Written by: Lauren Lee
Maybe it’s the way it’s reminiscent of the music I listened to in my formative years, or the vast array of instruments and musicality of the people who play them, or the rough-hewn intensity of each track, but Run River North’s Drinking from a Salt Pond cuts me straight to my core.
With distinctive lead guitar licks, an interesting yet intuitive rhythm section, and the versatility of the violin and keys becoming the glue or the spotlight, the orchestration of each track is choice. And, there’s that something about Alex Huang’s vocals that assure you his soul is this close to breaking out of his body through the microphone. It grabs the center of your angsty inner self with both fists and you find yourself involuntarily rocking out. Run River North has grown from a cute Asian folk band to a gnarly, soul-baring indie rock band that is really, really good.
The most interesting part of the album release is how visual they’ve made it. Before the album came out, they released music videos for “Run and Hide”, “Pretender”, “29”, and their b-side “Seven”. I stress this as important because of the image of Asian Americans in an angsty, indie rock band is so rare, and smashes one or two or fifty stereotypes. As we talk about the representation of Asian Americans in media, the image of six of them in a rock band is an image that is not seen often.
I had the privilege of seeing this image in real life at the Great American Music Hall on Saturday. Their set was phenomenal – Alex Huang’s energy and charisma is contagious (which probably comes from the spirit of John Lennon blessing his Asian likeness) and it’s clear that each band member is a talented musician who has worked hard at their craft.
As I watched them kill it on stage, I couldn’t stop thinking about how inspiring a group like Run River North is – six Asian American musicians, giving up much – if not all – of their careers to record and promote and tour and pursue this risky path. I am so thankful to them for forging a path for others to follow, and for some good music to rally behind.
Lauren Lee is a 3rd/4th gen Chinese/German American who is doing okay at pursuing a career in concert promotion and artist management, and is on the Artist Development team at Kollab SF. She sees representation of Asian Americans in the music industry as an important component of achieving racial equity in America, which nicely lines up with her education and professional experience. When she’s not smashing institutional systems and being way too intense about social issues, she enjoys drinking coffee and creeping on strangers’ dogs.