Concert Review: Run River North @ World Cafe Live

This show occurred Sunday April 10th at the upstairs venue of World Cafe Live. Before I write about the very talented band, Run River North, I must mention their opener– The Lighthouse & The Whaler. They actually did an energy-packed 45 min set of their own.

I’ve never heard of The Lighthouse & The Whaler before, but I was really impressed by their talent and stage presence. Their songs had powerful builds with climaxes that simply rush over you. Their sound could be described as whimsical folk-rock, they even use a xylophone in some of their songs. Overall, The Lighthouse & The Whaler  is a very talented group of musicians where many of the members rotate instruments, for example going from percussion to violin to keyboard. This opening act blew me away with their high energy and creative instrumentation. 

After a small intermission,  Run River North had about an hour and a half set. Their very full sound is part of what makes them such a great band to see– with drums, two guitars, a bass, violin and keys playing every song.  Run River North’s sound is less folk than their opening act and more genuine rock and roll, where you can feel the power in their music. Take “Run or Hide” off their latest album Drinking from a Salt Pond for example. You can hear the power within the recorded song, but sometimes artists can’t match that energy on stage. Instead, I felt the intensity of “Run or Hide” flow through the room in a very moving way. Run River North more than matches their recorded energy.

My favorite performer out of the band is probably the drummer, John Chung. Even though his back was to me, I could tell that he exudes raw talent and sets the pace for their songs. There was also this adorable little boy (maybe age six) in the crowd who was copying what the drummer did with his hands, so I am not the only one who thought he was great.

Their violinist, Jennifer Rim, also exudes talent (although honestly, all of them do).  When she had her solo, it really forced you take notice to her gorgeous playing and similarly raw talent. Their playing is so powerful that a few songs in, the violinist lost a few of the horse hairs off her bow and the drummer lost a stick mid-way through the same song. And when the drummer lost his stick,  he turned around at the end of that song to make sure it didn’t hit anyone. When the teenager said that he was good and that he’d be honored if he did hit him, Chung told him “You can have it [the stick].” To see the smile on that kid’s face and how he showed the stick off to all his friends was priceless.

Often, Run River North spent a moment in between songs talking either about the previous or next songs or just saying how much they love Philly. One thing that really stood out to me was their philosophy of music. The lead singer, Alex Hwang was talking about how some people get upset about a few of the words in their songs and he said that the true meaning behind the songs doesn’t matter so much, instead “It [their music] doesn’t belong to us anymore, it’s yours”. When they didn’t talk in between songs, they had very smooth musical transitions, like how Milo Greene uses their interludes in their concerts. 

At the end of the set, the band implied their openness to en encore and sure enough, everyone was chanting “one more song, one more song”. So, they came back out and did two! The first song was their Mr. Brightside by the Killers cover and the last one was an intimate, heartfelt song (“Growing Up”) where they ended singing with the crowd- a Capella. The soft encore was a great way to end a heart-felt concert.

You can tell that both of these bands care a lot about each other, their fans, and their music. And overall, both just looked like they were having a ton of fun on stage, laughing and being jovial. I’d highly recommend attending any concert which includes The Lighthouse & The Whaler or Run River North. 

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