Monday, November 16, 2009

Gig: Ume

Ume (Patrick Lee / Give Us the Daggers)

The Horseshoe. Tuesday, November 3, 2009.

I'm not a regular denizen at the free Tuesday night shows at The 'Shoe — really, I only tend to end up there on "special" nights where a bigger-than-usual special guest shows up. The billing is usually sort of a mixed bag of diverse up-and-comers, thrown together without undue consideration for thematic unity, so you can either plan just to show up for the band you're interested in and not worry so much about missing out on something, or you can show up early and see if something randomly takes you by surprise.

I didn't have anything particularly interesting going on, so I figured I'd take the latter course, getting to a quiet venue an hour before I needed to. Patrick Lee, a NY songwriter and, apparently, frontman of The Scaters (pronounced "scatters") came on stage a bit after I'd arrived on the scene. No clue who he was, but I was willing to listen up. Playing solo acoustic with his stripped-down lyrical sentiments, I thought maybe at first Lee was going in a Johnathon Richman sort of direction. But there was a weird tang to his music. "This is sort of an alternative dance, but with a bluesy feel to it," he said, introducing his second song. "It's called 'Rhythm of Life'". Uh oh. When he sang, "Get up to your feet / let's dance to the beat", I started to become convinced that this was some sort of conceptual put-on, that he was making some sort of meta-commentary about trite lyrics and the pop process. So I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

And waiting. After the song about dancing and some awkward attempts at ingratiating banter, we got one about partying ("party, party / let's party") and it clicked in my head: maybe this guy isn't sending up trite music — he's trying to break into the trite mersh market. Which he later confirmed, saying, "the next song is a hit in my hometown, and I just brought it to CHUM-FM. It's called 'Love Will Lead the Way'" which was about as substantive as the title indicated ("Love will lead the way / back home to you"). Really not my cup of tea, and even at the end I was sorta looking over my shoulder if we were all somehow being punk'd.

When I saw Ume at NXNE, I noted that I'd love to see them in a room with a more powerful sound system than at Neutral Lounge. So it was most pleasing to see them listed for this gig at the 'Shoe, and for free when I'd've been willing to shell out. Although it had been pretty dead in there from when I arrived, like clockwork it suddenly filled in pretty well at 10:45 with the band due to hit the stage. Out promoting the domestic release of their major-label distributed Sunshower EP, the Austin-based trio brought their store of Sonic Youth-y shredders to an enthusiastic crowd. Vocalist/guitarist Lauren Langer Larson is the focal point here, with her phenomenal fretwork imparted with flying-hair physicality. The rhythm section of Eric Larson and Jeff Barrera do a fabulous job of creating the solid ground for the guitar heroics, though they tend to keep a bit too much out of the limelight, remaining quiet between songs while guitars are being exchanged and so on. But while the music is playing, this is totally engaging stuff, with the right balance of hooks and abrasive energy. Patiently building up their profile, there should be a tidy crowd out when Ume get back for a gig where the locals'll have to actually have to buy a ticket just to see 'em.

Listen to a track from this set here.

Tipped to the possibility of some high-quality freeness, K.'d dropped by to see Ume and was now settled in to hang out as local combo Give Us The Daggers got set up. Having some company, I decided to stick around. The beer bottle holder on the bassist's microphone stand was the first indication of where the band was coming from, and when they took the stage with leather and snarls, there was no doubt that they were trying to impart the idea that they're streetwalking cheetahs with hearts full of napalm. The band appears to have crawled, spitting and snarling like rangy tomcats, from the evolutionary sludge that has given us the distinguished rock'n'roll lineage stretching from Brian Jones to Johnny Thunders. So — arguably not concerned with pushing the envelope so much as facilitating a scuzzy good time. True to their forefathers, the band started off loose but under control and managed to unwind like a drunk with a yoyo, ending their set in semi-shambolic fashion. As all of this might indicate, the band was rather entertaining — some of the tunes were decent, too, though they didn't stick with me as much as the attitude.

Listen to a track from this set here.

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