“So about 30 years ago we wrote a record called Diary. Thank you for remembering.” As Jeremy Enigk, singer for the band Sunny Day Real Estate, introduced a crowded Baltimore Soundstage Saturday night to one of the first songs the band had recorded, “Song About an Angel.”
I think college in the 1990s was something unique. Although, personally, it’s my only frame of reference, thinking back it really did feel like there was an explosion of music that was all over the map being funneled through college radio stations. That music went straight into the ears of kids who wanted to separate themselves from the past and embrace something new and unique. There was grunge, but there was also the Space Age Bachelor Pad music of Juan Garcia Esquivel, championed by bands like Stereolab. You had bands like my bloody valentine and Spacemen 3 who seemed to spawn a host of cosmic drone rock.
And then there were bands that took a different route. Emotional but with a post-punk edge that took as much from Joy Division and The Fall as from bands like Minor Threat. Sunny Day Real Estate’s debut, Diary, seemed to come out of the blue and remained glued in many cassette decks around that time.
In 2009, the band made a stop at the 9:30 Club for their first reunion since they broke up around 2000, but I don’t think Sunny Day Real Estate had been to Baltimore before. I had seen them way back when at the Black Cat in DC, but all that seemed to be a blur until I heard that first note ringing out. Hitting the stage with little fanfare on August 26, Sunny Day Real Estate started their set with “Pillars,” and I was transported back. I had no idea how they would sound before that first note, but the band was tight and intense.
Stream “Pillars” by Sunny Day Real Estate on YouTube:
Everything I remembered from the first time I’d heard them, but, if I’m being honest, it was even better than that. Memory tends to throw a fuzzy blanket over everything so that things are muffled, but what I was witnessing was vivid and energetic.
Taking a rare pause, guitarist Dan Hoerner told the crowd, “It’s hot. I like it. We’re all a bit sweaty.” Totally understandable as the entire band of Hoerner, Enigk, and drummer William Goldsmith, along with fellow Seattle musician, Chris Jordan on bass and Allen Epley of The Life and Times on guitar moved with an intensity that matched the tones being created.
Sunny Day Real Estate’s music can go from beautiful and calm to angular and then to an all out heart-pounding wave of sound. And that force seemed to be echoed in the crowd. Hearing everyone sing along to songs like “Song About an Angel” or “In Circles” were highlights of the night. And Enigk’s voice was incredible, having lost none of the power of the last 30-odd years.
And, although there was a good portion of Diary represented in the set list, it was the band’s third record, How It Feels to Be Something On, that formed the bulk of the evening. “Guitars and Video Games” and “Roses in Water” in particular felt fresh with Enigk’s vocals feeling strong.
Coming back to the stage, the band played an extended encore, leaving on “Day Were Golden,” as each band member slowly left the stage until only Goldsmith remained bashing away until the very last moment.
Although, as the band mentioned, this was the last show of their current tour, they do start back up again in October, and it’s one not to miss.
The setlist included:
Song About an Angel
Every Shining Time You Arrive
Guitar and Video Games
Roses in Water
Killed by an Angel
Faces in Disguise
Days Were Golden
Here are more photos of Sunny Day Real Estate performing at the Baltimore Soundstage on August 26, 2023. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.
And here are photos of The Sleeping opening for Sunny Day Real Estate at the Baltimore Soundstage.