UMS 2012: Photos and review of Sunday nightBy John Hendrickson | July 23rd, 2012 | No Comments »
As the sun set on the 12th annual Denver Post Underground Music Showcase Sunday night, the communal, mellow atmosphere was that of a festival returning to its local roots. The Main Stage hosted several choice local acts before headliner Atlas Sound at 9 p.m., and the crowd for returning UMS performer Nathaniel Rateliff was comparable to that of first-timer Bradford Cox under his Atlas Sound moniker.
UMS event director Kendall Smith said the festival saw a 25 percent increase in attendance over 2011 with more than 14,000 estimated concert-goers during the four-day event.
Rateliff’s set was rife with new material, and his backing band, Fairchildren, seemed more dialed in than ever. As in recent performances, Rateliff opted for an electric guitar over his usual acoustic for much of the set, and with it came some edgier, harder-rocking songs. Longtime crowd favorite “Shroud” left the thousand or so spectators swaying as clouds rolled in from the South.
Through a bit of Day 4 luck, the dark, looming storm clouds skirted the festival area and did not disrupt Atlas Sound’s headlining set. The aforementioned Cox, looking particularly Colorado-ready with a cowboy hat and mouth harp, played a winding, delicate set that trickled just past his 10 p.m. curfew. Cox used loops and various pedal effects to his utmost advantage, creating an ocean of sound with but a few strums and clicks. He opened with a unique take on Hank Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and offered meandering versions of “Mona Lisa” and “Te Amo” from last year’s “Parallax.”
Earlier in the day, Paper Bird singer Esme Patterson played an intimate set at Delite, filling both the venue and sidewalk outside. Patterson’s three-piece band, featuring Bare Bones’ Ben DeSoto on drums, was a new discovery for many at the festival. The set was beautiful and melancholy (one spectator likened it to Sharon Van Etten’s March performance at the Bluebird). It was in stark contrast to Patterson’s Main Stage set with Paper Bird two hours later — cheerful, upbeat, family-friendly and familiar.
Down the street, the Belle Jar played smart folk rock punctuated by Courtney Wilson’s well-honed violin skills. Safe Boating Is No Accident performed to a respectable crowd at the Hi-Dive, eschewing traditional alt-country for a blend of garage rock and country rock that recalled Uncle Tupelo. Lead singer Leighton Peterson is a literate songwriter, though he let Brian Eno do the work with a nugget cover of “Baby’s On Fire.”
The biggest live discovery of Day 4, and perhaps the weekend, was indie-folk band You Me and Apollo. Frontman Brent Cowles has a throaty howl as big as his mop top of curls. Cowles was not only one of the most memorable singers of Sunday evening, but the entire festival. Expect this band to take the Main Stage in 2013.
Seth McConnell is a member of YourHub at The Denver Post and a new contributor to Reverb.