As part of this year’s Northside Festival, folk-pop foursome Born Ruffians played Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg on Sunday night. The Canadian group took the stage in the half music venue/half bowling alley, and were warmly welcomed by a room full of Brooklyn Lager-swilling fans. The band kicked off the night with “Badonkadonkey” off 2008’s Red, Yellow And Blue, and continued with a set that spanned the group’s three-LP discography under Paper Bag Records, including several tracks from their latest full-length, Birthmarks, released back in April.
Since their last album Say It was released in 2010, Born Ruffians have transitioned into a more synth-infused pop style. That, with a combination of overlaying vocals on tracks, has the band moving in a chillwave/glo-fi direction. Lead singer Luke Lalonde played his synthesizer or midi keyboard during several tracks, looking strikingly similar to synth master Alan Palomo of Neon Indian. In October of last year, Lalonde released a synth-heavy solo LP and his writing style on that album seems to have carried over to many of the tracks on Birthmarks. The band now plays with a pop sound so infectious, you can’t help but dance.
Born Ruffians’ fanbase is one full of love and devotion. The pre-show energy in the room was enough to get the band amped up from the beginning and it carried them through the entire show, never letting up. Interactions between the band and the crowd were non-stop. By the end of the night, the crowd had become, in a way, the fifth member of the group. Each song was accompanied by backup vocals from fans who sang every word and clapped along to every beat. The audience seemed to be funneling power into the band’s bloodstream and Born Ruffians were giving it back in equal measure.
After an hour-long set, the band finished with Needle, the opening track on Birthmarks. Born Ruffians left the stage and were gone for no more than two minutes before they were brought back an encore-demanding roar. The band finished their encore with I Need A Life, and the applause surged again. This could have been due to that fact someone bowled a strike as soon as the song was over, but I like to think the cheers were for Ruffians. They definitely earned it.