Things were markedly less tense at Rushing Duck Brewing Co. than when I was fortunate enough to see Sun Voyager play there (review here) exactly nine months prior. The sign outside said if you’re vaxxed you can take off your mask or do whatever makes you comfortable at the bar, and outside there were more tables than there had been and there wasn’t a question of waiting in line to get in on a one-out-one-in basis like there had been. It was much more akin to showing up to a place to catch a gig. Hard not to appreciate that.
And all the more worth appreciating in such an idyllic setting. Across the way, hills as a backdrop for farmland. When we — The Patient Mrs. accompanying — pulled in, people were in the field picking-their-own something or other, and a tractor rolled by while Sun Voyager played “Some Strange” in the second of their two sets. The usually-a-trio were joined for the evening on second guitar by Seth Applebaum of Ghost Funk Orchestra who filled out the spaces beneath Carlos Francisco‘s leads while offering further psychedelic flourish of his own. I don’t know if they’re thinking of that as a permanent lineup change, but you could see where over time he would fit well into the band. Already they grew more fluid as they went on.
The show started at 5PM, or thereabouts, and it was warm in the shady spot off to the side as The Patient Mrs. sampled a couple of Rushing Duck‘s offerings — she dug the Saison-style, as she will — and the band got going with a mix of new material and old. I don’t know how much info about their next record is public yet, but “Feeling Alright” made a righteous leadoff for the first set, and “To Hell We Ride,” the aforementioned “Some Strange” and the extended, now-two-parter “God is Dead” fit well alongside cuts from their 2018 debut, Seismic Vibes (review here), like “Trip” — which was a suitably raucous complement to “Feeling Alright” in opening the second set — as well as “Open Road,” “Harebrained,” “Stellar Winds,” “Psychic Lords” and “Caves of Steel,” which finished out, as well as earlier works like “Space Queen,” “Be Here Now” and “Desert Dweller.”
Francisco, Applebaum, bassist/backing vocalist Stefan Mersch and drummer Kyle Beach careened and propulsed. They were motorik and winding and full of classic biker rock thrust and post-pandemic dustoff. It was fun to watch them. In the long-long ago, Sun Voyager operated as a four-piece, and while they’ve hardly felt like they were missing some essential component of their sound in the meantime, their psychedelia only reached broader and their jammier stretches came through all the more relaxed, with the space to space out, for having Applebaum there on guitar. The fact that he and Beach are also bandmates in Ghost Funk Orchestra no doubt cut through some of the new-guy-in-the-group awkwardness, and while I wouldn’t doubt that Sun Voyager would be more locked in as a unit after, say, three or four weeks on the road playing every night, so would everybody.
There were friends and family there, adults and kids and infants, and the vibe was heavy-hippie relaxed and rockin’. Perfect for the sunshine that mercifully offered up more shadow as time went on. Wrapping their first set with “Space Queen” — a song that’s coming up on eight years old and shows roughly none of that age in how they deliver it; it is a standard of live sets and rightfully so — they took a break to get a drink, sell some shirts to myself and others, and catch their breath before diving back in with “Trip.” The diversity of their approach at this point, especially as they move toward their second long-player, is a significant asset for them in terms of structuring a setlist for a live performance, and they would seem to know it.
That is one more reason I’ll say this feels like a particularly exciting moment to see Sun Voyager play live. They’re a better band than they know, maybe about to add a new member to the group on at least a semi-permanent basis, with a record on the way that takes their approach to an entirely new level. It’s finished and my understanding is they’re doing the shopping-it-around thing. I can think of three or four imprints off the top of my head on whose rosters they’d be a fit and whose audiences would welcome them. Maybe five. But wherever they end up — inevitably somewhere — the quality of their work remains worthy of being heard even as their potential is still expansive. I was a fan of Seismic Vibes. Hell, I was a fan of Mecca (review here) in 2013. In terms of growing as a band, as players and songwriters, they have not at all wasted their time in the years since, even if they haven’t put out more than the one full-length to this point.
I hope to see them again soon, and that’s about as deep an insight as I’m going to offer here. Once more, I don’t know if, when that happens, the band will comprise three or four players, but I’m glad to take what I can get from these guys. Here’s hoping their record is out before the end of the year. If not, next year’s list it is. I’ll spare you the wax poetry about live music in the pandemic era — it’s all been said and I’m enough of a hack without indulging. I was grateful to be able to go to a place with my wife and see good music. I didn’t take video because I was concentrating on enjoying myself. The band killed. On another planet, that kind of thing happens all the time.
Tags: Chester, New York, Orange County, Some Strange, Sun Voyager, Sun Voyager Some Strange