When playing a bar, bands rarely leave the safe security of the stage in accordance with a cardinal rule; bar crowds are unpredictable, it's best to stay behind the microphone.
At Boyd's Jig & Reel in the Old City Friday night, however, Cereus Bright stood on tables and chairs in the middle of the room for their last song of the set, aptly named "Cereus Bright."
A crowd of nearly 100 people put down their drinks and conversations; they listened.
"I loved that they tried to involve everyone," Noelle Sibley, a senior in English and French, said after the show. "That was absolutely perfect."
The urban folk band features Tyler Anthony, a UT graduate, and Evan Ford, a rising junior in philosophy and economics. Anthony sings lead and plays guitar; Ford accompanies on mandolin and contributes delicate harmonies.
Matthew Nelson and Luke Bowers, both seniors in jazz, played behind the duo on a stand up bass and small drum kit, respectively, adding a tight rhythm section to the pair of even tighter pants-wearing frontmen.
Friday's performance was the second-to-last stop on Cereus Bright's Tennessee Tour, which included stops in Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville before heading to Johnson City.
"It's been fantastic," Ford said of the tour. "It's been this great mixture of getting out there and getting our name in front of a lot of people and our sound in front of a lot of people. And a lot of learning, we feel like we will belong there with some hard work."
Friday's performance began an 11 song set list with the title track from Cereus Bright's first EP, "Goldmine." A raucous chorus slid right into place along the Jig & Reel's pub setting, and the crowd began to grow from a small gathering of 30 into a veritable audience.
"It was so crowded in there and everyone was paying attention," said Katie Huff, a rising junior in biochemistry and molecular biology who has seen the band perform once before. "I've seen a lot of local bands and they're not half as good as them."
Anthony's gyrating hips drove home the bitter message of a jealous lover's heartache on the second song, "Happier than Me," before changing tones with a gentle, harmony-focused meditation on marriage with the track "Board Up."
Rare for a bar, lyricism shined in their house metaphor of a couple building matrimony; "we forgot the door, is it supposed to be that way?"
The show continued in that pattern, shifting from driving anthems of love to tender reflections on love lost. At any given moment, Ford could be counted on to rip another riff from his mandolin and Anthony managed to make sure his words were heard.
Despite his place behind Anthony and Ford, Nelson's superior bass-playing deserves plenty of credit. A casual, pre-performance riff of "Whip It" belied his humor, but it was his serious ability to lay down a catchy bass line that had several ladies dancing halfway through their rendition of "Winds of Change," including Sibley.
When asked who the band might be compared to in music today, the previously dancing fan refused to cage their authentic sound.
"They are unique," she said.
Cereus Bright debuted a new song, "Hindenberg," towards the end of their set, featuring a slightly more syncopated drumming pattern for Bowers.
At the close of the set, Anthony said they were going to break one of the first rules of a bar and step away from their microphones. Afterwards, Ford explained their rationale.
"In a show, you always want to give people something that they can come away with from the show," he said. "So having people all sing along with 'Cereus Bright,' it makes it more about them than us. And more about the community than four guys on stage."
For the nearly 100 people who crowded around them, community never sounded so good.