It was the most interesting Red River show I’ve come across in a while. Ume, the show’s co-headliner and arguably Austin’s best indie band to come out in the last five years, is a hipster/blogger favorite. Fronted by the lovely and talented Lauren Larson, this ambient/shoegazey power-rock trio can headline any Red River venue on any given weekend.
On the other hand, the show’s headliner and Austin’s biggest punk-rock band, Riverboat Gamblers (pictured above), are a Red River heavyweight whose legions of loyal fans don black t-shirts. They are the quintessential opposite of Ume fans. Ume fans do not mosh and they have a large female fan base. Riverboat Gamblers have fans that mosh, crowd surf and who aren’t concerned with not looking cool if they sing along. They love fast music, shout out loud and go crazy for the dynamic lead singer of their beloved Riverboat Gamblers.
At 11 p.m., I people-watched next to the longest line I’ve seen at Red 7 in a long time. Ume was set to play at 11:15, but I could have guessed that from the look of the crowd. In the black t-shirt capital of Austin, the cool indie kids stood waiting to see Ume. At that moment, I wondered if they would be sticking around for Riverboat Gamblers.
Right around 11:15, Ume broke out into the opening song before a packed house (or patio, in this case, as it was the larger outdoor stage). Being posted up at the front of the stage during Ume’s set, I was absolutely blown away by Lauren Larson’s guitar skills. Such a great guitar player, Larson is even more dynamic in stage presence with her flailing blonde hair and aerobic body movements. It was hard to take your eyes off her, as she is such a compelling figure. She has sounded better vocally before, but that was due to her just getting over being sick. Still, first-time Ume listeners couldn’t tell the difference anyway.
The highlight of Ume’s set was the hard-charging tune “The Conductor” off their Sunshower EP. I could hear women cheer and clap behind me as the song’s sharp opening riff blared over the PA. As I looked behind me, I could see some young guys in black—Riverboat Gamblers t-shirts watching Ume intently. If that’s not a testament to Ume’s brilliance, then what is?
Ume’s setlist read something like this: Manic, Expose, Newest, Ad New, Delay, Conductor, Xie-Xie.
Fronted by the dynamic and spastic Mike Wiebe, Riverboat Gamblers were an adrenaline ride from the set’s beginning to end. It’s as if I were transported to a whole different world than the one I just watched Ume in. All the punks came out and pits were going right away.
Out in the crowd, there were several “who’s who” of the Red River scene out for this show. From Krum Bums to Complete Control, it seems as if anyone who was anyone in black-t-shirt-and-mohawk world was there. It’s interesting to see, knowing Wiebe is always so dapper, sporting an argyle sweater and short hair. Punk rock is a spirit; it’s in one’s soul. It’s not a look, kids. Any real punk will tell you.
The Gamblers played a good hour-long set, consisting mainly of songs from their latest and best record, Underneath The Owl. Popular hits such as “A Choppy, Yet Sincere Apology” and “Victory Lap” were clearly the fan favorites, based on overall reaction. But honestly, nothing beats songs off To The Confusion of Our Enemies. Still, Riverboat Gamblers don’t disappoint.
As Ume and Riverboat Gamblers continue their genres’s local reign, it’s not likely they’ll play together again in a non-festival setting. But one never knows; this is Austin, and Red River is a small town.
This show took place at Red 7 in Austin, Texas, on Jan. 15, 2010.