If you go to Europe and visit castles or the Tower of London, there's a lot of bad stuff that went on inside those walls. Like taking princesses and holding them in dank basement cells.
Underground Arts is a great club. It's the basement party venue of your dreams. But is it a good place to hold a princess and make her perform for her freedom? That appears to be the case. Sumo Princess opened for the Meat Puppets recently at UA, and while UA may resemble those dark basement keeps in Europe, Sumo Princess made the best of the situation. This two piece band was on FIRE!
Speaking of fire, whenever I'm at UA, I'm wondering "how am I going to get out of this place if there's a fire?" I eventually come around to thinking, hey, no worries, the place is a concrete block. I'm not sure that anything in it would burn. Except for the bands that spark and play with incendiary passion. Such was Sumo Princess.
I'm not going to declare a trend, but there has clearly been an uptick in good opening bands for me lately. I had never heard of Sumo Princess before, but they put on a really hot 1/2 hour set that had us all going "Damn!" Here's what I found out about the band. They are a duo based in LA. Abby Travis sings and plays bass, and Gene Trautmann plays drums. Abby has an interesting voice, and uses a lot of tone and modulation to spice up the lyrics. She can also rip on the bass, and has a footboard that is double the size of most lead guitarists that I see. Abby uses all those gizmos effectively to make her bass roar, fuzz, roll and pitch. She's really really good.
Gene has played with a lot of well-known acts, like Queens of the Stone Age and Eagles of Death Metal. Abby has toured and sessioned with a wide range of stars, too, including Cher (hey, why does Cher keep popping up on BRP?), the Go-Go's, Beck, and Eagles of Death Metal. They just released their first album, and LA Weekly just named it their album of the week. Sumo Princess is on a roll!
Sumo Princess describes their music as "post punk, stoner rock." Whatever. It rocks hard and works. They are good live because Abby is a really good performer and works it up there. SP had the place buzzing and the heads bobbing. It was a strong set by and up-and-coming band. Check out their first single, Click Bait:
How come they only have 680 views on that? ABBA had 342 MILLION for Dancing Queen! This is one messed up world.
I've given all this time to Sumo Princess and they weren't even the reason I went to UA. The Meat Puppets were the headliner. I had never seen them before and wasn't quite sure what to expect. Their career has gone from hard-core punk to cowpunk to psychedlia to alt-country. That's quite a trajectory. And they've been around forever with lots of albums out. It was not clear to me what was going to be in the offing.
The band came out and tore into, well, a hillbilly bluegrassy kind of rave up called Comin' Down. It was a great start. From there they basically hit all of the genres except for truly hard-core punk. Don't get me wrong, there was a punk edge about everything they played, but they just didn't do the 1:30 high speed, little tune song. Here's a link to the setlist, but note that setlist.fm got the venue wrong.https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/meat-puppets/2019/world-cafe-live-philadelphia-pa-1b90d928.htm
How good is setlist.fm? I love that site. Not only does it list the songs, it then links them to videos and audio versions of the tracks. It's one of the blessings of the internet.
The Puppets hail from Phoenix, Arizona. They are fronted by two brothers (the dudes with the gray ponytails in all the photos), Curt Kirkwood and Cris Kirkwood. Curt sings and plays guitar. Cris wears mom jeans, makes some of the most amazing faces at the crowd, and plays the bass. They've had a lot of people come and go in the band, but these are the driving forces.
I personally like punk, even some hard-core, but I also like alt-country and cowpunk. These guys do it well, and their set is fast-paced. But they do get into their solos. In fact, the first part of the show clicked along great, but the second half was a bit too self-indulgent for my tastes. Nonetheless, they were really enjoyable.
The other guitarist in the photos, who I believe is named Elmo Kirkwood (seriously, what mother names their kid Elmo? I half-expected a stuffed red muppet. His t-shirt is hot dogs by the way.), could rip it. We were right in front of him, and his finger dexterity was amazing. It's particularly notable because he had one of those electronic cigarette things that he was toking on half the show. I've never seen that before, but so long as it didn't negatively affect the performance, I was fine with it.
The crowd was one interesting mix. There were 3 women standing next to us, and one must have taken over 1000 pictures during the show. She took pictures of the bands, selfies, pictures of her friends, pictures of the crowd, pictures of stuff at her feet, and on and on. What do you do with all those?
There were plenty of other women at the show, which is important because (a) they were shorter than me so I could see over them and get good pictures, and (b) they were not happy when some buttwipe who was clearly very, very stoned decided he was going to mosh. He was the only one, and he just started piling into people. The women WERE NOT digging it at all. Neither were the men. He slammed into one guy, sent that dude's beer flying (I was sprayed by it some and he must have been 10 feet away from us), and then that guy wound up and threw a roundhouse punch. Unfortunately, it just glanced mosh-boy's face. I was hoping for the KO.
The MP's played a lengthy set and we didn't get home until past 1 am. Thankfully, the next day was Saturday and I didn't have to get up and cow-tow to The Man. Well, not until the afternoon anyway.
It's time for me to run. It's sweet summertime, so get outside and enjoy it. I'm going to go watch some baseball today. Whatever you're up to, have fun, be safe and remember to turn it up and rock it out.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.