The 12th annual Denver Post Underground Music Showcase charged forward Saturday through nearly 100-degree heat with large crowds clogging the South Broadway corridor.
More venues opened their doors to the 300 or so artists while tangent events and unofficial neighborhood house parties filled the Baker neighborhood with buzz. It was a welcomed return to traditional UMS form following Friday’s moment of silence for the midnight massacre in Aurora. While many festival-goers were undoubtedly distraught on Day 2 of the showcase following the Thursday night tragedy, Day 3 saw an increasingly diverse music community evolving into one cohesive, party-ready unit.
Kevin Costner Suicide Pact was the first band of the weekend inside Gildar Gallery, kicking off Day 3 with experimental electronic music. The band’s four members twisted, turned and poked at various knobs and triggers before an intimate crowd — avant garde sounds in an avant garde space.
Down the street, the Whicker and Pine started the day inside the Irish Rover with a set of indie-folk-rock tinged with late-’90s pop punk. While the instrumentals were energetic, the vocals were otherwise forgettable. Upstairs on the Rover’s rooftop patio, Joe Sampson’s “Kill Our Friends” happy hour was the place to see and be seen. Sampson sat perched near his Fellow Creature Recordings label maven Jules Bethea for much of the afternoon. Aaron Collins of A. Tom Collins rubbed elbows with Hi-Dive/Sputnik owner Matt LaBarge. Earlier in the day, Nathaniel Rateliff shared drinks with James Barone of Tennis during the final hour of the Reverb Recovery Rooftop after loading in Sampson.
The two largest house parties of the day were within spitting distance of one another. The Brass Tree house hosted Wheelchair Sports Camp, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, the Morning Clouds and more in a BYOB environment, while the Meese house (home to Nate Meese of the Centennial/Lips & Teeth) offered complimentary beer, wine, “monkey juice” and hot dogs in a picturesque backyard setting. Flashbulb Fires played indie-pop in the vein of Death Cab For Cutie as the blazing hot afternoon drifted into evening.
Accordion Crimes played a well-received set at 3 Kings Tavern that found the garage-punk band sounding particularly raw. Across the street at the Main Stage in the Goodwill parking lot, Gauntlet Hair proved tight and in-the-pocket after a short struggle through an elongated sound check.
Later, Native Daughters packed a respectable crowd at 3 Kings with their winding post-rock — some welcomed sludge and drone after what felt like a day rife with fast songs. Shabazz Palaces, perhaps the most-hyped acts of the weekend, closed the Main Stage Saturday night, though the duo’s tepid energy prevented the set from ever truly lifting off the ground. The music, while smart and capable, was perhaps too experimental for such a large space. Down the street, Shabazz’s Sub Pop labelmates THEESatisfaction offered one of the weekend’s best performances at a maximum capacity Hi-Dive. The female duo played with swagger and ease while engaging the sardine’d crowd (for an obvious comparison, think a female version of A Tribe Called Quest).
Shortly after midnight at 3 Kings, A. Tom Collins played an expectedly raucous set with frontman Aaron Collins stage diving, crowd surfing, emulating sex with his piano and abusing his mic stand. During the last song, Collins mounted his piano to lead the audience in an a capella version of the final bars of “Fuck The Pretty People.” He paused and surveyed the room in a manner reminiscent of two years prior, when his former band, Machine Gun Blues, reunited in the same space. “My city…” he said, pausing shortly “…your city.”
Day 3 came to a close with dueling cross-street parties: special guest band Flobots played to a packed Hi-Dive while parody electronic group Total Ghost led a dance party that poured out onto the sidewalk outside Delite. Last call had just passed, but no one wanted to go home.
Seth McConnell is a member of YourHub at The Denver Post and a new contributor to Reverb.