more powerful and energetic ones to come through Minneapolis in a long time. Con Davison and San Fermin delivered solid sets of texturized and emotional songs, all while engaging a half-filled venue. It felt extremely intimate and full of all the things that make live music fulfilling: the warmth of the lighting, the appreciation of those in attendance, and satisfying songs about childhood, longing, and fears.
Con Davison is slowly establishing his own voice here in the Twin Cities. He previously lent his skills to drumming in Bad Bad Hats and Dreamspook. His 2018 release Far Off Distant Plains is a small sample of his craftsmanship and ability to tell stories. This solo work is a collection of songs about the future, where Davison balances feelings of anxiety and fear with a sliver of hopefulness.
“Sofa Bed” and “Talk” cued off the top of his set. The jangly guitars and straightforward driving drums play to his strengths. His vocals soak through the songs and carry his own distinct sincerity with lyrics. The keyboard focused track “Somebody Else” polished out his set and left us with a beautifully quirky and warming reminder that developing your own voice is important. There were newer songs mixed into the playlist that are promising and will be interesting to their progression into being recorded.
Grateful to have just barely made it to Minneapolis due to van issues, San Fermin started the evening with “The Cormorant,” track one of their newly released album. Vocalist and violinist Claire Wellin and Karlie Bruce immediately blended seamlessly together. We then got the first dose of baritone vocalist Allen Tate singing through “Emily.” His deeper voice and presence makes for a lovely weight to the music. The contrast of the three main vocalists work nicely together and accentuates the lushness of the music.
The trumpet and saxophone added another layer of energy in “Bride” and “The Hunger.” It was a newer song titled “Swamp” that propelled the evening even higher. Drummer Michael Hanf charged through the song with an exquisite performance that left everyone stunned. The complex drum part complimented the keyboardist Ellis Ludwig-Leone’s sections. It was a powerful moment and showcased the amount of depth the ensemble can achieve.
Halloween inspired “Saint” gave us a sinister and sweet burst of horns and vocals. As the song built up, the ending resolve of voices in the crowd and Claire belting out was epic. Everything combined for a wall of sound and a flash of goosebumps.
“Why you have to be a goddamn saint
Nobody’s dying for this love”
A calmer moment occurred with “Cerulean Gardens,” where Allen softly hushed the crowd. The light ohs of Karlie and Claire framed the song. The gradual climb of instruments and layers were a prime example of what San Fermin does best. Closing out the set was “Jackrabbit,” a favorite of the audience. Clapping along, we witnessed another impactful display of vocals with Claire and Karlie. The playful drums and horns blitzed along, giving everyone a high. The entire playlist had unique moments where each band member could shine. It was curated impeccably.
The encore started with a stripped-back performance of “The Myth.” Then they transitioned to a cover of “Run Away With Me” (Carly Rae Jepsen). Taking a pure pop song and making it their own was guiltily wonderful. It had everyone smiling and added a different dimension to the set. Finishing with “The Living,” San Fermin all gathered together once more for a blast of ominous joy. As the song climaxed and shimmered out, the small crowd reciprocated their appreciation.
The Cormorant I is the first installment of a two-part release. My hope is this means there will be another tour soon where San Fermin can once again display the sheer thickness of songwriting and intricacy that define their sound. Although I’m a bit late to discovering this group, I’m more compelled and intrigued than ever to soak in their entire catalog.