Ume: 2 April 2014 - The Soda Bar, San Diego

Lauren Larson occupies the Mount Olympus of women in rock as Ume destroys San Diego.

City: San Diego
Venue: The Soda Bar
Date: 2014-04-02

The year was 2011. Ume was named by Rolling Stone as one of the top unsigned bands in the country and it seemed the Austin, Texas power trio would soon be soaring to the top of the modern music world. The band had released their debut LP Phantoms and was winning raves with every gig thanks to singer/guitarist Lauren Larson’s dynamic onstage presence.

The waifish blonde has a soft-spoken Southern belle type of voice when she speaks, but it belies her true musical persona. There’s a dark angel inside and when the band cranks up the amps, Larson turns into a mesmerizing rock goddess with her furious riffs and urgent voice. She also flies a flag for the sentiment that couples who play together stay together - she’s married to her bassist Eric Larson, with whom she began collaborating when both were in high school. He seems to care little for the spotlight, content with the best spot in the house. He teams with drummer Rachel Fuhrer to create a powerhouse rhythm section behind the alt-rock siren of their dreams.

Ume probably would have rocketed to platinum album sales and global stardom if they’d hit the scene at the height of the grunge era 20 years ago. Perhaps they were born too late,or maybe the band is a gift from the music gods to assist the continuing evolution of the alt-rock sound that revolutionized rock in the early ‘90s.

Lauren Larson has likely had any number of chances to “sell out” and take her music in a more commercial direction to achieve a faster track to fame and fortune. There’s times when her voice recalls ‘90s alt-queens like Tanya Donelly of Belly, the Deal sisters from the Breeders, and the gals in Veruca Salt. There’s probably been several music industry big wigs who have tried to push her to sugar up Ume’s sound, but the heavy vibe that Ume continues to pursue on their new album Monuments makes it clear that this band is sticking to their guns. The band’s name (pronounced “ooo-may”) is taken from a Japanese plum blossom that the Larsons later learned symbolizes perseverance and devotion. This aptly symbolizes the band’s commitment to their musical vision.

The Soda Bar doesn’t exactly provide an ideal setting to witness a such a powerful band, with a bar in the middle of the room that makes for a small and cramped stage area. A band from Austin has about 50 better places to play there in the live music capital of the world, but a band from the thriving Austin music scene is also going to step up and deliver the goods no matter what.

The trio rocked with a furious energy from the start, with Lauren Larson tearing up her guitar while headbanging and swinging her long hair around as if she were playing a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden or the LA Forum. Tunes from the new album like lead track “Black Stone” and “Chase It Down” connected with a deep impact, with Larson’s heavy riffs and some string slides recalling Billy Corgan’s ace guitar work in the Smashing Pumpkins. “Chase It Down” was another top track from the new album, with Larson exploding on stage with her infectious riffs and soul-searing vocals over a bone-crunching groove from her mates.

“She’s like if Lita Ford and Kurt Cobain had a baby”, commented a lady in the room who was impressed with Larson's hard rocking vibe and gritty vocals. “Gleam” was another shining moment, starting slow and then building behind angelic vocals from Larson and catchy riffs that still rocked hard. Her intensity level rarely waned from the sustained peak she occupies atop the Mt. Olympus of women in rock. The band’s set was scarcely more than an hour, but it felt longer due to the high intensity of the performance.

Lauren Larson signed autographs while manning the merch table afterward and it was clear that the rock goddess has a down to earth personality and humble appreciation for being able to play live music on tour, even at a dive like the Soda Bar. If there’s any justice in this music world, Ume will soon be headlining much larger venues.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.