By Cherie Rae Cobbs 7/30/16
Night 2 of the 2016 Underground Music Showcase.
At the end of a long sunny day comes the reprieve of mysterious clouds crowding sunset skies, cool breeze lifting damp hair from glistening foreheads and fresh air to lift the mood and heighten the senses. It was the kind of night you long to get out into. There were so many great shows to see at all of the cozy clubs and venues but on a night like this you are drawn to the open air afforded by the Mainstage.
As hoped we found the streets of South Broadway full of the friendly faces that make this city home. For our second night at UMS, we made it to 7 shows in total and took a few notes below. These acts were all new to me, but therein lies the fun of exploration at UMS.
6pm @Irish Rover – Ambit
We started our evening at the Irish Rover to check out Ambit. I loved them. They were long lines of thoughtful space to get lost in daydreams, sparse droning, repetitive vocals, post-punk dreamy drum beats with loops that stung with their own unique brand of friction. The trio’s set included hazy vocals, siren sounds and brought to mind what we love in reflective, rocking, moody Interpol.
7pm @Main Stage – Lee Fields and the Expressions
Lee Fields is a smooth, classic, stylish, full-grown man that was there to entertain, school and inspire. He leads the best looking, suit wearing GQ band including a Dexter (Michael C. Hall) look-alike on saxophone. Lee was intent on sharing uplifting messages as most songs delivered messages like “…are you happy today?…Keep on tryin, you just might win!….Why can’t we talk and have a good time?…” All told Lee delivered swagger, slinky dance moves, charisma and led the tightest band all night including a highly impressive bass player. The sun was setting, the audience was willing and a good time was had by one and all under the open summer sky.
7:30pm @Blue Ice – Kid Astronaut
We left the mainstage early so as to try and catch Kid Astronaut at Blue Ice. After the loud, boisterous fun of Lee Fields at the mainstage crossing the threshold into Blue Ice was a marked (but pleasant) shift. The venue was dark, the audience thin and hushed, up front was a single figure with guitar and a crystalline voice that illuminated all dark corners and climbed to the ceiling with ease. Kid Astronaut was informal, sweet, sang with an effortlessness and lightly flew fingers in simple patterns over his pretty guitar. Kid explained that he wanted the venue to “…feel like his living room..” and in response the audience was welcome and open. He asked “does anyone have any questions?” (which is not something I’ve heard at a show before) and while there were no questions asked, one brave comment came late from the back, “thank you for doing what you do.”
8:30pm @Main Stage – Allah Las
Earlier in the day I listened to a quick sample of Allah Las and was impressed. I enjoy the mellow carefree sounds of Real Estate, Phosphorescence and Tame Impala and thought they had a similar vibe. Their set was driven by long winding intros, mild surf guitar meanderings and beachy breezes of harmony. The overall effect was a mix of classic rock tinged, smooth/chill energy at the hands of laid-back, easy-going guys gently imploring “tell me what’s on your mind…” They were loose, light and definitive in their own brand of outdoor summer-sway concert music.
9pm @Irish Rover – Kissing Party
Heading into the Irish Rover I had heard only one Kissing Party song before called “Winter in the Pub”.
With that song in mind I was expecting a somber, thoughtful, perhaps bashful group so we were much surprised to find a group eager to dance and attempting to play 15 songs in 40 minutes. They were loveable hyperactivity, race-paced indie rock playing short powerful songs imploring the audience to jump and move. They were sweet, welcoming and it felt like everyone belonged. Deirdre Sage was particularly impressive, she continually joined dancers on the floor which filled the room with light and life.
10pm @Skylark Lounge – Helvetia
As the night wears on the lines get longer, the rooms get smaller and the beautiful sunset breeze begins to falter. It is about this time that we headed over to the Skylark Lounge to check out Helvetia. The Skylark Lounge is full and the band is already playing as we work our way in through a skinny snake trail. We take refuge near the pink neon jukebox and enjoy what we hear of Helvetia. They were something like Crowded House to me – on a small PA, stuck in the corner of that hot red room. They reminded me of vampire-like Lost Boys and they exude a timelessness that I could not put my finger on. In truth we could not stay long as the late night open air was again calling. We headed down to Illegal Pete’s to find our second wind or at least a cold, strong margarita.
11pm @South Broadway Church – Poet’s Row
We stopped into the South Broadway Church for our final show of the evening. We had seen Poet’s Row before and well-remembered the pitch perfect lullaby’s for which they are known. The church was absolutely stifling. The heat when mingled with the music created a powerful analgesic. I was lulled sleepy and my thoughts would trail off into quiet places. This soundtrack embodied the sweet cocktail of lemonade, campfire song, the love of your grandma’s house, the limp summer dreams of youth, crushes and love and was a perfect bookend to our second night at UMS.