It’s been a while since I made it back to The Cellar on Berry Street. So when I got word that the band Svenny Baby would be playing on Saturday, I felt compelled to check it out.
The Cellar is the ultimate dive bar, with the bar proper underground, and the music area and the pool tables at street level. Low ceilings, heavy smoke, lots of TCU students — it’s the second oldest bar in Funkytown and a piece of our history. It’s also a great, intimate place to catch up and coming bands. You are on the same level with them, with more of a house party vibe than a big venue.
Svenny Baby took the stage, and while the vocals were a tad rough on the first song, they quickly recovered and delivered us a solid set of electronic/pop rock. Victor Toruno (keyboards, vocals) is an energetic performer, with a dramatic, aggressive keyboard style and a natural stage charm. Dutty Johnson on guitar was more pleasantly frantic than I expected, and even though the sound was a bit on the thin side (to be expected, given the room), he did a good job keeping things lively — even playing the high end of Toruno’s keyboard on one song.
Songwriting is where this band hits the mark, with catchy hooks and honest-to-God structure. They performed mostly original material, aside from Daft Punk’s Get Lucky — which stylistically fit right in with the band’s set.
“I want [people] to dance,” Toruno said. “I want people to imagine things, and imagine planets and worlds with our songs. I want them to feel something … I don’t want you to listen to my music and feel like you’re droned into it. I want to inspire. I want to have some higher thinking when people listen to our songs.”
Indeed, engaging the audience is within Svenny Baby’s skill set, and the band had the crowd sing backing vocals on more than one song — unusual in something this artsy. Toward the end of the set, drummer Felipe Rosales ran through the club with his drumsticks, using the ancient floor of The Cellar as a percussion instrument. The crowd responded to these guys (the band is rounded out by bassist Matt “Squee” Standlee), and the band members tossed free Svenny Baby T-shirts into the audience to show their gratitude.
It will be a couple of months before we get another chance for a Svenny Baby show. The band is taking a break to write, record and tighten things up a bit. I look forward to hearing a CD from these guys. While the band could use a touch of polish in places, this is creative, engaging and intelligent rock. When the band resurfaces in September, you owe it to yourself to check it out.