Live review: Underground Music Showcase (UMS), Day 1By John Wenzel | July 22nd, 2011 | 5 comments
Thursday nights are typically engine-revving nights in the Mile High City, but this week’s model arrived with a deafening roar, courtesy of the 11th annual Underground Music Showcase.
The multistage event, which takes place along the dense environs of South Broadway’s retail — and restaurant-heavy strip, easily bested previous years with its early, raucous crowds and buzzworthy lineup.
Denver act Sweet Tooth Meat Tooth, with members of local notables Snake Rattle Rattle Snake and Fairchildren, drew a surprisingly large crowd for a 6 p.m. set at punk bar 3 Kings Tavern.
The moody but pop-centric tunes set an insistent tone that reigned for the rest of the evening.
Across the street, metal trio Trees plied its percussive wares to an adoring Hi-Dive crowd that was eager to devour beers and blinding guitar riffs.
That’s a large part of the appeal of a South by Southwest-style festival such as this: Trees’ set may have been an agreeably punishing way to absorb the day’s waning light, but across the street, at the Irish Rover, indie-pop group As Tall as Buildings was delivering an impassioned and anthemic (if, at times, vocally underwhelming) set to the assembled faithful.
In other words, variety rules.
The Skylark Lounge, typically consigned to rockabilly, punk and swing bands, hosted an energetic set from tongue-in-cheek indie group Science Partners. The band’s strong stage presence, male-female harmonies and keen sense of dynamics steeled the crowd early on, resulting in scattered “boos” when it announced its imminent departure from the stage.
Stand-up comedy, either a stepchild or daddy’s girl at music festivals, didn’t fare quite as well.
Despite the best efforts of host and Denver expatriate Ben Kronberg, the joke-telling sets at coffee shop Michelangelo’s were solid in quality but spotty in attendance and attention.
As of press time, Denver indie buzz band Gauntlet Hair was busy flattening a near-capacity crowd at the Hi-Dive. Its recordings have landed it a deal with respected label Dead Oceans and increasing press with tastemaker websites such as Pitchfork, but Thursday’s set was essentially a coming-out party for the band.
With its unclassifiable mix of acrobatic vocals, percussive trickery and massively chugging bass, Gauntlet Hair has a shot at being the next indie-rock sensation — and Thursday’s set announced it with megaphone force.
The UMS continues through Sunday with hundreds more bands, comedians, films and DJs.
If its inaugural 2011 step is any indication, it’s going in the right direction.
Click here to view Hot Shots: Scenes from South Broadway @ UMS 2011.
John Wenzel is an executive editor of Reverb and an award-winning A&E reporter for The Denver Post. He is the author of “Mock Stars: Indie Comedy and the Dangerously Funny” (Speck Press/Fulcrum) and maintains a Twitter feed of completely random song titles and band names.
Jakob Berr is a Denver Post photo intern and a new contributor to Reverb.