Friday, November 06, 2009

Vedera, Live at the Fillmore

Anyone attempting to find a record of the "Vedera concert" at the Fillmore on 11/5/09 will probably not find it. By all rights, it was the "Mat Kearney concert", with Vedera as an opening band. This marks the first time in my concert-going career that I've gone to a show for the sole purpose of seeing the opening band. If this smacks of indie-kid obscurism to you, it does to me too, and I sort of resent it.

Most of the reason I resent it is because Vedera is good--really good. It's just that Vedera doesn't have the massive fan base that's probably required to sustain a headlined tour. But they're clearly accomplished enough musically to headline their own tour, with two full-length albums out. And they're experienced enough; as Kristen May said, they've been a touring band for five years now. I can only hope that as Vedera continues to open for bigger-name acts like Mat Kearney and Eisley, and huge-name acts like the Fray, that they'll become a big-name act themselves.

In other words, while I might be awfully indie-kid in liking a band before they make it big, I'm decidedly not so indie-kid in that I want them to enjoy mainstream success. Fortunately for everyone involved, their fan base seems to be growing by the day, at least if their Facebook "fan" numbers are any indication. And they should continue to grow as long as Vedera keeps putting on concerts like they did in San Francisco.

Probably the most striking thing about the concert was the audience reaction to it. "Their singer is amazing." "She [Kristen May] is adorable." "I didn't know of these guys at all, but I'm buying the album." "I was really impressed." All of that suggests to me that all Vedera needs to do is maintain the aggressive approach to big tours and generating publicity, and they'll do just fine.

The concert itself, unsurprisingly, presented like a sales pitch for the most recent album, Stages. May gently reminded the audience to go buy the album at every opportunity she got--and at least her efforts appeared to have paid off. The set list was more or less straight down Stages, with a couple songs left off and a few others out of order. I might have liked to hear some of the older stuff too, but it's so different from the new material that it probably would have seemed out of place. Save it for the headlined tour, I suppose.

May remarked at the beginning that she had "butterflies in [her] stomach playing the Fillmore." You could tell--May started the evening a little hesitant, without going for the vocal "big plays" that fans know her for. By the end, though, all that trepidation seems to have vanished; "We Sing" was an enormously powerful performance to end the show. The "audience participation" gimmick in that song was fun, and it would have worked much better had the crowd been better sports in singing along.

One of May's most endearing traits during the concert turned out to be that shy nervousness from playing such an iconic venue combined with her coy flirting with the audience. (Bad, bad news for male fans of Vedera: Kristen May is married--actually to the band's guitarist, Brian Little.) Asking the audience if it was our "first date" with her (it was for most of us), maintaining an upbeat indie glamor throughout, and offering signatures and hugs after the concert (I got one of each) is the sort of thing that goes a long way toward building enthusiasm for seeing future shows. And even though I'm never (publicly) going to congratulate myself for "discovering" Vedera before the mainstream music community does, I can't say it wasn't amazing standing close enough to the stage to see the sparkle in Kristen's eye.

Only one regret from the concert: I forgot my damn camera. Photography during the concert was "not allowed", so I had to resort to furtive pictures taken on my phone, none of which turned out to look any good at all. And the lighting conditions were downright horrible when I tried to get pictures with the band, so what ought to have been me, Brian, and Kristen, ended up looking like some hideous red blurs. Still, the chance to meet both of them was fantastic--they're genuine, gracious people who clearly appreciate their fans and are willing to take some time out after their show to talk with them.

So go buy some of their music.

Currently listening: The Blue Album, Weezer

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