Tuesday, February 19
Review: Ara Jansen
While there were visions of magic carpet rides, celestial beasts and the odd waft of purple haze, at the Festival Gardens we had clear skies and a cool breeze as San Francisco's Sleepy Sun lightened the night.
It's a joy to watch a band ply their craft with such ease and confidence that you can leave them firmly in the pilot's seat to fly you where and as they will. Ladies and gentlemen, it's safe to shut off, open your body and mind to the music and let it wash over and through you.
Singer Bret Constantino has a soulful voice though the best time to hear his sweetened tones were during the slower songs where he joined the other four members on 12-string acoustic guitar. Otherwise it was the two electric guitars which flew across the stage at each other in a wash of ocean spume. And while they were often slung low in tone and slowly rumbled along, drummer Brian Tice seemed to work double time keeping the engine room stoked.
Whether it was newer songs from their new Spine Hits album, or older songs the diehards in the crowd seemed to recognise, each was filled with sound and lifted to an intense crescendo where sometimes it felt hard to breathe, before the oxygen was welcomingly allowed to flood in.
Sleepy Sun have little trouble fitting into the current hipster-loved mode of music thanks to their insistence at living in a mid-tempo musical world. They can also live outside that universe thanks to a swirling and wily psychedelic rock edge which has influences as wide as Suede, the Stone Roses or Dean Wareham's Luna and also dips into classic rambling Zeppelin delivery, particularly on songs like Wild Machines.
The set was largely a slow burn of intensity and every so often the spell was broken with something quite hymnal, such as Open Eyes. Seventy-five minutes equalled a slow Sun-rise and was more than enough bliss-out time as the band mesmerised in a calm, yet exacting way.