San Fermin, Andy Shauf | Athenaeum Theatre | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
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click to enlarge San Fermin

San Fermin

Denny Renshaw

When: Thu., Jan. 14, 12 a.m. 2016
Price: $17-$23, $100 five-day festival pass
Ellis Ludwig-Leone wrote the 17 tunes on San Fermin’s eponymous 2013 debut before there was a band to go by that name, his savvy arrangements and beguiling melodies placing the project in the same crossover territory as the classical pop of Dirty Projectors. He enlisted a nimble unit to tour the record, and it’s clear that the material on the group’s follow-up, Jackrabbit (Downtown), was influenced by that experience: the songs are bigger and more direct. They’re also way less interesting. Ludwig-Leone brought in a slew of great players to add orchestral depth—including members of yMusic, kind of an all-star chamber ensemble that’s worked with Ben Folds and Jose Gonzalez—but the extra strings and brass feel overwhelmed by big grooves, slick pop melodies, and glib crooning from vocalists Allen Tate and Charlene Kaye. The album is immaculately crafted, but San Fermin has gone from an elegant pop experiment to a rather generic product. For this concert the group will be joined by Chicago’s agile Fifth House Ensemble, which promises an injection of the sort of symphonic richness Jackrabbit lacks.
— Peter Margasak
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