The Gig: Ume
Where: The Drake, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
When: 15 June 2011
In One Word: Frenetic
Austin band Ume (pronounced Ooh-may and meaning “plum” in Japanese) have often been compared to Hole and other female-led bands of the early 90s. While they may be influenced by those bands, as I see it, the immediate comparison that logically comes to mind is with The Joy Formidable. Like the Welsh band, they are a trio lead by a blonde singer/guitarist, who happens to be in a relationship with the bass player (in Ume’s case, they’re married), and beyond those superficial similarities, they too are all about big sound and intense performance.
I decided to check out Ume’s Wednesday night NXNE gig at the Drake partly because of the hype of a couple mainstream rags that had pinned them with the “one of the best unsigned bands” tags. But most of my interest came from the strength of the 2009 single, “Conductor”, off their EP Sunshower. “Conductor”, with its extremely catchy guitar riff, was the first song of their set and it did its job in drawing the audience in. Unlike the Joy Formidable, all eyes were solely on front woman Lauren Larson. As she played her guitar her frenetic movement seemed to have every follicle of her hair flying along in complete abandon.
The rest of the music in the set, while not as catchy as the first song, was equally as powerful and guitar driven. But there was one issue in that the mic was not able to pick up Larson’s vocals well enough to balance it out over the abrasive guitars and distortion. I had the same issue when I saw the Joy Formidable but with Larson’s voice, being much more breathy and airy than JF’s Ritzy Bryan’s, it was often very hard to hear her voice. That said, watching Larson aggressively play the guitar was utterly hypnotic and it would be very difficult to watch them without moving to the sound.
One of the best unsigned bands? Maybe. Must see live band? Definitely!
© Renee Saviour, Music Vice
Pictures of Ume at The Drake, Toronto:
Internet links: Ume