The crowd had no problem waiting around until after 11pm on this Thursday evening to catch The Sleepy Sun playing Chicago’s venerable Double Door. Having work the next day is no proper thought when one has the opportunity to catch such skilled psychedelic rock n’ roll.
The Sleepy Sun are a six-piece band that plays a very interesting style of psychedelic blues-rock. It is entirely, and unabashedly, based on the fundamentals of hallucinatory rock established in San Francisco in the 1960’s. And yet they are of today’s indie movement. It’s not easy to pinpoint down how-or-why that is, but this author finds that while their music is rooted wholly in the past – they way they move (and at time jump) through their music is entirely contemporary.
The Sleepy Sun commenced their show with Marina, off of their second – as well recently released – album, “Fever.” Immediately their male + female vocals stand out as a central, and powerful, live musical tool. By having a fierce, yet wispily angelic, female vocalist – in addition to the guitar wielding male lead-singer – is how this band creates “their sound.” Her microphone was laden with heavy & wide reverb, as well as being incredibly sensitive (this was evident between songs when any noise made near this mic would echoe out into the audience). So by altering how close she sang to the mic, or how on-axis her voice was to the front of the mic; she could control with great minutia how her “verby voice” sounded. It was marvelous to watch her swing her head, and change her distance from the microphone, and hear how it would change the sound of even sustained-echo-wails.
The Sleepy Sun also put on display their ability to present quite loud rock n’ roll that was utterly crisp and also so much an apparent product of honed teamwork. They employ a multitude of quick, at time sudden, transitions between energy, tempo and sometimes genre altogether. Even when these movements happen abruptly, they played through them so calmly and with such little notice, that you become numb to the musical talent being displayed in front of you. In fact the band members often had their eyes closed, or would stare off into nothing, needing not to eye each other whatsoever as they played through their elaborate psychedelic expressions.
The Sleepy Sun, while just having released a new LP, played a few new unreleased tracks. Yet they were best on this night on their 9 min song Sandstorm Woman, which they ended with. Simply put, they played this bewildering blues rock number – that consists of what feels like 4 distinct “movements” of sorts – absolutely sensationally. It’s how they end their album, “Fever” and it was a solid show ender as well.
They played only 9 songs, and while their songs are longer than the average, this author was left wanting much more music; a bittersweet feeling to leave an audience member with. More focus could have been given to the male lead singer, his vocals often being drowned out – which was the sole aspect of the performance that felt unbalanced. So while maybe one of those opening bands could have been sacrificed for more Sleepy Sun time, it was overall a thoroughly satisfying rock experience for all who attended. The Sleepy Sun have a latter-day haight-ashbury attitude, and channel it through potent & dominant blues-rock; and seeing them live assures you it’s a sincere and awesome amalgam from this San-Francisco band. Can’t wait to catch them again.
By Sean Brna