On tour for their latest album, Light Me Up (2016), Bronze Radio Return made a triumphant return to the Chapel in San Francisco after their show in the same location last April. As the crowd waited for the band to come on stage, the only visible thing was the tapestry hanging behind the stage with the cover of Light Me Up. It features drawings and designs in the letters, including a person reaching down through the “O” in Bronze and the “D” in Radio—as if pointing to the center of the stage, where the band members would soon arrive.
In the haziness of the red light, the band opened with “Down There” from Shake! Shake! Shake! (2011), which the crowd instantly recognized and began to tap their feet to. The next song was “Mister, Mister” from Up, On & Over (2013), which elicited a wave of unashamed fist-pumping to the beat, matching the fist-pumps of the band members. Already the lead singer, Chris Henderson, was sweating, clearly giving the microphone his all. The band treated the audience to a stream of new and old songs, including the new “Pocket Knife” and the old “Wonder No More.”
By the time “Up, On & Over” came on, the veins on Henderson’s neck were bulging, the sweat falling off with each head shake. He gestured the audience to join in, but they were too busy grooving and shuffling to sing along. “I need your voices!” he shouted, convincing the crowd to erupt in both song and dance. Unsurprisingly, everyone knew the words.
Each upbeat song was followed by another as audience members sought out clearer space in the crowded venue for room to move. Before playing their latest single “Light Me Up,” Henderson cried, “This song is meant for Saturday nights!” He raised his arms throughout the song, emphasizing lines like, “Tell me how you’re feeling tonight” and “I’m looking a some / I’m looking for a little action” with a dead, dramatic stare. Later, admiring the crowd, Henderson complimented its energy.
The band finally gave the audience a break from foot-stomping during a joint solo between the harmonica (played by Craig Struble, who also throughout the night had demonstrated himself as a master of the banjo) and guitar (played by Patrick Fetkowitz). Struble and Fetkowitz took turns performing in a competition of sorts, the harmonica winning in the end as Fetkowitz grinned. While many in the crowd initially took this break as a signal to converse and take a second or third trip to the bar, their attentions were quickly brought back as the skill of Struble became impossible to ignore.
With the return of the program and prompted to sing along to “Melting in My Icebox,” the crowd swayed with each exchange of the lyrics between the band and audience. The moment that most bonded the room, however, was toward the end when Henderson paused the show, exclaiming, “Life is a series of moments, and this is one of them! This moment will never happen again,” sending ripples of good vibes into the space.
You can still catch the band at SXSW and a few other cities before they head to Europe for the summer. Their full tour is available here.
Article by Valerie Law