Born Ruffians rock Upper Sproul and rouse Bay Area fans

Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

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In the chill of a mid-November evening, Canadian indie rockers Born Ruffians heated up Upper Sproul Plaza on Sunday with a live show that, very bluntly, rocked. With rippling guitar riffs, lead singer Luke Lalonde’s high-pitched lyrics and bassist Mitch Derosier’s command of the crowd, the band closed out ASUC SUPERB’s fall concert series with a flourish of multicolored light and sound.

Taking the stage after local group Art Nikels, the band kicked off its hour-and-a-half set with songs off of their latest album, Birthmarks, following with “songs that we didn’t play last night.” Derosier warned the growing crowd about the structural instability of the stage they were performing on, which “felt like it was sliding.  If that happens, just push us back up.”

Later on in the set, the band switched to dancier songs, including popular singles such as “Hummingbird” and “Needle.” The crowd responded by starting a small mosh pit, singing along to each song and clapping emphatically when Lalonde or Derosier began doing so. The audience was also eager to interact with the band, and the band wanted their involvement.

The energy from both the crowd and band only intensified toward the end of the set, which the band members finished up amid the wild applause and chants for more. This response was as much a surprise to the band, as it was an organic reaction from the crowd.

In an interview before the show, Lalonde and Derosier revealed that they never expect or plan “that kind of energy … It’s something that we’re constantly trying to figure out too, what it is about our live show that gets all that energy out of fans.”

Lalonde mentioned in the interview that when the band performs, “Sometimes I’ll try doing something that I think is going to get a reaction, and I’ll go fucking crazy, and I’ll feel like I’m getting nothing coming back from the crowd … Other nights, we’ll be doing nothing at all, and people will go nuts … I’ll feel kind of bored (onstage), and people will be going crazy.”

“In live shows, you have to give something to the crowd to get something back,” Derosier said. “I try to put energy into playing and having fun, and people can feel that.”

For Born Ruffians, some of the most receptive crowds and some of the most fun shows have been in the Bay Area. Derosier noted that “When we play all-ages shows here, it’s utter chaos, and people are screaming and singing along to all the songs.”

“People will be climbing on stage and diving off, and there’ll be a line of people doing that, which is something we never expected our music to get out of people,” Derosier recalled about the previous two shows at Slim’s in San Francisco this weekend. They noticed that this sort of behavior at their shows “really only happens here to that extent.”

Is there something about Bay Area music fans, particularly fans of Born Ruffians, that is inherently chaotic and energetic? It could be a product of the long legacy of rock fans coming from the Bay, or it could simply be “the literal group of people that comes to the show,” as Derosier put it, echoing his earlier comment about how every show is different and attempting to predict or read the crowd is moot.

No matter the cause, Born Ruffians’ performance roused students from their foreboding end-of-semester blues, bringing liveliness and energy to the crowd and getting their wild and warm reception and applause back.

Contact Youssef Shokry at [email protected].