San Fermin Island Stage, Guelph ON, July 26

San Fermin Island Stage, Guelph ON, July 26
Photo: Atsuko Kobasigawa
To call Brooklyn-based baroque pop collective San Fermin's Saturday (July 26) afternoon performance at Hillside over the top would be an understatement. With eight members on stage in varying stages of business casual clothes, more wind instruments than electrified ones, and a pair of lead singers battling it out for the spotlight, it looked less like your average rock show and more like Glee: The College Years.

Still, the up-and-coming orchestral outfit, who are anchored by the opposites-attract power of co-vocalists Allen Tate and Charlene Kaye, drew a sizable crowd who seemed mostly unaware of their recording output, but interested in their offering.

Occupying a pocket of the musical sphere that sounds like Bruce Hornsby's band fronted by Matt Berninger, Tate's broad baritone weaved in and out of Kaye's skyrocketing register on an array of tracks from the band's 2013 self-titled debut. Tracks like "Sonsick," "Renaissance!" and bombastic beauty "The Count" made full use of the atmospheric festival tent, but it was two new tracks — the aptly named "Demon Lover" and "Parasites" — that served up the best surprises, thanks to the tracks' darker textures and lively lyrical deliveries.

Channeling their hometown's heroes from the last decade, the band performed a powerful cover of the Strokes' post-success hit "Heart In a Cage," transforming Nick Valensi's string skipping and Julian Casablancas' deadpan delivery into a horn-filled, cinematic call and response.

While not as initially engaging live as other stripped-down ensembles, San Fermin have a spark in them that, when fully lit, can seriously blow the roof off any festival.

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