As Bad Suns took to the stage at the 9:30 Club on Oct. 29, lead vocalist Christo Bowman proclaimed his pride of finally headlining at the venue. The band has previously played at the venue five times, but they never “had our own show at the f***ing 9:30 Club!” Bowman’s excitement was infectious. With that inspirational introduction, Bad Suns proceeded to tear down the house with a selection of signature hits including “Cardiac Arrest” and “Daft Pretty Boys.”
It’s a good thing that Bad Suns knows how to drum up a crowd, because there was definitely an initial lack of enthusiasm that night. Things had gotten off to a rocky start; audience members were trapped in the freezing rain as they waited for door to open, and they were greeted with relatively mediocre performances by the two openers, QTY and HUNNY.
Even for a relatively unknown band, QTY fell a little short of expectations. The rugged indie rock duo of Dan Lardner and Alex Niemetz did not significantly pique interest among the waiting audience members, most of whom responded more out of politeness than excitement. Although they failed to make a huge impression, QTY did have one standout song: “Rodeo.” Taking noticeable inspiration from The Strokes, this track felt surprisingly timeless. Upon further inspection of QTY’s repertoire on Spotify, it is clear that their music translates much better on record than in a live setting.
HUNNY gave an engaging performance that helped change the crowd’s energy. Lead vocalist Jason Yarger was quite the character – during “Televised,” he proceeded to climb from the stage onto the balcony of the second floor, all while belting out verses. The songs from HUNNY’s latest album, Windows I, had a healthy sense of urgency and displayed Yarger’s strangely compelling and crooning voice. The audience quickly began to perk up for the first time that night. Expectations for the headliner were set high, and luckily Bad Suns did not disappoint.
With Bowman on vocals, Miles Morris on drums, Ray Libby on guitar, and Gavin Bennett on bass, Bad Suns gave passionate performances from their newest album, Disappear Here, that rivaled studio recordings. The angsty lyrics of tracks like “Off She Goes” and “Swimming in the Moonlight” were accompanied by pulsing beats, heavy hooks, and strains of the ‘80s new wave guitar movement. The crowd enthusiastically responded to the more energetic songs, but also calmed down to appreciate the nostalgic tones of the band’s newest single, “This Was a Home Once.” Bowman explained that they had initially wanted to include the song on the latest album, but something did not feel right. Released on Oct. 6, “This Was a Home Once” has all of Bad Sun’s trademark pop-style rhythm, reverberating guitar, and intricate melodic arrangement. However, the single also reveals a more emotional and contemplative side of the band that understandably does not fit the stirring nature of Disappear Here.
The crowd truly felt electric during tracks such as “Off She Goes” and “Disappear Here,” as audience members were swept up in the intensity of Bowman’s voice and the liveliness of Libby’s guitar and Bennett’s bass. The venue itself served to aptly reflect the shifting mood of the different songs. During “Heartbreaker,” a red cloud of lights enveloped Bowman as he set the tone for the dark and sultry lyrics. A spotlight of blue shone on the group as they proceeded to perform the more optimistic “Outskirts of Paradise.”
In between songs, Bowman voiced his appreciation for the band’s success. There was something so refreshing about how flattered Bowman was that the audience was able to belt out the lyrics to almost all of the songs. Bad Suns’ success and impressive rise can be traced back to their first major album, Language & Perspective, in 2014. Tracks like “Cardiac Arrest” and “We Move Like the Ocean” were huge radio hits that catapulted Bad Suns into the spotlight. While the first few guitar lines of the classic “Cardiac Arrest” were greeted with extreme enthusiasm at the 9:30 Club, it was also inspiring to observe the evolution and diversification of the band’s work through its performance of its newer pieces.
Bad Suns had quite an extraordinary performance at the 9:30 Club. While the same might not be said of the two openers, nothing really detracted from the talent and passion of Bowman and his fellow members. If this night is any indication of the group’s ability, Bad Suns is almost dead-sure to have a brilliant future.