I have no idea what band I saw first at the Cabaret Voltaire in Houston. It was the early 80’s and it was likely to be something like Bark Hard, Stark Raving Mad or Blind Ignorants. But I do remember that it was a revelation. What an amazing thing it is to be a part of something that is actually happening. The energy. I went to the Cabaret Voltaire regularly for years and other clubs were added to the list. The quest is that original feeling. Is something new happening here? Can I feel a part of this? Are these guys going somewhere?
These are the feelings and questions that drive me to see new live music. And to tell the truth, I don’t like most of the music I have seen. But the exhiliration of seeing a good show more than makes up for all the bad shows I have had to suffer along the way. And who knows? Live music is a mixed bag. Sometimes a band has an off night. Sometimes the sound guy sucks. Sometimes the show you hear coming out of your monitors on the stage is totally different from what the crowd is hearing. But it’s hard to give a band another chance if I thought they sucked the first time I saw them. There are just so many things that can go wrong. But when it’s right, it’s so amazing.
I’ve seen so many bands come and go on the Texas scene. Some were popular and I always thought they sucked. Some were never popular and I always thought they were great. I have actually been in some decent bands that didn’t last a month. I have hated some bands that I knew were better than I’d ever be. I guess what sort of defines our Texas rock/punk/alternative scenes is bands that should have made it and bands that almost made it. Then there are the bands that self destruct right before or as they were onto something big. There are a few that kind of stuck it out and made a name for themselves. But I always felt like we even defined ourselves by our lame ass scene that can’t keep it together. But you know what I hate more than anything? It’s trying to explain to people in Houston or Austin that there is a good scene here. There are a lot of really good bands.
The Cabaret Voltaire had this sort of legendary scene associated with it. Really on any given day you would find about the same number of people there for any band. That’s mostly because a punk scene really holds together pretty easily. The goth scene had that too. There aren’t any cohesive genres holding any scenes together anymore. Maybe it’s something lost. I don’t know.
I didn’t actually go out to see any live music when I walked into Notsuoh in March of 2007. I just happened to be going to Notsuoh to hang out with some friends. Ume got on stage and blew me away. Here was all of the energy of the early punk scene in Houston. Here was a cohesive aesthetic. A powerful performance. A lot of passion and significance. I search for this experience, but I just walked into this one. Obviously they have a following that knows a lot. I asked people in the crowd to tell me more. It was hot as shit in there and I stayed for the whole show. It just doesn’t happen very often.
I liked the Urgent Sea CD. There’s a lot of great raw sounds there. And now they have an EP release coming up next week on January 24th. Go Ume! I like Sunshower and I love The Conductor. The Conductor is the same raw sound they had on that stage in Notsuoh. It’s got something new as well. Some new optimism that I didn’t hear in anything on Urgent Sea.
“Conductor won’t understand. This embrace is like quick sand.”
And maybe that’s where I’m going with this whole post. I have all this crap to say about how some “scene” doesn’t hold together very well. It’s all some pessimistic bull shit. I spent half this post getting down on some hopeless mythology that perpetuates through Texas scenes. But really it’s time to ignore shit like that. Ume is out there. They aren’t the only thing happening. If the first time in months I walk into a random club with live music and hear something I really like, it really is just time to get out more often.
Then there is this narrative. As far as I can tell, The Conductor is this metaphor for being trapped into a certain direction. We can’t get off this train. Somehow we started this momentum, and now we can’t get off. “Think I’ve made a bad mistake. We just passed through 7 states.” But then there seems to be all this temptation later in the song to sell out. You’ve ridden it this far, why not “change our sound, make a mint”. Maybe our Texas alternative/punk scene is just more dedicated to the basic fundamentals of punk. Do what you do. Do it well. Don’t measure your success in dollars or fame. Measure success in how much you enjoy what you are doing. Maybe I got the whole thing wrong, but that’s what I heard. It feels right, so I will stick with it.
The Conductor is everything that I miss about that Cabaret Voltaire scene. Self absorbed without being self conscious. Raw power without senseless violence. Metaphorical without the obscurity. Purposeful without preaching. Driving intensity with direction. Everyone is on in the original sense of Ume as I understood it. Ume really sounds like they are enjoying this ride.I hope I can make it over to Walter’s on the 31st.