The Rubens opened for Grouplove to an enthusiastic and welcoming crowd at U Street Music Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 1. Though many audience members admittedly did not know who the Australian rockers were, they managed to properly warm up the crowd, inciting cheers and screams from people who were quickly taken to their skillful playing, easygoing manner, and highly enjoyable music.
Drummer Scott Baldwin started off their set with the pounding, rhythmic opening for “The Day You Went Away” and lead singer, Sam Margin, charmed the crowd with his soulful vocals and easy swagger. It was apparent that Margin and his band members were fully invested in their music and though interaction with the crowd was kept to brief anecdotes and humble smiles, the passion they had for their music and performance was enough to keep the audience captivated. Though they didn’t know any of the words, the crowd began moving and thumping along with Margin, swaying fervently to the hypnotic beat Baldwin set up with his solid percussion.
Margin’s vocals were the highlight of the set; he sings with a guttural, smoky quality on “Don’t Ever Want To Be Found” without sounding strained and he’s unafraid to tip into near falsetto on the new song “Cut Me Loose”. Yet with all that talent, he still manages to be humble, citing luck and hard work in a quick story about their first song, “Lay It Down”. It was great to see him and his band members enjoy themselves along with the eager crowd who were screaming as loudly for The Rubens as they would for Grouplove by the end of their set.
Afterwards, Grouplove came on to a hyped up crowd, bounding onto the stage to A$AP Rocky’s “Wild for the Night”. They were fantastic at riling up the audience, setting up hand clapping rhythms and playing crowd favorites along with material from their new album, Spreading Rumours. Vocalists Christian Zucconi and Hannah Hooper had endless energy, jumping all over the stage, performing their songs to a feverish audience who were equally as excited and lively as the band. The drummer, Ryan Rabin, nearly took the show away with his hilarious facial expressions and intense drumming but it was Zucconi’s guitar playing that anchored the instrumentals, equal parts creative and steadying as he shouted his lyrics along with Hooper’s keyboard. Everyone was loose and having fun, singing loudly to the words and moving as much as the sold-out space permitted. Highlights included “Tongue Tied”, “Schoolboy” and “Ways To Go” for being upbeat and dynamic; Zucconi does not neglect his vocals even as he’s moving on stage and working the audience. The venue was shaking with the crowd and band’s energy, the liveliest, most fun Tuesday night of the semester so far.
Personal note: I met The Rubens after the show and they’re really cool, just a bunch of regular lads who love what they’re doing. It’s so refreshing to meet a band that’s down-to-earth and passionate about their work; can’t wait for their second album!