Fourteen-year-olds are hardly ever praised for their maturity.
But after 14 years of concerts at dozens of venues along the South Broadway corridor, The Denver Post’s annual Underground Music Showcase (UMS) is starting to take on a sophistication and marketing savvy that most long-running festivals would be lucky to achieve.
New to this year’s July 24-27 event: The UMS outdoor stage, which usually occupies the parking lot behind the Goodwill Denver store, will move to the larger lot across Archer Street at the Social Security Federal Credit Union, with upgraded sound and lighting.
There, national and local indie acts such as Blonde Redhead, People Under the Stairs, Real Estate, Sunboy and the Royal will play in an expanded area that includes more shade areas and picnic tables than in years past.
And, according to event director Kendall Smith, The UMS will for the first time feature official day parties that are “indicative of organizations that recognize the mission of The UMS and choose to support it and The Denver Post Community Foundation.”
The nonprofit UMS is a signature event of the The Denver Post Community Foundation, which distributes net proceeds to local charities.
Rebranding various UMS concerts as official day parties is a smart move.
Popular festivals such as the Austin, Texas confab South by Southwest — which The UMS and other fests have been modeled after — have grappled with hugely popular, unofficial day parties that have threatened to eclipse or detract from the main event with competing sponsorships and crowds who are more interested in freeze booze than listening to music.
And while the parties that sprout up around festivals tend to be signs of their success — this year’s unofficial Centennial Day Party, for example, has expanded to two days (July 26-27) with bands such as Ark Life, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake and Miss America (who are also playing official UMS shows) — Smith likes to keep the emphasis firmly on South Broadway.
The UMS will take place at 20 different venues along South Broadway between 6th Avenue and Alameda Avenue and feature hundreds of Colorado artists representing folk, indie, metal, hip-hop, country and others genres, plus DJs, stand-up comics and more.
Official UMS day parties will be presented by Smash Music Management, Holy Underground, SpokesBuzz, Moon Magnet Studios and Reverb, The Denver Post’s music site, among others.
Also new: real estate development company D4 Urban will provide approximately 200 public parking spaces at 363 S. Broadway, which event director Smith hopes will alleviate some of the parking pressure in the neighborhood.
Returning to the fest: “Sesh” industry panels July 26-27 that look at music philanthropy, copyright law, digital distribution and branding. Presenting sponsor Schomp Mini’s “Joy Ride” program will once again offer free shuttle rides among UMS venues in its vehicles. (The station is located in front of the main festival area at 99 S. Broadway.)
With a distinguished alumni list that includes DeVotchKa, the Lumineers, Nathaniel Rateliff, Dressy Bessy, Warlock Pinchers, Flobots and Isaac Slade of the Fray, The UMS has proven itself as a reliable place to catch Denver’s best up-and-coming acts — which seems only likely to continue as it enters its emotionally-charged teenage years.