With the release of their new album Fields, Junip announced to the world that they are a solid three-piece band, not a trio who happens to have Jose Gonzalez as their singer. Laying low for the last few years as Gonzalez gained worldwide fame with his two solo albums, Junip began releasing EPs and touring small venues (like San Francisco's Rickshaw Stop) this past year.
They must have created the right amount of buzz, because with the release of Fields they found a new audience that is just as eager to hear beautiful keyboard and drums as they are to hear Gonzalez's velvety voice and warm guitar.
Selling out San Francisco's The Independent is no small feat, though you'd never know from the band's polite and humble demeanor. Hailing from Sweden, Elias Araya, Tobias Winterkorn and Gonzalez brought the warmth and affection this cold SF crowd needed.
Songs like "Black Refuge" created a sense of togetherness for the audience, almost zen-like with the steady sounds of Winterkorn's organ, and Araya's melodic drumming. Junip is touring with an additional percussionist who is a master; it's that additional percussion to Araya's already perfect beats that really added new dimensions to the songs, something that could be appreciated in the medium-sized venue.
Of course, the magic that is Jose Gonzalez on guitar and vocals stood out, but did not overwhelm the rest band whatsoever. "In Every Direction" came across with all the warmth of the album version, but live Gonzalez and crew added new life and sensuality to it.
Hands down, my favorite track of the night was "Always." The melody and chorus get stuck in your head for ages but you don't want to get it out. Far from it, the way they performed the track had everyone dancing and moving to the beat like it was the only thing they knew how to do.
One of the qualities I appreciate most about Junip (both in-studio and live), is their inherent ability to slowly build up each song, stretching out the first note so it takes over the entire venue and brings the audience in, eager for what will happen next. The best example of this is "Without You." Starting off slow, showcasing Gonzalez's handiwork, it builds up, adding Winterkorn's awesome keyboard and culminating in the climax of the entire band doing their best to completely blow any thoughts in your mind out, and make room for the bliss of having a blank mind. By the time the song starts to end, the audience didn't know what to do with themselves.
Junip played a short but very sweet set, and to say they left us wanting more would be an understatement. Here's hoping for many more shows, but more importantly, many more albums.
Photos courtesy of Erick Lennin