by Matt Kelchner
It’s been a busy year for Saintseneca. The Columbus, OH folk group have been touring relentlessly, wrapping and circling the country seemingly as many times as possible. Their show Sunday night at Johnny Brenda’s was the band’s third time playing at the Fishtown venue in a little over a year. With that said, they keep getting better and better with each visit! On Sunday night, the vocal melodies sounded more fleshed out and were accompanied by flawless performances of each song.
Opening the show were LVL UP and Dogs on Acid, two bands that sound incredibly different from their headliner. Saintseneca have built up a reputation of touring with punk bands through the mutual upbringing in the DIY scene. The fuzzy guitars and pounding drumming from both LVL UP and Dogs on Acid are met with more delicate harmonies and intricate melodies from Saintseneca. It gives fans a full balanced show while also introducing them to bands they may not normally look into.
First up were Dogs on Acid, a local band comprised of members from former greats. Featuring 3/4’s of Algernon Cadwallader and one member from Snowing, Dogs on Acid are a new band that’s no stranger to the stage. After seeing them open for Joyce Manor earlier this year, Dogs on Acid sounded more polished than before. With one 7” out and another on the way next year, their time on stage was understandably short. Dogs on Acid have already made waves around the city and will continue to do so with more performances like the one on Sunday night.
As frequently as Saintseneca have played Johnny Brenda’s, LVL UP has them beat. Last Friday they helped Little Big League celebrate the release of their latest album Tropical Jinx and on Sunday they returned to play with Saintseneca. After releasing their own new album earlier this year in September, the New York quartet have been hitting the road hard to help promote the album.
Much of LVL UP’s set on Sunday night was comprised of selections from Hoodwink’d, their latest release on their self run label Double Double Whammy. As they powered through songs like “Stoned Alone” and “Angel From Space” one thing was clear, the guys behind LVL UP like their guitars loud and fuzzy, and their bass heavy and pummeling. Yet as the night went on, some of the songs shifted to more of an 80s sound, flush with chorus effects. The highlight of the night came with the band’s last song, “Big Snow”, a track off a four-way split with Krill, Ovlov and Radiator Hospital.
Things ended with a buzzy, fervorous bang as LVL UP wrapped up their set. Then things calmed down…a lot. In the world of “indie folk” where songs and artists can get stale and bland, Saintseneca offer a refreshing, honest sound. And with having seen them several months prior to Sunday night, it was great to see the band maturing. The performances were never sloppy but things were a bit more tightened up for the crew from Columbus, OH. Songs like “Acid Rain” and “Happy Alone” were nearly perfect. Singer, multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Zac Little’s voice shined through the beautifully layers on sonic textures.
Saintseneca released their latest album, Dark Arc, earlier this year on Anti Records. It was the band’s first on their new label home and fourth all time. While many of the songs from Dark Arc were put on display Sunday night, older hits like the aforementioned “Acid Rain” and the final song of the night “James”. They also managed to sneak in an amazing rendition of “Passionate Kisses” as well. When all was said and done, they managed to fit everything into a 50 minute set, which lengthwise was about the same as their previous visit. It’s the one thing I would’ve changed if I could. The songs and performances left me wanting more before and I was left again with the same feelings this time around as well. I will be waiting with my fingers crossed for the next time Saintseneca make their way back!