April 27, 2010

2010 UMX Competition at Bender's Tavern

Writing for a music magazine is really fun.

No, seriously, it is.

One of the many perks is that you get invited to neat events, such as UMX. This is an annual "Battle of the Bands" put on by Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods (CHUN), the brains behind the city's biggest festival, People's Fair. Leading up to the event, hundreds of bands apply for the chance to just play at UMX. Out of those hundreds, only about 80 are accepted. Over the course of a weekend, each band plays a 10-minute-long set, while the audience judges them. The event is free to everyone.

The prize: the opportunity to play in front of thousands of people at People's Fair.

I haven't quite figured out the system of green ballots versus orange ballots. Sponsors and "official" judges get one color while everyone else gets another color. What I do know, however, is that by being associated with Colorado Music Buzz, I get free beers. And isn't that what music is really about: free beers?

So, on March 28th, desperately hungover from the night before, I dragged my sorry ass to Benders Tavern. I felt too sick for their fantastic Bloody Marys, but I summoned the willpower to suck one down, anyways. Unbeatable, I tell you. I have the strength of forty gods.

Along with my boyfriend and my best friend (a musician and a music promoter, respectively...together, we're like the A-Team of Denver music), we traipsed between the two stages every ten minutes, watching band after band. Some were good, some were bad, some were really bad. But none were average. Because the rule of the ballots is that you can't rate a band as average (a 3, on the scale of 1-5). Otherwise, 75% of the bands would be 3s. This makes the task of judging extremely difficult.

"This band is the reason the number three was invented," as Keene wrote for one act.

Nevertheless, there were some standout acts.

Abi and the Blue Language is a boisterous, 4-piece ensemble with the frontwoman playing keys and the sax. And what a frontwoman she is! Abi is flamboyant, loud, and stylish with the bravado to back her occasionally brash lyrics. The rest of band, however, seems to fade into the background, unable to compete with Abi's spotlight. Funnily, it seemed quite a few people at UMX were offended by the band's lyrics. One mother gasped and covered her teenager's ears in horror, acting as if Abi had just exposed herself onstage.

Unfortunately, I think it's like the Blue Language will not make it to People's Fair because of this. It seems their real audience may be found in seedy clubs and raunchy burlesque shows. And those venues are more fun, anyways.

Another band that made me sit up and pay attention (as well as I could while clutching my gurgling stomach, that is) was Mono Verde. This lively Latin-Reggae band blew the crowd away with trumpets, bongos, accoustic guitars, saxophones, and more. Two vocalists tag-teamed, sometimes in Spanish, sometimes English, but always with emotion. Generally, I'm not a fan of Latin music because it drives me nuts not knowing the lyrics (or only some of them). Also, my limited exposure to the genre means most of what I have heard was, well, pretty chungo. So for a Latin band to receive my supa-prestigious 2010 Best of UMX award, you know they must be fantastic.

(Or, it could mean every other band was just horrible. Rest assured, if you are one of the 79 other bands that played UMX, the former is true.)

That being said, however, I'm disappointed in the band's sense of marketing. Riding on that excitement which comes from discovering a new local band, I went to Google to track them down. Not only did I want to get details on their next show, but I also wanted to write up a blurb in the magazine about them. After a bit of searching, I found a Myspace page that 1) had no upcoming shows listed, 2) had no songs available for listening, 3) was entirely in Spanish (something I might have been able to work with, had I not been facing a deadline). This goes without saying, but I had to pass on writing about them this time.

Notes from the Future: I just checked back on their Myspace page and they now have some upcoming shows listed, such as D-Note in Arvada on May 1st or Mercury Cafe in Denver on May 15th.

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