The UMS, Day 3: A welcome flood of stimulation — stories, slideshows and moreBy John Hendrickson | July 25th, 2010 | 2 comments
To say that there’s too much music at the Underground Music Showcase — maybe, in its 10th year, way too much — is blasphemy. But even a hardcore fan can be challenged to keep up with the marathon of gigs that take place here.
There were approximately 100 scheduled shows on Saturday across 25 unique stages. While variety breeds discovery, it also yields disappointment in having to choose between overlapping acts. After two long afternoons and late nights, the eight-block walk between this fest’s non-traditional venues suddenly seems less worthwhile when more “proven” bands are available in more accessible locations.
UMS Day 3 slideshows:
AUDIO SLIDESHOW of The Pirate Signal playing the third night of The UMS. Slideshow by Dan Petty and Deven Swartz, The Denver Post.
With such an excess of music, the idea of performance lags seems impossible, yet Saturday at the UMS saw its share of coordination and production issues. The fresh addition of Lucha libre (Mexican wrestling) in the Goodwill parking lot took too long to get rolling and left some audience members more bewildered than entertained before matches began.
On the Groove Automotive stage, American Idol’s Lilly Scott struggled with a faulty pickup on her acoustic guitar. Likewise, Scott’s cover of Animal Collective’s “Bluish” created an uncomfortable nexus of the otherwise secular “mainstream” and “underground” music scenes.
However, just as festival nausea threatened to take over, along came Bobo.
Andrew Porter shuffled on the sidewalk outside of 3 Kings Tavern in a fraying gorilla suit to promote his band’s Sunday night UMS showcase. Band mate and lead singer of 4H Royalty Zach Boddicker served as Porter’s unofficial translator, explaining that “Bobo” simply couldn’t speak. He was, after all, a gorilla. Bobo scribbled cryptic messages on a notepad and received all nourishment through a straw. People laughed.
“I had a vision,” said Boddicker. “I took a nap at work and had a dream that I was being chased by a gorilla. So I came home and told the guys that we needed to find a gorilla costume for the weekend.’”
When fighting roughly 300 acts for attention, creativity calls.
The self-described “twang rock” band has cycled three members through the hairy suit since the Thursday night start of the UMS and promised that their Sunday evening performance will be “a party.”
Day 3 also included several panels in the basement of South Broadway Christian Church. In a discussion entitled “Denver: A Venue Avenue,” three local club owners discussed the rise of independent rock clubs in relation to the burgeoning local music scene.
“It takes more than a room and a stage and a PA to be a cool place to see music,” said Hi-Dive owner Matt LaBarge.
The panel lamented routine bidding wars among venues and mused over the dangers of over-saturation. A walk down South Broadway this weekend certainly gives off that impression.
The Rouge initially played to a sparse crowd as the second act on the Car Toys outdoor stage. The band started shortly after lead singer Josh Vaught spoke on a panel alongside Flobots vocalist Brer Rabbit and Patrick Meese about the pros and cons of signing to a major label.
Indeed, mainstream-leaning acts can have a difficult time at an underground festival. The badge of discovery has long since vanished and, in some circumstances, so has the DIY work ethic.
Denver’s the Lumineers played to an over-capacity crowd at the Illiterate Magazine gallery and were mentioned by many as “a discovery of the festival.”
With skin and bones choral folk in the vein of Seattle’s Fleet Foxes, the Lumineers are destined to play a larger stage at next year’s event.
Even further removed from the sponsored stages and towering Heineken banners was 19-year-old Ben Flippo. Outfitted with a black fedora and an open instrument case, Flippo strummed his resonator guitar a few steps down from the Hi-Dive for most of Saturday evening. The Nashville-based “travelin’ musician” has lived in and out of Denver for the past three years and makes a living as a street musician. His punk-bluegrass band, Barefoot Surrender, performs regularly on the streets of Boulder and, according to Flippo, averages $500 for a day’s work.
“You’re not welcome!” Flippo quipped to a festival goer caught sneaking a snapshot.
Despite making a go at it as a performer, he insists on maintaining his privacy.
When asked about the challenge of such a wish at a large-scale event, Flippo responded, without a hint of irony, “What event?”
More UMS coverage on the next page …