Run River North

This entry started about a month ago. I finally got around to finishing it.  Work got in the way – what can I say.

I watched Run River North perform at the Drake Underground on July 23rd. It’s rare treat for me to go out on a work night since I work most evenings. I’ve been following this L.A. based band when they were originally called Monsters Calling Home. This young Korean American band caught my attention with their intricate harmonies and compelling songs. The show was sold out although the room wasn’t that full. 

The opening act was The Lighthouse and the Whaler from Cleveland, Ohio. They had an interesting folk, pop sound that was catchy. One of the band members played a mandolin and glockenspiel. It didn’t take long for the crowd to start (well – at least the people around me), started to moving to their music. It’s tough being the opening act but they handled it with grace – giving their tour mates a compliment and earning a nice round of applause at the end. I enjoyed their music and picked up their CD at the of the night.

After they finished their set, they packed up their gear and Run River North started to set up their gear. It was interesting seeing musicians doing this on their own after watching other big rock acts having roadies doing all of that. After a brief sound check, they went offstage for a couple minutes. Once they returned, they started their set with In the Water followed by their signature song, Monsters Calling Home which got the crowd going. If they were nervous or tired, they didn’t show it.

Here are my impressions of a few of their songs: (in no particular order)
Foxbeard was beautifully executed.  It had a slow, gentle start with Alex Hwang’s and Sally Kang’s vocal guiding the song, backed with beautiful harmonies and the steady drumming of John Chong.  It was a favorite of mine when they first revealed it on YouTube.  I thought the version on their CD was a bit too restrained but their live performance was really well done. 

Run River Run – Alex explained that River was the daughter of a friend. She had a tumour in her neck and the song is about her.   Alex quickly reassured everyone that everything turned out well.  He added that people would be depressed about the song when he forgot to tell them about the happy ending. 

Mr. Brightside (cover of the Killers) was sung to a hushed room. It was just Alex and his guitar with the others joining at the end. It was beautifully done.

Lying Beast:  was another song with a soft, quiet beginning that morphed into an extended super charged jam session. It was just so much fun watching them stretch their wings.  They gradually guided the song back to a soft ending with their sweet harmony. 

Banner:  a solemn response to the hateful message from the Westboro Baptist Church.  Don’t use hate to fight hate. 

Growing Up:  Another favorite of mine (and others) with beautiful and haunting lyrics (see below). 

“I used to close my eyes
To what stirred under my bed,
Now they’re open wide
To the monsters in my bed.

Instead of claws, they whisper lies
Sinking fear in quiet steps,
So I will fight in the light
‘Til I give my final breath.”

Rain was another gentle, quiet song that is only on their vinyl record. A version is on the original Monsters Calling Home EP.  Alex gave a plug to the audience to buy their vinyl because the sound is better.  The audience must have listened because they sold out of their vinyl record. 

Fight to Keep was the second song of their encore.  It was fun, rousing & energetic with Alex going into the audience for a good part of the song. This was definitely a highpoint and sent everyone home wanting for more. 

RRN seems to be more comfortable with themselves and flexing some newly found muscles. The long road trip probably helped them develop a very competent stage presence.  They gave a polished, energetic & highly entertaining performance.   I think they are on the cusp of something even bigger.  I hope they’ll come back again.  If you get a chance to catch them, do so.  You won’t be disappointed.

Run River North are:  Alex Hwang (lead vocals, guitars), Daniel Chae (vocals, strings), Jennifer Rim (strings), Joe Chun (bass, vocals), John Chong (drums, vocals) and Sally Kang (vocals, keyboards).

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On a side note, I wish the lighting at the venue was better.  It was dark on stage right where Daniel Chae hung out most of the night.  At least the sound was decent.  I had forgotten how much I enjoy watching live music and it reminded me of simpler times.  I need to reconnect with this part of me.

Run River North at Toronto, ON.  Drake Hotel, July 23, 2014

Run River North at Toronto, ON. Drake Hotel, July 23, 2014 Alex Hwang and Joe Chun


John Chong in a rare moment of stillness.


Sally Kang and Jennifer Rim


Daniel Chae, Joe Chun and Alex Hwang

Run River North, Toronto, ON.  Drake Hotel.  July 23, 2014

Run River North, Toronto, ON. Drake Hotel. July 23, 2014 Joe Chun, John Chong and Alex Hwang