I have an aversion to hype. But Xpress-proclaimed "local rock hotties" Cobra Horse ― recipients of a significant acclaim in their short history ― can back that hype with ridiculous rock-and-roll.
During their most recent engagement at the Emerald Lounge (opening for Ume from Austin, Texas) Cobra Horse presented an energetic and slightly more-polished-than-usual set, staking claim to the niche they've been carving since their first show in April of this year. To create their trademark full-bodied rock style, this dream-team of Asheville musicians relies on acute attention to detail.
With three guitars (Joshua Carpenter, Matthew Sherwood, and Tim Shull), bass (Jeremy Boger) and drums (Krum), the men of Cobra Horse achieve a huge sound while allowing strong vocals from all five musicians to be featured, not drowned out. "Sharp Ones Say Die," one of the strongest songs in the set, began with distinct, shimmy-worthy tambourine, and commanded full attention from the bar. Carpenter's antagonistic vocals invited a then more-attentive crowd to really let loose and clap along during the catchy call-and-answer chorus: "Well I know what I know / and I see what I want to see / and I go where I go / can you be what I want you to be."
As a formidable base for Cobra Horse's layered guitars, Krum and Boger unite for an extremely tight and effective rhythm section. They are able to achieve an isolated effect for either instrument, while joining forces to create a big sound that somehow doesn't overpower the hugeness of Sherwood, Shull and Carpenter's guitars. Although primarily playing lead, Carpenter knows when to better balance with Shull's meticulous additions or Sherwood's high energy flourishes, which produces a well-rounded mix.
Sadly, last Friday night at Broadway's marked Shull's last show with the band, as he's gone and moved away now. Cobra Horse plans to continue playing and working on their music, and haven't yet decided if they'll add another guitarist.
Like Cobra Horse, Ume has been garnering significant praise. At this year's South By Southwest, they impressed musicians like Dave Allen (Gang of Four, Pampelmoose.com) so much so that Allen's post-SxSW missive was: "They simply have passion and firepower, something that has been missing in rock music for some time."
Ume is an indie-rock whirlwind of the best kind, and their live performance feels like being in on a well-kept, pretension-free secret. Lauren Langner Larson (vocals and lead guitar), Eric Larson (bass), and Jeff Barrera (drums), are extremely humble and kind, and are the epitome of the "nice kids" in music: able to rock your face off one minute and then flash a disarming smile the next.
"The Means," a rhythmically whisper-to-scream hymn, driven by nostalgic and persistent vocals, was a stand-out in the set, with Larson's voice hauntingly cascading down through the articulate and gritty arrangement. Much to my chagrin, their dynamic performance ended quicker than I would have liked, and as I approached the stage area, I overheard a sweaty, danced-out dude ask "What, no more?" to which doe-eyed Lauren responded, "Well, I'm pretty tired." Considering the sheer electricity she puts out while performing, exhaustion is to be expected.
See more of Lydia's work at http://lydiasee.wordpress.com.