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Ultra Q at Polaris Hall

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This summer is a My Guardian Angel kind of summer as Ultra Q kicked off their summer tour with Wavves at Polaris Hall in Portland, Oregon on June 1.

I had the privilege to see both of these bands play live, and I had been waiting to see Ultra Q play live for a long time. The band was also promoting their new album My Guardian Angel and debuted a couple of songs off the album, including some unreleased songs at the show.

For those that don’t know the band Ultra Q, they are a post-punk rock band from Oakland, California and their sound is comprised with elements of emo, new wave, pop, shoegaze, and garage punk rock.

The band is fronted by Jakob Armstrong, the youngest son of Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, and includes Kevin Judd, and brothers Enzo Malsapina and Chris Malaspina.

Prior to performing under the name Ultra Q, the band was formerly called Mt. Eddy and released an album called Chroma along with a self-titled single with three tracks called ‘Zombie,’ ‘I Luv Robert Smith,’ and ‘Menial.’

They made the name change to Ultra Q in 2019 and released their debut EP, We’re Starting to Get Along, which includes five songs and single ‘Redwoood.’ A year later during the COVID-19 Pandemic, the band recorded their second EP In a Cave in a Video Game, which includes eight songs that the band recorded separately from each other.

In 2021, the band released their third EP titled Get Yourself A Friend, which is comprised of six tracks including the title track for the EP.

Two years later the band released their debut album titled My Guardian Angel on June 9, which includes 12 songs on the album along with four singles. Prior to the album announcement the band released the song ‘I Watched Them Go,’ which was a major shift in sound from their last EP, as precursor to what was in store for their upcoming album.

Now that I’ve caught up with a bit of the history of Ultra Q, I’ll let you know how the concert was at Polaris Hall.

I was initially surprised by how small the venue was when I arrived at Polaris Hall and was one of the first people to arrive at the venue. I was waiting outside as Ultra Q was unloading their gear and merchandise from their van that they were driving in for their tour with Wavves.

All the bands set up their merch along the right side of the venue and since Polaris Hall is a very small intimate venue, I got to talk with Ultra Q and hang out with the band prior to the start of the show.

I loved that the venue was small enough for that as the shows I’ve attended typically do not have that capability. While the band was setting up, I introduced myself to the band members of Ultra Q and had a conversation with them to pass the time.

Jakob, Kevin, Enzo, and Chris were all friendly and I got to talk with each band member individually while they were setting up their merchandise table.

I spoke with Ultra Q’s bassist Kevin Judd the most and learned a lot of cool details about him as well as details about My Guardian Angel. 

Kevin also gave me a setlist and a guitar pick after they performed their set while they were setting up the equipment for Wavves. I want to thank Kevin again for doing that, it was a cool gesture and especially for it being my first Ultra-Q show.

Ultra Q opened their set with an unreleased song at the time called ‘Wrip.’ ‘Wrip’ is garage punk influenced and was pleasant to hear as it brought early energy to their setlist.

After ‘Wrip’ the band kept the energy up and transitioned into previously released songs from their last three EPs, which included ‘Some Dice,’ ‘What D’you Call It,’ and ‘It’s Permanent.’ I enjoyed hearing each of these songs played live one after another and got lost in the energy as well as the music.

The band changed the pace by playing ‘Rocket,’ one of the new songs off My Guardian Angel. The song is influenced by dream pop sounds and ambiance, which reminded me of The Cure. I enjoyed hearing the song when it was released as well as performed live.

The band quickly picked up the pace and energy and ripped through their next four songs, which were ‘Pupkin,’ ‘Gool,’ ‘Rosy,’ and ‘Sticnpoke.’ ‘Gool,’ ‘Sticnpoke,’ and ‘Rosy’ have a lot of classic punk rock influences, which were prevalent in the music, while ‘Pupkin’ is more garage rock influenced. I loved the contrast between the songs and felt that they fit the energy of the set.

Ultra Q then slowed down the pace and tempo by playing ‘Saturday,’ an unreleased song at the time. When I first heard it I was blown away by how it sounded as it was completely different than what I expected from the band.

The song is very synth heavy that provides a glistening ambiance to the song, along with a trembling guitar that drives the melody of ‘Saturday.’ This was arguably one of my favorite songs from the album and I was so glad to hear it played live.

Ultra Q then closed out the night with ‘VR Sex,’ which shined as a contrast from ‘Saturday’ with choppier guitar riffs and sky-high energy. I also loved this song and felt that it was a great close to a great setlist of old and new songs by Ultra Q.

After the show, I picked up a setlist and guitar pick from Kevin and after Wavves played their set, I went to the merch table and picked up their new album on vinyl. The band signed my vinyl as well, which I appreciated, as they likely could tell I was a big fan of the group.

I do appreciate them being patient with me in that regard, but they also understood as well why I was a big fan of the band. I was the only one there at the show who was primarily there to watch them perform, but after talking to a few concert goers I likely turned some people to their music, which is cool.

I had a great time watching Ultra Q play live and in addition to the signed vinyl, setlist, and guitar pick, I also picked up a t-shirt from the band that was designed by Enzo Malaspina. I got to tell him how much I liked the design before the show.

I’d definitely go see Ultra Q again next time they are on tour around Oregon or the Pacific Northwest.

Now as for the rest of the album, I have no bones to pick with My Guardian Angel and I like all the songs off the album. I recommend that you listen to it for yourself, wherever you get your music.

 

Ultra Q Setlist at Polaris Hall 6/1/23

  1. Wrip
  2. Some Dice
  3. What D’you Call It
  4. It’s Permanent
  5. Rocket
  6. Pupkin
  7. Gool
  8. Rosy
  9. Sticnpoke
  10. Saturday
  11. VR Sex

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