Published Oct 17, 2019Without any real buzz or press, Taipei DIY yacht rockers Sunset Rollercoaster have amassed a respectable cult following in North America. When they last visited Toronto in 2018, for an appearance at the Modern Sky Festival, the sands of Echo Beach were littered with young diehard fans swaying and mouthing the words to every one of their songs.
Their return to the city for their "Business Trip" tour caused such a stir that it required an upgrade in venue twice the size of the original, the Drake Underground. The six-piece still had to squeeze onto the Horseshoe's compact stage, but the sold-out crowd were there, desperate to hear some "breezin', subtropical love" songs.
There was such a strong Taiwanese contingent in the crowd, that frontman Tseng Kuo-Hung spoke as much in his native language as he did in English. The reverence the band received was almost at a boy band scale. Phones were up in the air capturing every second of the show, voices were singing along, and when one fan yelled, "I love you," Kuo-Hung replied, "I love you too," to a roomful of hysteric cries.
He clearly meant it, too. Kuo-Hung's lyrics almost exclusively discuss infatuation, and through his softly whispered vocals, he really set the mood. It's no wonder the band describe their music as "pregnantal rock."
The hour-long set consisted mostly of tracks from last year's Cassa Nova full-length, and despite all of the tenderness in the air, Sunset Rollercoaster were definitely focused on showing off just how fucking tight they are as a band. Sure they look like any average group of millennial hipsters (half the band wore dad hats), but they have clearly worked hard to match the technical chops of whatever classic AOR and jazz-rock bands they idolize. Even when feedback and audio problems threatened to derail the performance a couple times, they barely flinched.
The frigid temperatures outside didn't match the sweaty climate inside. "Is it hot? Damn what should we do? Take off all of our clothes?" Kuo-Hung asked to a roomful of cheers. He then began professing his love for the burgers he ate at A&W next door and reminisced about their epic party in Montreal the night before.
They closed with a couple of older favourites. "My Jinji" had everybody fill the air with their phones to capture it on video. "This is a cheesy love song," Kuo-Hung prefaced, as they came back out for an encore. Screams filled the air as they launched into what has become their trademark farewell, the saccharine slow jam, "I Know You Know I Love You."
We haven't quite reached Sunset Rollercoaster-mania just yet, but it feels imminent for a small percentage of the world. The fact that this relatively obscure band from Taiwan has left such a mark playing AOR music for an audience whose grandparents would approve says a lot. They are truly an anomaly, and a beautiful one at that.