The unspoken rule of concerts is that there will always be duds. In exchange for fan-favorite bangers, the audience will sway tolerantly through some new album sleepers and generic filler songs they can’t quite place. On Sunday night at Slim’s, the underrated Canadian band Born Ruffians delivered the stuff of dreams: a tight, danceable, thoroughly dudless laundry list of greatest hits performed with hair-swinging excitement.
Born Ruffians is on tour for its roughly two-month-old record, RUFF. The album is an irreverent, joyous, fuck-it celebration of youth but also an exploration of its pitfalls. “Living a dream, but it don’t live up, don’t live up,” sings Luke Lalonde on the single “Don’t Live Up,” which is less about the band members’ personal experience as musicians, they insist, and more about a universal feeling of being twenty-something, achieving preset goals and still feeling like shit. “(People) get (to that point in their lives), and they’re like, ‘This isn’t what I thought it was going to be. I’m still really sad or confused or whatever,” said bassist Mitch Derosier in an interview with The Daily Californian.
It makes sense, then, that the crowd was overwhelmingly young, hovering between 18 and 22, enthusiastically moshing with the hesitance of beginners. From the opening notes of “Kurt Vonnegut,” a song off the band’s 2008 album, Red, Yellow & Blue, the audience was hooked, greeting each successive song with a shriek of delight and three to four minutes of impassioned, sweaty jumping. The band matched that mood, Lalonde performing with his usual jittery, coiled urgency and Derosier happily swinging his longish, curly hair. At one point, Derosier took E.T.-style finger touches from the audience before cutting the moment off to get back to the music.
After a few crowd-pleasing older hits, Born Ruffians launched into a series of songs off RUFF, accompanied by a projected backdrop of the loopy, near-pornographic neon doodles that make up the album art, hand drawn by Lalonde himself. “The cover was just, ‘Blah, I did this!’ ” Lalonde said in the interview, humbly describing his artwork. For Derosier, the art is just another part of what he deems the band’s most complete album. “Not only do the songs all fit together lyrically — sonically, they are also in a package that is all still made by us, and the words and the pictures are all one thing,” he told us. “That’s really satisfying.”
The concert was equally satisfying, a dizzying, energetic blur of the band’s liveliest tracks. Even its softly romantic acoustic breaks, coming in the form of the mason-jar-wedding-ready “Little Garcon” and a sweet acoustic cover of the typically jumpy “Hummingbird,” featured an inevitable animated kick. It’s a band that seems incapable of sadness. Born Ruffians exudes positivity in its sweet brand of uncontroversial rock and roll; in its Instagram account heavily featuring Mitch’s adorable dog, Charlie (last seen prematurely sporting a Christmas hat); and in its zippy set of lively crowd pleasers. It captures the tone of the raucous without much of the genuine threat of great rock ‘n’ roll. That being said, there’s room for joy — for the kind of pure, feverish happiness that Born Ruffians embodies. Nothing wrong with just having fun.
Contact Miyako Singer at [email protected].