Recap: Sun Airway play intimate, sold out show at Johnny Brenda’s

Less than a week after The War On Drugs sold out two hometown shows at Johnny Brenda’s, Sun Airway sold out one of their own on Saturday night. It is one of the best (if not the best) venues in the city, so seeing such talented and increasingly-popular local bands play intimate shows there is always a treat.

On the heels of their new album, Soft Fall, Sun Airway took the stage under the dense vapor of JB’s new fog machine and glided through an 11-song set as vibrant as the projected lights streaming across the room. The new album, their sophomore effort, is another fantastic exploration of electronic sounds and pop melodies. Principal writer/composer Jon Barthmus has explained that he tried to create a universe “where weightlessness is a common reality” for Soft Fall. “I like to imagine some kind of giant palace where things are just floating around and it’s not strange at all,” he explained in an interview for TheAtomy.com.

Somehow, Barthmus executed this vision to perfection. You can put on a pair of headphones, turn on Soft Fall and enter that universe of weightlessness Barthmus and co. have created. There is something calming and smooth about the textures throughout the album, a feeling that is not easily translated live. But, despite some mumbled and muffled vocals, the band did an excellent job of creating a similar, calming atmosphere at Johnny Brenda’s.

Sun Airway have always had a strong visual component, and this time it (the fog and lights) was a key component to re-creating the mood of Soft Fall and bringing it to life. The other half of the equation was execution of complicated arrangements—and they delivered a spot-on performance (besides those vocal issues). “Close” and “Wild Palms” sounded especially fantastic, though “Soft Fall and “Over My Head” left a little more to be desired.

They sprinkled in old favorite “Oh, Naoko” as a nice early-set gift before finishing with two more from their debut, Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier. After a quick break, Sun Airway came back on stage to close the night satisfying a crowd demand for “American West.”

Barthmus likes to imagine a palace where weightlessness isn’t strange. On Saturday night, Johnny Brenda’s was Sun Airway’s palace.

Sun Airway @ Johnny Brenda’s – Philadelphia, PA – January 5, 2013
01 Activity 2
02 Close
03 New Movements
04 Oh, Naoko
05 Wild Palms
06 Black Noise
07 Symphony in White No. 2
08 Soft Fall
09 Over My Head
10 Put the Days Away
——encore——
11 American West

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