The Born Ruffians descended on the Rock and Roll Hotel on May 3rd, and they want to thank you very much. Sorry, not really. They actually want you to eat shit, because they did it. And by “it”, they surely mean played an epic rock concert to the adoring fans. They did it and we were there with our shit-eating grins.
Touring for their fourth album, RUFF, the Born Ruffians were fully up to the task of rousing the decent sized crowd to dance and sing along. Those who braved their performance, a mere six months after their last appearance at the Rock and Roll Hotel, were rewarded with song after song brimming with memorable hooks and melodies, laden with a heavy dose of punk attitude.
Luke Lalonde, as lead singer, decked out in a plain white t-shirt, embodied that attitude throughout the show. His voice is powerful and inescapable. He threw in a few bon mots to mix it up, like “Ted Cruz is a weirdo”, “This song is about a dickhead”, and “I broke a string, so I need to talk more.”
Mitch Derosier on bass, was certainly channeling Jack Black of Tenacious D. The hair, the theatrics, all of it. And if he’s somehow never heard that comparison before, let me extend the compliment.
Born Ruffians have been likened to Vampire Weekend often, and that distinction is never more evident than in songs like “Hummingbird” and “Don’t Live Up”, the latter about living the dream that is not quite up to snuff. I like the syncopation and surprising musical choices moment to moment in a given Vampire Weekend song. That style is one reason the album RUFF has been on my playlist a lot in late 2015 and early 2016.
“Needle” and “Little Garçon” are more mellow laments from Luke, using his full vocal range, that still manage to keep you moving. “Little Garçon” is about the belief of staying young while thinking about the girl, “I don’t care just where you go, as long, as long as it’s with me.”
Although the tracks on their four albums are all solid, the recordings simply do not capture the essence of the sound. Not until the Born Ruffians are standing on stage in front of you, in full rock mode, that you discover the full sharp, impact of each song. It’s an interesting phenomenon to listen to an album and say “Yeah, these guys are good” but then witness them perform to an enthusiastic crowd (yeah, you’re there too) and realize they are not good at all, but rather great.
Born Ruffians are Canadians from Ontario (currently in Toronto), and are rounded out by Andy Lloyd playing guitar and keyboard, and Adam Hindle on the drums.
The opening act, ON AN ON played a quick, folky pop set to the burgeoning crowd. Notably, the lead singer wore a jean jacket, or as someone joked, “a Canadian tuxedo”.
It’s quite possible the Born Ruffians will do “it” with the Rock and Roll Hotel crowd again in six months. We can only hope.
Here are some photos of Born Ruffians playing live at the Rock and Roll Hotel in DC on Tuesday, May 3, 2016, taken by Mickey McCarter.