MusicfestNW 2011: Suuns Live Show Review

September 15th, 2011 – Branx, Portland, OR

Suuns — which, for the confused, and for me prior to MusicFestNW is pronounced “soons” — play exactly the kind of dark dancey art rock that works for me. The Montreal band’s ability to bridge pop and dance elements with seemingly contrasting elements of noise and general gnarliness make them a fascinating listen with a dramatic live show. Every track in a Suuns live set is bridged by an underlying constant of noise, driven by controlled tensions which balance chaos and order. Though the underlying structures of their songs are fairly well-ordered, it is when they let loose with affected guitars that they truly shine.

As he does on record, vocalist and guitarist Ben Shemie sings with a hushed terseness — but the recordings lack the same intensity. Through pursed lips, gritted teeth and a voice barely raised above a whisper, Shemie seems wound tight, with facial expressions and posturing that exude stress. Drummer Liam O’Neill and bassist and keyboardist Max Henry follow suit with the same level of intensity, leaving only guitarist and bassist Joe Yarmush the odd one out, as he seems to have not a care in the world.

Though Suuns’ set fell inappropriately between that of locals Breakfast Mountain and Talkdemonic, one could not have asked for a more ecstatic crowd; every track they executed from their full-length record, Zeroes QC, was met with wild applause and dancing.

Having failed at many attempts to see Suuns throughout the past year at many different events, my expectations had been high. They were the act for me to see at MusicfestNW this year, and I’m proud to say that they did not disappoint.

Written by
Vee Hua 華婷婷

Vee Hua 華婷婷 (they/them) is a writer, filmmaker, and organizer with semi-nomadic tendencies. Much of their work unifies their metaphysical interests with their belief that art can positively transform the self and society. They are the Editor-in-Chief of REDEFINE, Interim Managing Editor of South Seattle Emerald, and Co-Chair of the Seattle Arts Commission. They also previously served as the Executive Director of the interdisciplinary community hub, Northwest Film Forum, where they played a key role in making the space more welcoming and accessible for diverse audiences.

Vee has two narrative short films. Searching Skies (2017) touches on Syrian refugee resettlement in the United States; with it, they helped co-organize The Seventh Art Stand, a national film and civil rights discussion series against Islamophobia. Reckless Spirits (2022) is a metaphysical, multi-lingual POC buddy comedy for a bleak new era, in anticipation of a feature-length project.

Vee is passionate about cultural space, the environment, and finding ways to covertly and overtly disrupt oppressive structures. They also regularly share observational human stories through their storytelling newsletter, RAMBLIN’ WITH VEE!, and are pursuing a Master’s in Tribal Resource and Environmental Stewardship under the Native American Studies Department at the University of Minnesota.

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Written by Vee Hua 華婷婷
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