Friday’s UMS started with a bang at 6 p.m. as a packed Hi-Dive enjoyed a set from Dudebabes, a “fun punk” band (as Denver drummer Rob Burleson would say) that featured former members of the Legendary River Drifters plying a wide range of sleazy guitar rock from behind fake mustaches and taco bikinis.
Yep. Taco bikinis. Dudebabes’ party mission, which includes song titles like “Hot Tub Hand Job,” drag outfits and a cover of “Dude Looks Like a Lady,” was decidedly not family-friendly during the weekday happy hour, but that’s OK. The 21-and-up Hi-Dive was filled with appreciative fans of the Denver band’s punk/rockabilly sound and general ridiculousness. And really, what’s not to appreciate? The group’s pair of tattooed, black bikini-clad backup dancers used taco shells and slices of pizza as accessories as two other dudes thrust crotches through a black Speedo and pedaled lazily on a stationary bike, handing out drinks and distributing popcorn and even a turkey leg into the audience.
It was a marked contrast from the earnest folk-rock of Esme Patterson that followed across the street at 3 Kings Tavern. The Paper Bird singer-gone-solo rocked out a bit harder than usual on songs like “My Young Man,” her delicate but robust melodies leading to a smiley, crowd-wide head nod as festival-goers packed the front of the venue. A scorching set by L.A. girl-punks, Bleached, heralded the cloudy sunset across the street at the Goodwill Main Stage. Offering songs from their Dead Oceans debut “Ride Your Heart” and a couple less familiar B-sides, the fierce but upbeat set came off like Joey Ramone and pals reincarnated as a trio of Valley chicks and a workmanlike dude drummer. Dancing and awesomeness ensued.
Seminal Seattle band Mudhoney lost some of Bleached’s crowd with its relatively wanky, if punishingly precise, guitar solos, but Accordion Crimes did a far better job of summoning the ghosts of ’90s post-punk with its set at the Skylark Lounge. The band, which wears its Big Black/Shellac influences proudly on its sleeve, got in and out with nary a wasted note and an armload of tortured, angular arrangements. By the time the Yawpers delivered a dance-friendly set of raucous Americana to another crazy-packed crowd at Illegal Pete’s down the street, it was clear The UMS has matured into a legitimate brute of a music festival — the kind who sits on your chest and force-feeds you beer and excellent, if hilariously random, music. And there are still two more days to go.