It has actually become part of Sun Hotel‘s charm, that even in the short time lapse between tracking and the formal release of each recorded work, the band already appears to be waist deep in their next musical act. Without altogether abandoning or disowning past songs, they routinely tweak or tinker with arrangements in a live setting as if modern recording technology is an inherently outdated from of musical expression. But despite this kinetically creative work ethic, each new piece of Sun Hotel material is less of a re-invention than a magnification of their subtle evolution which, when coupled with the band’s relentless touring and gigging schedule, gives a real-time window into the continual growth of a group of musicians with a deep attentiveness to their own songwriting prowess. Never has this been more apparent than during the quartet’s stripped-down set on Friday evening.
Unlike the acoustic/electric ambiguity of their set at the 2011 Block Party DVD premiere event, in the cozy confines of the band’s garage – a tin-roofed clubhouse cum recording studio cum gonzo circuit bending science lab perfectly dubbed the “Space Bar” – frontman Tyler Scurlock and guitarist Alex Hertz actually wielded acoustics, while drummer Ross Farbe was behind a three piece makeshift kit and bassist Jon St. Cyr piped the low end through a miniscule amp. There was not a pedal in sight and the show even lacked a PA, with the band’s impressive vocal harmonies crooned au natural and frequently complemented by a sing-along chorus from the thirty or so people seated comfortably on the carpeted floor and mishmash of well-worn furniture lining the walls of the garage.
Sure, this particular incarnation of Sun Hotel’s sound was temporary and custom-built for that evening’s show, but absent the increasingly dense walls of delay that come standard with each of the band’s live performances, the nuances and intricacy of the last and next step in their constantly changing musical disposition came into striking focus. Standouts from their most recent work – the intense coupling of the breezy “Got Along” and sprawling “Alchemy” from last year’s Gifts EP – revealed extra layers of contemplation in such an intimate, low-decibel environment. Newer song “Grave”, which started as a haunting Sharks’ Teeth release before getting a powerful full-band makeover in the last few months, may have been at its most compelling with the backing three-part harmony quietly coo’ed around Hertz’s nasty acoustic shredfest.
Above all, the unique environment and minimalist set revealed Sun Hotel’s music for what it truly is: overwhelmingly genuine and startling in its originality. But even the most emotionally evocative songs in their canon are not treated as precious or sacred. Informed by an intuitive rhythm between the four members, Sun Hotel confidently dismantles old songs and glides between unique songwriting tropes as they move onward with disarming comfort and ease.