Ume – Walters on Washington – January 31, 2009

Ume took the stage around midnight.  They were tight and well rehearsed and there was something new and crisp about all of their delivery.  The new songs were great to see played onstage.  There’s something about seeing the live version of any song that gives it some other meaning.  I am always amazed at how much sound is coming off the stage in an Ume show.

Lauren Larson’s performance is sort of mind boggling.  I’m a guitarist/singer/songwriter and a lot of the time when I am singing and playing at the same time, I feel like there is a meat cleaver wedged between the hemispheres of my brain.  Watching Lauren Larson play gives me the same feeling and I’m not even playing.  She has a lot of complicated leads and effects going on with the guitar.  Then she has demanded a complex tonality with her vocal delivery ranging from a growl to screaming and then a lot of whispering.  All of the voices are necessary to deliver these songs on stage and in the studio.

Jeff Barrera is a beast on the drums.  He’s a big guy, he keeps his drum kit really low and he beats the kit like he’s trying to kill it.  He works up a sweat and really it’s not overdone.  The songs and the entire tonal aesthetic sort of demand this performance.

Eric Larson kind of holds the ship together.  With Jeff and Lauren giving these virtuoso performances, I’m sure there is a pull to let it loose on the bass.  Eric has a disciplined approach to playing with all that’s going on.  He shines in his moments as well, but it’s a really tough job pulling it all together from his corner of the stage.  Everything he does makes all the other sound make sense.

The only thing that I couldn’t figure out was why the sound guy couldn’t stop the feedback in the monitors and the main mix coming off the stage.  It wasn’t happening the whole time which makes me think he was tinkering.  Live sound is a tough job and I would think that doing live sound for Ume has got to be challenging.  Everyone on stage has an enormous dynamic range.  It sounded good, but I wanted it to sound better.

All I could think about was how much work it takes to do what Ume does.  The writing, rehearsing, recording and promoting.  Driving up and down freeways to get to shows with questionable turnout for very little monetarily.  All this while holding down regular jobs of some sort to pay the rent.  I know this mill very well.  Sometimes it can suck, and you start to wonder if you are reaching anyone.  Maybe this doesn’t occur to the members of Ume at all.  But if it does, I want them all to know that their work is appreciated.  I bought the new EP last night.  I could have waited and bought it online and paid the shipping, but I know there is a little bit of satisfaction in finishing a show and selling someone a CD.  I also know that it’s tough to drive 150 miles to another town and barely cover your gas money.

We aren’t supposed to acknowledge these parts of a working band, but as my blog should make clear, I’m not a critic.  I’m a musician.  I think that the appreciation of music should ackowledge all of the hard work that goes into it.  Somehow there is this idea that a band just appears on stage and they have a good time and then they move on to their next good time.  I don’t know what level of industry backing finally makes this fantasy possible, but at the level of a $6 cover for three bands at Walters on Washington, $6 for a self-produced EP and no venture capital marketing budget, you are paying to entertain people.

And then to pull off the show that Ume pulled off.  Damn.  My hat is off to all of you.  Thanks for coming down and blowing the doors off of Walters.

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