Gone are the days of discovering new bands at any given festival... for the most part. Despite social media ubiquity and the effervescent glow of multi-platform commerce, even the most concerted of festival goers (in this scenario, myself) manage to overlook certain acts on a festival bill.
While attending Shaky Knees in Atlanta this past May, I stumbled into such a scenario. Whilst killing time between local dude Anderson East and semi-local duo Shovels + Rope on the Peachtree Stage, I wandered over to the Ponce de Leon stage to shoot some photo of who I thought would be the now defunct East-London indie folkers, Dry the River (RIP).
Lo and behold, I get a far different package of American musicians that played with an intense fervor and verve that would have served the aforementioned Dry the River well. Nevertheless, Run River North's live set was infectious under an ominous looking metropolitan sky, with guitars crushing and careening along irresistible melodies and gang chorus. In short, Run River North was by far and away the greatest takeaway of the festival.
So naturally, when I saw Los Angeles' prodigal band was making its way through Nashville a month or so after at The High Watt, hitting the show up was a no-brainer (and well worth it, obviously). Following an opening set from local crew, That's My Kid, Run River North took the support slot prior to fellow Californians (dude) Rooney.
There's something to be said with regard to Run River North's ability to fit six members on a tiny High Watt stage, all the while operating with as much fervor as the band exudes. There was nary a moment from set opener "Pretender" to show closer "Casino" that Run River North didn't have the crowd wrapped around their proverbial fingers.
Run River North plays with such enviable conviction and zeal while anchored by Alex Hwang's distinct frontman demeanor. Impassioned and earnest while playing, Hwang is disarmingly witty during his banter. Hwang took a number of moments to poke fun at himself, for instance "Anyway, I'm Steve Aoki and this is my side project."
But Hwang wasn't cracking jokes the entire set, there was a moment of staid vulnerability that all but solidified Run River North's endearment toward the High Watt crowd. Prior to closing their set with the aforementioned "Casino," Hwang shared a story - "Real quick, I got married last year and when we got back form the honeymoon, my mom said she had cancer. She fought it and she's good now. Once you've touched cancer, there's no going back. Someone once asked me if this next song was about cancer, and I decided, 'Fuck yeah, it is.'"
Run River North is a unique beast within the touring circuit, and a positively exceptional visitor in Nashville. From intense earnestness to light hearted ribbing and everything in between, Run River North is by far and away one of the most invigorating shows I've seen. And no, Run River North is not "the cellist from Avett Brothers' side project," even if Hwang proclaims it to be true. Just know that Run River North's live set is about as sure a bet as any when they roll through.