The Toadies and Helmet made their way to the Beaumont Club in Kansas City during their national tour together with opener Ume on August 12th. Although the two headliners hail from the ‘90s, the crowd at the Beaumont included a mixture of young and old. This dichotomy of youthful energy versus maturity would later be heard on the stage.
To get the party started, heavy indie band Ume, from Austin, TX, took to the stage. People often overlook opening bands. The first time I paid attention to and was impressed with an opening band occurred that last time The Toadies played in KC at the same club. That band was Aranda. Turns out, that band relied heavily on their stellar performances of covers of classics such as “Dazed and Confused” by Led Zeppelin. They fell short on their original songs. I was hoping that wouldn’t be the case with Ume.
Turns out that Jane’s Addiction selected Ume to open the Lollapalooza Afterparty, so perhaps there’s something to them. Before they even hit a note, I could see why Jane’s Addiction wanted them…probably so Dave Navarro could get with their lead singer…she’s hot! Not only is she hot, but she is extremely talented. Ume is a three-piece band: Lauren Larson (vocal/guitar/keys), Rachel Fuhrer (drums) and Eric Larson (bass). Sorry Navarro, Lauren and Eric are married.
Ume takes the heavier sound of alternative rock established in the ‘90s and combines it with the indie sound that is relevant in today’s alt rock scene. Lauren is full of vibrant energy throughout the entire show, dancing like Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club while playing heavy riffs. How she is able to play and dance like an epileptic seizure is beyond me. The band never lost the crowd, who were quickly trapped in the music’s tractor beams. The heavier sound made Ume a great fit with the two headliners, and the indie rock element makes them fresh and new. Look for Ume in the future. I’m sure you’ll hear more from them.
Next up was Helmet. You know a band is ready to rock when the roadies line up beer bottles near the drums for the members. My first thought when they hit stage: “I thought these guys were from the ‘90s.” They looked REALLY young. Evidently, lead vocalist Page Hamilton is the only original member. However, Hamilton was able to keep up with the kids half his age, making the show feel like it was 1992. Starting off with “Sinatra,” it was apparent the atmosphere had just changed.
The youthful look and energy of the band transferred over to the crowd, who was getting crazier and crazier after each song. Here’s the great thing about rock crowds: they are way more courteous than one would think. A kid with, what I assume was Lou Gehrig’s Disease, was pushed towards the front of the stage, while everyone in front of him stepped aside and toned it down a notch. As soon as the energy got a little too wild (first mosh pit of the night during fifth song, “Miserable”), the audience members around the disabled guy made a point to essentially form a wall. Rockers may get nutty and drunk, but they’re still decent human beings when push comes to shove…literally.
The crowd hit a peak with the tenth song of the set, “Unsung,” their breakthrough single. At this point, Hamilton paused the momentum to instruct everyone that hasn’t done so to go to the 18th and Vine Museum. He mentioned how the highlight of his trip so far was touching Charlie Parker’s saxophone. True musician. This speech was followed by three more songs, ending with “Meantime.” If you’re younger and have never heard of Helmet, discover them. If you’re older, it’s time to rediscover them. You’ll be reminded how much you hated everything back in the ‘90s.
The Toadies had a tough act to follow. Helmet was full of youthful energy. The Toadies are a bunch of veterans that might not have that same stage presence. I knew things would be epic when out of tune trumpets playing “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (YouTube it, you’ll know it) brought them onto the stage, followed immediately with them playing “Backslider.” “Come From The Water” came next, with the audience singing the refrain for the band. It was pretty obvious who the crowd was here to see.
The Toadies made it clear why they are the better band. They didn’t need youthful energy on the stage. Their music was full of more energy than any young band can try to replicate with looks and physical movement. That’s the difference between a good band and a great band: transference of energy to the audience from the music alone. The Toadies were able to make you forget how much physical energy Helmet brought onto the stage.
The set consisted of all the hits (“Possum Kingdom,” “Tyler,” etc.) along with some stuff from their new album play.rock.music. Even during the new songs, the audience kept the momentum until the very end. After playing a ZZ Top teaser with Helmet on the stage, The Toadies closed the show with “I Burn.” Members of Helmet lined the stage with drums in hand to play the big drumbeat you hear on the album. It’s the perfect song to end a show: gradual build up to a heavy close.
The show was a success. I discovered a great new band (Ume), rediscovered a great band from the ‘90s (Helmet), and was reminded why I have remained a faithful fan of The Toadies. This isn’t just my opinion. The nice couple to my left walked away with a similar response, buying an Ume sticker and impressed with Helmet’s act. They noticed my notes and agreed about my analysis. After they gave me their two cents, one thing was clear: we’ll be back whenever any of these bands come back to Kansas City.
Side note: Helmet played 13 songs and hit the last note of the last song 13 times. “Possum Kingdom” was the 13th song of The Toadies set list. What’s the significance? I have no fucking idea, but these are the things you notice when you have pen and paper in hand at a concert.
Welcome to Algiers
See You Dead
Come From The Water
Summer of the Strange
Push the Hand
“Unsung” by Helmet teaser
Song I Hate
Hell in High Water
“400 Bucks” cover by Reverend Horton Heat
ZZ Top teaser
I Burn w/Helmet