The UMS: A review by Elana Jefferson

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It was a scene only occasionally spotted on the streets of Denver, and even then only among the white collars and conventioneers who populate the 16th Street Mall: Street performance.

The brutal, record-setting August sun had just set over South Broadway on Friday, inviting swelling crowds to congregate on the sidewalks during the first night of the 8th annual Denver Post Underground Music Showcase (UMS), when the guitar-strumming songstress Christina Dietz propped open her shiny white instrument case on the corner of Ellsworth Avenue in front of Mutiny Now Art Books & Coffee. With the look and finesse of a modern-day Betty Boop and a musical style reminiscent of the sultry British indie rocker Carina Round, Dietz worked her catalogue of originals like a siren, wooing passers-by to stop, watch and comment before ambling on to one of about 20 festival venues.

From dark and gritty rock stages and edgy urban boutiques to serene gallery spaces, day one of the Showcase was all about building momentum. It was the first bite of an irresistible listening dish that left attendees wanting more. And more they will get today as UMS, a volunteer run local music cavalcade boasting more than 100 Colorado acts, fully blossoms with an eclectic line-up that includes film, stand-up comedy, craft demonstrations and video game showdowns. Look for details and ticketing information at dpums.com, and watch Reverb in the coming days for loads more festival coverage.

Friday night’s schedule was convincing proof that this event has something for everyone.

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Consider the folky, soulful early evening performance by Molly Cherington, Robyn Aasmundstad and Bevin Luna on the Bocumast Stage at the Kabal Rug Kilm. This second-story import rug showroom with the smell of fine wool became an easygoing, respectful venue where fans of singer-songwriters could relax on the stacks of floor coverings and take in the reflective acoustic fare.

Meanwhile, downstairs in the dimly lit cocktail lounge at Blue Ice,

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a late happy hour crowd swirled straws in their highballs and sucked back creamy brews adorned with citrus slices as The World Romantic unleashed its brand of dreamy piano pop, a sound that could easily transcend listeners to the sweetest first-kiss scenes in their favorite John Hughes teen flick.

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The show was one of liquor-soaked fire and brimstone down the street on the Evergroove Stage at 3 Kings Tavern as Rev. Deadeye preached his raucous anti-gospel through a tin can mic and shook a tambourine on his ankle behind hand-scrawled cardboard signs that read “Bless Yer Sinnin Ass Soul” and “F*ck the Devil.”

Things sounded a little less fine-tuned across the street on the Aversion.com Stage at the Hi-Dive during a set by Sleeper Horse that had a few meatheads in front performing one-man waves to the band’s angsty college radio punk rock.

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Rolling on through the night, Roger Green left his small audience in a contemplative state as he electronically manipulated guitar notes and vocals during an experimental set on the Suburban Home Records Stage at South Broadway Christian Church. And Boulder singer-songwriter Kathryn Ostenberg, in her last local show before relocating to L.A. next week, proved a tiny young woman can boast big personality and even bigger vocals during her solo on the Yelp Stage at the Hornet.

The Overcasters later delivered epic psychedelic new wave at 3 Kings, followed by a ballsy Bad Luck City performance that showcased these thoughtful rockers mining their gothic Americana for all its spooky loveliness.

But these are just the ramblings of one lil ole scribbler! Writers and photogs blanketed UMS this year, which will make for great reading on this blog in the days to come. Or better yet, check out the festival yourself! It continues today from 1 p.m. through midnight. You’ll find a full schedule at dpums.com.