Concert Reviews

UMS Night Four Travelogue: The Polkanauts at Club 404, Alan Alda at 3 Kings and more

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Happily, the lineup for the final day of the UMS didn't disappoint. I'd been limited by prior obligations for the rest of the weekend, so Sunday was the only day I had to devote solely to the festival. I started the long day at Moe's Original Barbecue at about 3 p.m., catching Vitamins' early set. Buoyed by the ethereal, piercing vocals of Lizzy Allen and a thunderous rhythmic backbone, the band's early set helped set the ambitious tone for the rest of the day.

Wandering south along Broadway toward the festival's main grounds, I happened upon one of the most enjoyable surprises of the four-day event. The Polkanauts' early afternoon set at Club 404 offered equal doses of kitsch and straightforward musicianship. The trio's set comprised an unadorned tribute to polka, a genre that's known better times in the pop culture psyche. But fads didn't phase the Polkanauts.

Decked in orange jumpsuits festooned with patches bearing knockoff NASA logos, the trio proudly busted out a hybrid of traditional European polka structures and an in-your-face punk attitude worthy of the Pogues. The group's attitude alone was enough to pull the sounds out of the annals of western European lore and make it immediate and dynamic. The trio offered a foot-stomping version of "Just Because," apparently one of the genre's most successful entries into the pop charts.

Still buzzing with the contagious effect of the Polkanauts' set, I made my way to the Goodwill parking lot, eager to catch Hello Kavita's set. Unfortunately, I learned to soon that due to an illness in the band, Hello Kavita would be canceling their mainstage appearance. More disappointing, I heard from a friend of the band that the UMS appearance was to have been the last for an unspecified amount of time, as band members sought fresh stores of creative inspiration.

The Photo Atlas took up Hello Kavita's slot, and while the group offered a solid selection of their by-now familiar brand of speedy dance-punk riffs, I felt disappointed. The Photo Atlas has stood as a reliable live act for years, delivering a reliable fusion of speedy cadences and jittery melodies. But the band's effect seemed too familiar, and I ended up leaving after three songs. Perhaps I was too disheartened by the disturbing rumors regarding Hello Kavita.

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