If there's a band out there whose career trajectory exemplifies the rewards and vagaries of big-label existence, it's Kansas City's own Vedera, who are property of Epic Records.
Saturday night, Vedera threw a homecoming/holiday show at the Beaumont Club. It looked like about 600 came to celebrate along with them. Many, it seemed, were relatives and long-time friends as well as fans. The age demographic was probably something like 8 to 60-plus years old. It looked more like the crowd at a huge graduation party or wedding reception than a pop concert. But the band's music has something to do with that, too. It's pan-generational.
So the vibe in the room was warm all night. It crackled and erupted a few times, like when the band played familiar tracks like "Satisfy" and "Back to the Middle" -- songs with all the components of a radio hit: a lovely melody, hooky chorus, some catchy guitar riffs, lovelorn lyrics and major-league vocals from May, who can fill a place as big as the Beaumont with one long, loud, sustained note.
Between the better-known songs, though, the mood in the room swung from low-key to indifferent. The sound had something to do with that. The mix felt off (too bright, drums way out in front), which was only magnified and aggravated in a room with rugged acoustics. And though the band has obviously honed its playing skills while touring hard over the past few years, it hasn't upgraded the rest of its presentation. Mays is the only one with access to a microphone, so she's the one who does all the bantering. She's sweet and funny, but she could use a little help. And it's a little odd that there's no mention or play off of her marriage to Brian Little, the band's lead guitarist and the brother of drummer Drew Little. A little live social networking can go a long way in building connections beyond just the songs. (It would be nice, too, if Brian Little could show off more of his guitar skills.)
The set lasted a few hairs beyond an hour and it included covers of "Last Christmas"by Wham! and "I Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty. But most of the show was devoted to songs from the band's "Stages" album, which has been more than four years in the making: "Forgive You," "Loving Ghosts," "Even I," "Goodbye My Love" and "We Sing." The album also includes re-recorded versions of "Satisfy" and "In the Middle," which have been around for awhile. Hard copies of the album were available at the merchandise table, but according to Amazon.com, the official release isn't until February. (It's available in mp3 format in several places on the Web.)
By then, Vedera will be on tour with Jack's Mannequin. Before that, they will entertain guests at the Sundance Cafe during the film festival. Sometime in the summer, they'll jump on the Lilith Fair tour. So their label and handlers have aligned some solid opportunities for exposure to the right kinds of audiences. Here's hoping it all works out as planned for a band that has displayed as much patience as it has perseverance. And here's hoping that sometime next year, they become more of a household name in their own hometown.
Audiovox: The crowd wasn't showing much love or interest, but the second of two openers showed why this smart and clever electronic-pop duo (guitar and drums with recorded backup) has impressed a lot of people in the local music scene. When I say they have a Pitchfork sound, I mean it as high praise.
| Timothy Finn, The Star