Sundara Karma cook at Cambridge Room in Cleveland
They rocked the Reading & Leeds Fest last September and blew away a Bangers crowd at SXSW last month.
Now art rockers Sundara Karma can tuck Cleveland under their belts.
The British quartet played a near-capacity Cambridge Room at House of Blues Saturday Night (April 15) as part of Sirius XM’s Advance Placement Tour 2017, wowing fans and winning over newcomers with an abbreviated—if incendiary—set.
Formed in 2015 by songwriting schoolmates, the Berkshire band formerly known as Ricochet released its major-label debut Youth Is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect in January on Bee & El / Sony (RCA in the UK) and recently wrapped an overseas tour with popular Irish alt-rock trio Two Door Cinema Club.
Combining the best of ‘80s-‘00s mood-rock (U2, Arcade Fire, Kings of Leon) with the fuzzy throwback sounds of the ‘70s (T-Rex, The Stooges), Sundara Karma ripped through sultry singles like “Young Understanding,” “Freshbloom,” “Hustle,” and “Olympia” with just the right blend of vitriol and verve.
Fronted by blonde singer / guitarist Oscar “Lulu” Pollock, the ensemble looked as sharp as it sounded: Pollock and bassist Dom Cordell sported cool dress shirts and pants to offset their sparkle Telecaster guitar and Rickenbacker bass. Drummer Haydn Evans and lead guitarist Ally Baty went for casual comfort—but took to their respective instruments with businesslike precision.
All four men possess chiseled cheekbones and lustrous hair worthy of T.V. spots for name-brand shampoo and conditioners, all visuals not lost on the ladies in the audience.
Sundara (whose name loosely translates to “Beautiful Fate”) reminded this middle-aged reviewer of Rio-era Duran Duran, what with their taut arrangements, earnest vocals, and cool rapport. But we also sensed a bit of Bowie—primarily in Pollock, who embodied the Thin White Duke’s delicate balance of romantic savoir-faire, sensitive social commentary, and seething anger.
The band has already won a huge following courtesy groundswell hits like “She Said,” “Deep Relief,” Loveblood,” and “Happy Family” (which Pollock and co. served up near the end). Now, with Youth Is Only Ever Fun… available in wider markets (and the guys profiled in magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, Clash, and Brooklyn Vegan), the group seems poised for next-level success.
“We’d like to thank Sirius XM for having us out,” said Pollock.
“Without that kind of support, we couldn’t afford to tour like this and play for you!”
Opening the show was Los Angeles-based island-pop outfit Coast Modern, comprised of songwriting pals Coleman Trapp (vocals) and Luke Atlas (guitar).
Fresh off extensive road trips with Temper Trap, The Wombats, and BORNS, Trapp and Atlas evinced uncanny musical chemistry and stage experience during their forty-minute showcase. The guys are still prepping their full-length debut—but they had enough aural ammunition to delight the Cambridge crowd, thanks to digital one-offs like “Tiny Umbrella,” “Guru,” and “Animals.”
Trapp bounded about the stage (decorated with colorful lights and an island-evoking palm tree) while Atlas (in a Weezer concert tee) slashed skanking ska chords from his Stratocaster. The fellows were augmented by an unidentified bearded bassist who held the bottom end on new hits “Comb My Hair” and “Pocket Full of No.”
And that petite-but-potent drummer? That was Berklee College of Music alum Steph Barker on percussion.
As suggest by the moniker, Coast Modern draw from sunny Beach Boys pop, Police-like “white reggae,” and Aggrolites-esque muscle for their catchy, Calypso-Cali sound. If fan favorites “The Way It Was” and “Hollow Life” are any indicators, Atlas and Trapp will be surfing even sweeter waves come this time next year.