SUSTO initially caught my attention last December with their single “Waves,” a spacey rocker with an uplifting “keep on keeping on” message, but many Hoosiers’ first exposure to the South Carolina natives came back in March, when they opened up for The Lumineers on the most recent U.S. stint of their Cleopatra World Tour. Now traveling across the country for their own headlining tour, the Charleston-based quintet’s latest stop in Indianapolis was last month at Fountain Square’s Hi-Fi.
Along for the ride with SUSTO was Nashville-based psychedelic rock collective Skyway Man. The newer group was led by their talented singer and main songwriter James Wallace. Their set was packed full of fun and dynamic contrasts, two fairly independent factors that happened to overlap quite a bit in this case. Wallace’s stage setup consisted of two separate microphones for two very different vocal effects, in addition to two sets of keys that he went back and forth playing alongside his guitars. The rest of his band was tight as well, but arguably the highlight of the entire group was master of trades Stefan Forbus, who spent his time on stage jamming out on a whole host of different instruments, including the saxophone, flute, tambourine, maracas and even the triangle. The result was an awesome way to kick off the night and get the crowd pumped up for the headliners.
Since they were headlining this time around, SUSTO obviously had more freedom and less of a time constraint. They ended up playing for significantly longer (again, no surprise there), covering much of their brief catalog, from their 2014 self-titled debut to this year’s & I’m Fine Today and even the singles in between the two full-lengths. Not only did they play the bulk – if not all – of their setlist from back in March, but they were also able to touch some of the deep cuts they missed the first time around. They still passed on “Mountain Top,” but that could be attributed to the nature of the song.
One key difference I noted about the two sets was that, this time around, the quintet felt livelier. Perhaps that had something to do with the size of the room being much more intimate than the downtown fieldhouse where they opened for The Lumineers. With a smaller, homier feel and fans that actually came to see them, it was a lot easier for the Charleston folk rockers to engage with the crowd (and thus the crowd could engage with them more easily as well). Though I’ve only see them twice now, Justin Osborne and company’s stage presence seem like it would fit best in a mid-sized room with a capacity of several hundred, such as The Hi-Fi is. Maybe one day the group will get to the level where they’re headlining amphitheaters across the country, but NBA arenas like Bankers Life? SUSTO has never struck me as the “arena rock” kind of band – it’s just not their scene. That said, they felt right at home at The Hi-Fi.
Side note: in case you missed it and want to know more about the band and their latest effort, you can go check out my phone interview with Osborne from earlier this year, also right here on the blog.