A swarm of notes overpowered the crowd’s applause as SUSTO demanded the stage. The beehive of guitars lulled into one of my favorite tracks, “Vampiro 66,” where they proved they knew how to rock out. The macabre opening left the mood uncertain but the energy undoubtedly high. I saw Justin Osborne solo last fall and was impressed, but within the first second, I knew that hearing the whole band was an entirely different experience. To my slight disappointment, the music took a country turn for the next eight songs. Admittedly, country is far from my favorite genre, but when SUSTO does it, I can’t help but love it for a multitude of reasons.
First of all, I can understand that every artist’s music is influenced by their past and home, so when that home and history is in the heart of the South, it’s bound to come out southern. But they’re not the modern country-pop that makes my ears bleed. They capture the soul of older country and merge it with newer alt-indie sounds, and also exhibit the musical talent and lyric sophistication I find more common in folk. They are in no way just a country band, encapsulating many genres when you break down the instrumentation. The bass and drums are more on the alternative lines, with lots of fast-paced snare. Occasionally, the lead guitar uses reverb to take on a psychedelia that is surprisingly common in Charleston. Consistently, though, country was kept in mind with twangy guitar licks. What I love most about their version of country is that it is best described as Gothic Southern, which often takes on a darker facade, like rebelliousness to being southern. I really appreciate this sentiment that is best illustrated in the chorus of “Cosmic Cowboy,” where he states that despite his southern upbringing, he is an atheist, a rebel, and anti-cop.
Southern roots can’t help but influence Justin Osborne, especially in the hauntingly religious language he utilizes. Overall, they are talented and entertaining musicians that I would recommend to anyone. They are truly performers, always exuding energy, creating movement, interacting with one another, and expressing the joy they find in playing. Most notably is Johnny Delaware’s luxurious long hair falling over his face and whipping around like a hyper Cousin It. To my delight, they boomeranged back to darker rock by closing with another two of my favorites, Dream Girl and Motorcycle Club. Charleston being their hometown (as is obvious from their lyrics), there is no doubt that 90% of the audience was there solely for SUSTO, which surely made this a unique performance on their tour with the Heartless Bastards. I think I speak for everyone there when I say that I wish openers could do encores. To make them even better, they are wonderful people who clearly care about their fans. I was lucky enough to meet these beautiful souls after the show. Approachable and amiable, they devoted more time, effort, and attention than I expected to meeting any and all fans, an admirable trait in a band that makes going to their shows all the more worthwhile.