Lauren Larson of Ume melted the eyes, ears and minds of Bat Bar attendees. Photo: Angela H. Brown
There was a decent line of people waiting to get into The Bat Bar on Austin's famous Sixth Street last night. Fortunately, my badge took me right to the front just in time to get a nice spot behind all of the photographers gearing up for what was gonna be a set of great shots.
The stage at The Bat Bar was set up right against the front window, which was as big as the entire wall and completely open to the outside. The crowd inside was instantly mirrored on the other end of the stage outside the window, and though they could've easily grabbed the drummer around the waist and pulled her out with her entire kit, they were up close and personal with what makes Ume a band you're not gonna want to miss: front woman Lauren Larson.
I grabbed a pint of Moose Drool (on tap!) and watched the tiny, blonde-headed vocalist/guitarist set up her gear somewhat frantically. Last night was my first night of music at SXSW, but I noticed both shows I attended started and ended right on the dot they were scheduled for, and both bands (the other was Tycho, review coming soon) were really sensitive to the time. Not that I'm complaining, 'cause it means that if I stick to my schedule, I should get in and out in time to see everything I want to without having to wait long. Unfortunately, Larson's mic was having some connection issues (it cut out various times throughout the performance) and I could tell it was stressing her out a bit. She didn't have much to worry about, though, even with the annoying technical difficulties—her performance completely blew me away, and I know I'm not alone in that sentiment.
I should mention that I reviewed an Ume set exactly one month ago on Valentine's Day when they came through Salt Lake as openers for Cursive. You can read it here. I'll admit that I wasn't super impressed then. In that review, I describe her as a watered-down Karen O., which I still believe to be true of her vocals––she's got some decent pipes, nothing to write home about––but damn, she's giving Karen's stage antics some much needed competition, and if you've ever seen the Yeah Yeah Yeahs live, you know that performance is hard to top. Where Larson really kills it is in her guitar work. This girl knows how to fucking PLAY. That big diamond ring on her finger (she's married to Ume bassist Eric Larson) didn't stop her left hand from running up and down the fret board like a Korean masseuse, all while jerking the thing around, head banging and jumping up and down like she was on fire. Oh yeah, did I mention she was doing all of this with a dress on? Of course, she's a classy lady and had on some shorts to keep us from oogling her unmentionables.
After watching that live set, I gave Ume's debut album, Phantoms, another listen. Funny how a good show can change the way you listen to something, huh? I suggest you check these guys out ASAP, as they're playing nearly every day here in Austin for SXSW. Lauren Larson, thank you for popping my SXSW cherry—couldn't have been any more perfect.