Friday’s sweltering heat did little to dampen Day 2 of the 11th annual Underground Music Showcase.
The UMS, as it’s been known the past few years, welcomed another eager crop of local and national acts — and fans — to 16 stages along the retail- and bar-heavy strip of South Broadway.
Denver pop-rock act Hellogoodbye serenaded rush-hour traffic from its outdoor perch, belting out bouncy, appropriately named tunes such as “Finding Something to Do” with a jittery and uptempo stage presence. It nailed certain songs with a slicing, Strokes-influenced guitar prowess but fell flat on its contrived set closer, which poured Auto-Tuned vocals into a cookie-cutter pop mold.
Hip-hop duo Mermaids followed with a short but equally impassioned set at the smaller stage a few feet away in the Goodwill store’s parking lot, and the dozens of indoor venues followed suit. The Hi-Dive hosted a set from Fort Collins’ Fierce Bad Rabbit, an agreeable and dapper quartet augmented with viola and heavy percussion. Cornball lyrics aside, the soaring harmonies and fist-pumping melodies worked the crowd into a state of early bliss.
Epilogues, a recent Denver pop-rock cause celèbre, drew a smaller-than-expected crow to the outdoor main stage but finished with a rollicking version of Filter’s “Hey Man, Nice Shot,” lead singer Chris Heckman smashing his guitar to bits and doling out its sorry pieces to the audience.
Folk outfit Miss America, featuring members of indie troubadour Nathaniel Rateliff’s touring band Fairchildren, packed the curio store Ironwood Collection to capacity. Twenty or so people milled about the entrance just to get an earful of the gentle acoustic goodness inside.
Down the block at 3 Kings Tavern, New York guitar-drums duo Twin Guns pummeled the assembled faithful with a reverb-heavy set of garage rock. Black leather jackets and sunglasses in an ostensible sweathouse? It’s only rock ‘n’ roll.
With a format that mirrors the Austin, Texas, new music behemoth South by Southwest, the newly nonprofit UMS delivers a lot. And that can be intimidating to festival newcomers unaccustomed to the multistage onslaught.
But for culture-hungry denizens, the aggressively political sets from hip-hop firebrand Sage Francis, or comedians like Andrew Orvedahl (debuting his “Iron Chef”-styled stand-up competition Randomicity at Sobo 151), are manna from heaven.
The diverse folks bobbing and dancing to scratch-mashup DJ Bobby C Sound TV at the TS Board Shop stage were indicative of The UMS at large on Friday.
A cozy neighborhood fest with baby strollers, grandmas and thousands of drunk hipsters? Sounds about right.
Click here for a bonus photo gallery of Day 2, Hipsters via Hipstamatic.
Click here to view Hot Shots: Scenes from South Broadway @ UMS 2011, Day 2.
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.