Denver’s perennial music festival
Underground Music Showcase ’19
Retaining its position as Denver’s longest-running and most prolific music festival for the 19th consecutive year, 2019’s Underground Music Showcase (UMS) brings a host of national and local talent to their largest iteration of the festival yet.
Unlike many of the festival’s previous years which typically featured only one main outdoor stage, UMS 2019 boasted three full-sized outdoor stages. This included a lavish “Showcase” Stage for the larger acts, and over 15 indoor venues from Fifth Street to Alameda. Other settings included classic Broadway venues like 3 Kings, the Hi-Dive, and Mutiny Café. Some wilder ones were thrown in the mix as well like Import Mechanics, which featured a raucous DJ set to open to the bizarre and Burning Man-esque “Odyssey” Stage.
The Showcase’s profile has increased to attract larger touring acts as of late, like the second day’s Chicano Batman. Hailing from Los Angeles, the group somehow seemed to be a perfect fit for the Denver scene. Most of their tunes feature a laid-back groove with spacey organs and Thin Lizzy guitar harmonies that would fare nicely with any of the many jam bands in the local scene. While the festival was of course exceptionally well-produced and well-mixed, Chicano Batman seemed to have struck something special, as every instrument cut through the whole mix exquisitely to enhance each tune. The band performed well in addition, running and jumping on stage to a level of excitement not often found on their studio records, with an audience hanging on every note.
A similarly unforgettable performance came from experimental electro producer Yves Tumor. Yves was one of the few acts to bring nothing more than a track and themselves, but it didn’t seem to matter between the soulful vocals and enigmatic stage presence that made for a strange and alluring performance. There was some conflict between Yves and the sound department, regarding the volume of sound in the front of the house, which ended with Yves announcing, “They told me I have five minutes…because they don’t like me!” Still, the performance and sound were both pretty tight.
It wasn’t just main stage acts from out of town that made up the festival, as was the case with Stop Motion frontwoman and CU Denver student Faith Allen’s solo set. Her catalogue featured a handful of unperformed and unreleased acoustic folk ballads, accompanied by her well-tempered and tasteful vocal ability. The venue, the Baere Brewing Company, was a relaxed and out-of-the-way locale that complemented the stripped-down performance, allowing for a more intimate audience experience than the loud and raucousness of the outdoor venues.
Attendees aged 20 and below should be warned before considering UMS 2020 however, as most of the indoor venues hosting local talent feature a pretty strict 21 and up policy, with the others following suit by about nine o’clock. Still, the festival is a worthy pilgrimage for any local music listener and will surely expose audience members of all ages and kinds to something new.