REVIEW: Saint Motel at Summerfest, 6/28/15

Many times, bands with one of the breakout songs of the summer don’t necessarily amount to a great live show. After the success of a single, the EPs and albums that follow tend to be rush jobs, revolving around that radio-friendly hit, and subsequently that less than stellar material becomes the filler building up to the band playing their hit as the set closer. However, in the case of Saint Motel, they were very much more than a one-hit wonder in the making on stage Sunday night. Playing at 8:00 before emerging pop sensations the Mowglis, the band showed that they can deliver quality material to the masses for much more than the 3 minutes and 26 seconds that make up “My Type”, which is currently in heavy radio rotation. Admittedly, I had not heard much else from the band other than the single, so going into their set at the US Cellular Connections stage, I was up for anything they were going to put out (as opposed to being “Down for Whatever”, the Bud Light slogan for commercials that feature “My Type” in the background. See where I was going with that?!)

The group made their way to the stage on Sunday, warming up a rather chilly area near the lake. Many of the crowd were in the bleachers reserving their seats for The Mowglis, but judging from the number of people that left the area after Saint Motel’s set, it may have been closer to a 50/50 split than originally anticipated. Vocalist AJ Jackson explained that this was the group’s first Milwaukee show, but that didn’t stop him from making references to beer and cheese curds, and if that doesn’t win a crowd in Milwaukee over, I don’t know what would.

Michelle from FM 1021 had introduced the group’s set as a “super crazy dance party-palooza supreme”, and for the most part, the band did not shy away from that description. Things were kept upbeat throughout the show, with the horn section providing most of the flavor to the band’s sound, and Jackson bringing his own calm demeanor vocally in between spurts of hiding behind his keyboard. In many ways, the band sounded like some sort of mash-up between a straight laced indie pop band and a ska group, and for more reasons than just the presence of brass instruments.

High points of the set included a stronger than expected crowd pop for “Cold Cold Man”, which may very well serve as the band’s next single, and a non-ballad where everyone was instructed to pull out their cell phones with lights, creating a great effect for a festival. There were some shaky moments, as at times drummer had Greg Irwin had to count off a song twice at one point, and the band looked a little lost for chemistry here and there. Overall, though, that could have been circumstantial with the festival setting, and definitely wasn’t significantly detrimental to the set. The introduction to “My Type” was played up, and subsequently sent the crowd into a frenzy.

However, Saint Motel fed off of that energy to close the set with another song, and their first Summerfest appearance. Instinct tells me, however, that this will not be their last time playing the festival, as they packed quality material from both the “My Type” EP as well as 2012’s “Voyeur”. Powered by the success of “My Type”, it seems like we’ll see Saint Motel around for many more Summerfests to come.

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