Half Moon Run Hits All the High Notes at the Independent

17 Jan

What a show Montreal four-piece Half Moon Run put on at the Independent in San Francisco last night! The indie rock band flew through a tight 80-minute set of most of the songs from their two albums: 2012’s Dark Eyes and 2015’s Sun Leads Me On.

The indie rock band has toured all over the world to considerable acclaim since releasing their first album — and after experiencing their show last night, I can certainly see why.

It starts with the incredible musicianship of the four band members: lead vocalist Devon Portielje, sometimes lead vocalist Conner Molander, Dylan Phillips, and Isaac Symonds. The band opened the set with “It Works Itself Out,” with Portielje on lead vocals and bass, and Molander harmonizing on lead vocals and playing lead guitar. Phillips and Symonds handled the keyboards and drums, while singing backing vocals.

BUT…that was just the beginning. Over the course of the night, Portielje also played lead guitar, rhythm guitar (both electric and acoustic), keyboards, and even drums. Molander played every possible guitar, bass guitar, and mandolin. And the boys in the back played drums, keyboards and guitar — and in at least one instance, both at the same time! (Yes, Phillips was playing drums with one hand and his feet, while also deftly playing keyboards with his other hand. I had never seen this before!)

The band’s albums feature vocals similar to the Fleet Foxes — intricate three-part harmonies or harmonized lead vocals and rich background vocals that give their indie rock, pop or folk songs a distinctive sound. This is only possible because all four members have exceptional voices.

As Half Moon Run moved through the set, they nailed one performance after another. From Dark Eyes, the band played “Full Circle,” “Call Me in the Afternoon,” “She Wants to Know,” “Need It,” “Give Up,” “Unofferable,” “Drug You,” and “Nerve.” From Sun Leads Me On, the band performed “Warmest Regards,” “I Can’t Figure Out What’s Going On,” “Consider Yourself,” “Turn Your Love,” Narrow Margins,” “Sun Leads Me On,” the previously mentioned “It Works Itself Out,” “Everybody Wants,” “The Debt,” and the crowd-pleasing “Trust.”

There may have been more, but I wasn’t keeping track of the set list, song by song.

The audio at the venue was phenomenal. It washed over the crowd as people swayed, nodded their heads and raised their hands up to the light and sound. The bass and keyboards created a buzz that went right through your body. And yet, with all that sound — the vocals were crisp and clear.

The show ended with a couple of encores — including one in which Emilie, a harpist from Toronto who performs as Emilie and Ogden (Ogden is her harp’s persona) and opened show with a short, but satisfying set — joined the band members on stage.

I have recommended in the past that you add Dark Eyes and Sun Leads Me On to your personal collection. I now highly recommend that. And the next time Half Moon Run is in San Francisco, you must see their show!


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