UMS 2012: Photos and review of Friday nightBy John Wenzel | July 21st, 2012 | No Comments »
Escapism can be a rare treat, judging by recent events, but the Friday night lineup at the Denver Post’s 12th annual Underground Music Showcase provided enough positive diversions to give the heavy-hearted something to celebrate.
The mood at the main outdoor stage of the 2012 UMS was somber at 6 p.m. as AM 1340 OpenAir DJ Alisha Sweeney introduced first act ManCub — with a moment of silence for the victims of the Aurora movie theater shooting.
“These things are always tough to talk about,” she said. “But this is all about celebrating positivity.”
On cue, the keyboard-ready duo of Mancub started up its chunky electro-dance beats, soon to be joined by two purple spandex-clad dancers on risers, opposite the main members. The sparse crowd began shaking in the formidable 97-degree heat, and Friday night was off to a start. Across South Broadway at 3 Kings Tavern, musician and Westword scribe Bree Davies, of indie-punk group Night of Joy, echoed the sentiment with another moment of silence.
“I don’t know how to do one of these without being awkward,” she said, staring daggers into her bass guitar. “But if you could just take a moment to think about someone other than yourself, that would be great.”
Davies and her band wasted no time laying into the Sonic Youth-worthy grinding, at once mannered and ragged in their lunging chord changes and ostentatious drum fills. The act has become a live force in recent years, recalling a time when mainstream rock had far more excellent female role models.
A few clicks south, Abbey Jordan bravely ran through her improv stand-up show the Finger — which usually occurs at the Deer Pile art space above City O’ City — for a few dozen daylight souls at the Hornet. Why brave? Because doing comedy in an uncontrolled room with constant coming-and-goings is a potentially mood-shattering, nightmarish experience. But with the help of cohort and Denver comedian Andrew Orvedahl, Jordan wrested precious laughs from audience-suggested topics like tennis, potato salad, lubrication, children and tentacles. (Sounds like a Richard Brautigan poem, right?)
Down the block at an already-sweaty 3 Kings, Ill Cattivo peddled its distorted wares for the growing crowd of drunken beard-dudes. Like a version of Omaha’s Cursive weaned on southern metal and Jesus Lizard 7-inches, they shredded their way into the crowds’ boozy hearts with nary a pause between songs. Beach balls and booties ruled at the Goodwill stage across the street as New Orleans sissy bounce dynamo Big Freedia (pronounced “Big Free-duh”) and her Divas brought new meaning to the phrase “Azz Everywhere.” The fairly packed, posterior-shakin’ crowd was also full of local fan-club Shake Team members.
The enthusiastic abandon felt especially sweet in the waning, still-hot daylight as Freedia — in her hot-pink party shirt with “Queen Diva” spray-painted on the back — joined her fetching dancers in gloriously repetitive hip-hop chants. It felt later than it was, even two songs in. And that perfectly set the stage for Austin, Texas psych kings Black Moth Super Rainbow, who melded electro-crank nicities with fuzz-screwed, low-end bass. The wildly disparate atmospheres created a delicious tension that spilled into the streets as the main-stage acts wrapped on time, as advertised.
John Wenzel is an A&E reporter and digital media editor for The Denver Post and the author of “Mock Stars: Indie Comedy and the Dangerously Funny” (Speck Press/Fulcrum). Follow him @johntwenzel and @beardsandgum.
Seth McConnell is a member of YourHub at The Denver Post and a new contributor to Reverb.