Duck Room On Fire: Hembree Steal Hearts & Blows Minds in St. Louis
I’m not one who listens to satellite radio (or really any type of radio for that matter), but I can respect what SiriusXM’s Alt Nation does with Advanced Placement, a tour and weekly radio show with the goal of exposing the public to on-the-rise alternative acts. The Advanced Placement Tour, which just wrapped up at the end of June, brought on three such bands: the UK-based BLOXX, L.A.’s WARBLY JETS, and Kansas City natives Hembree. Each band was up on stage for roughly the same amount of time, but the order in which they played was something that changed every night.
Case in point: one day after headlining The Truman in their hometown, Hembree kicked off the evening on the tour’s St. Louis stop in the Duck Room of Delmar Loop’s Blueberry Hill. The electrifying nature of their set was enough to steal away the attention of the entire room, something that became immediately apparent with the chilling album opener, “I Don’t Why.” One of my favorite things about their new album, House On Fire, is the flawless transition between “I Don’t Why” and the album’s lead single, “Culture,” so I was hoping to hear that in person, but something was telling me that the KC-based alt rockers would be saving that track for later. Sure enough, the conclusion of “I Don’t Why” instead saw the quintet kicking into “Symmetry Lines,” one of the deeper cuts from House On Fire.
Hembree didn’t play their new LP in its entirety, but they came pretty darn close, making sure not to leave out one of my personal favorites, the album’s frantic second single, “Almost.” They even found the time to squeeze in older gems like “Can’t Run Forever” and “Holy Water,” the latter of which is still the band’s most popular song. Of course, with the electro-grooving banger “Culture” currently at radio, I wonder how much longer that will be the case.
Not entirely unlike House On Fire, the quintet’s seamless set
boasted many moments where one song led straight into the next. And even though
they didn’t capture the one aforementioned flawless transition live like they
do on the LP, Hembree more than made up for it by creating other smooth transitions
that don’t already exist on their recordings. Besides, it would have been silly
not to finish their set on the Advanced Placement tour with the one song of
theirs that’s in rotation on the Advanced Placement radio show.
I enjoyed bits and pieces from both Warbly Jets and the evening closer BLOXX, but I was so blown away by Hembree’s set that I quite frankly could have left right after their set and would have been completely satisfied. It’s not every concert where you’ll experience this with an opener, nor is it every band that (without any such prompting) recognizes a fan by name after well over a year and a half since first meeting them. Yet, Hembree pulled off both of these things in one fell swoop, rocking their opening set and afterwards even calling out yours truly. All that to say, there was no true headliner for the Advanced Placement Tour, but maybe there should have been.
[featured photo courtesy of Carolina Mariana Rodríguez.]