All this weekend the Reverb staff will be sharing short scenes from UMS 2014. On day one we watched the Irish Rover share whiskey, ate at Sputnik and listened to Hollow Talk’s hot wall of guitars.
The UMS began with grilled cheese and french fries at Sputnik. Nothing soaks up the alcohol quite like the thick artisan bread, multiple cheeses and some fried potatoes dipped in whatever magic goes into the Especial sauce. Early Thursday night, it was perfect. The bar was not yet crowded with hammered fans, but instead just barely full of people who look like they’re in bands. ‘Those bearded dudes in that booth…’ you think, ‘Aren’t they in that band I saw that one time at Lost Lake?’ The hour there was a good way to ease in to the loud, drunken nights and days to come. (And also prove to a skeptic that Sputnik’s grilled cheese is indeed bomb.) — Ashley Dean
The hot wall of guitars that heralded Hollow Talk‘s UMS-opening song at the Hi-Dive on Thursday night did band leader Duncan Barlow proud. A veteran of some nationally-renowned punk, creep-country and indie rock outfits, Barlow’s shimmering tones felt like a warm embrace around 8 p.m. at the ostensibly central locale of the festival. Past years’ opening sets have occasionally been agreeable whimpers, or droning, suffocating waves of ponderous melody. “Hammer” felt like a shoegazing shove out of the door, a three-chord shot of molasses and caffeine that woke up the crowd while massaging our ear drums. The Denver supergroup, which also contains vets like Rob Burleson (drums) and Hi-Dive co-owner Holland Rock-Garden (keys), was workmanlike and steely, not afraid to swing a guitar during a dynamic break, but never preening or wasting the packed room’s attention. The set unfolded like a distorted, ear-shattering sigh as the band wound through songs like “Castle” and “Following,” which would have been a great soundtrack for the high school graduation of the glowering child of Sonic Youth and Hum. “Hammer,” indeed. — John Wenzel
Over at 3 Kings Tavern, romance was in the air… along with marketing. Couples and hook-ups could be seen making out and slow dancing to the folky sounds of Goodnight, Texas. The band, which has members hailing from San Francisco and Chapel Hill, N.C., played the 10 p.m. slot. With banjo and mandolin going full force, the group gave the space a mellow bluegrass feel that fans seemed to enjoy. A spokesperson from Mad Genius Radio was the most lively attendee, chatting concertgoers up about the personal radio app, which is apparently “Pandora on steroids.” — Sean Fitz-Gerald
Ah, nothing better than sharing a drink with friends. Or, as it played out during Somerset Catalog‘s 9 p.m. set at the Irish Rover, sharing a glass of whiskey (no ice or mixer) with an entire crowd and a band. Despite some hesitant glances, the band assured the fans it was sterile “because it’s whiskey.” “Roofies,” someone murmured. But soon it disappeared, sip by sip. There wasn’t any wild dancing from the crowd, but Somerset Catalog’s set was contagiously energetic, cutting through any shyness like the surprisingly loud volume of their keyboard. The night seemed fairly normal, with awkward dancing, overly-affectionate couples on the sidewalk and plenty of heartfelt pleas from bands asking the crowd to purchase their CDs. But then there was the guy peeing in public on a Ford F-250 after the show.
“It’s a gas-guzzler, man,” he said, then shrugged. — Jordan Gonzalez