Every year, Denver Post sponsors a four-day-long, local music extravaganza. And every year, Kortney and I kick ourselves for missing it yet again. But this year, we did it!
And quickly wished we hadn't.
Don't get me wrong: it's a fantastic event. There are many, many amazing bands in Denver, so an event which showcases them at the same time is probably the smartest move ever. However, to see all of these great bands, you pretty much have to drop everything else in your life (not to mention a lot of dough). From about 3:00pm to past midnight, it is band after band after band...
Again, a great idea...unless you have a job and a family and other responsibilities to which you must attend.
So, here is 2010's Underground Music Showcase, from the perspective of a fully-grown (yet not totally responsible) adult's point of view.
My goal for the opening night of UMS was to see Ian Cooke and Paper Bird. Fortunately for me, they were playing back-to-back at one of my favorite clubs. Unfortunately for me, the first of them didn't even start until 11pm. Nevertheless, Kortney and I are seasoned partiers. We're no strangers to stumbling home as the sun is rising. However, it has also been a couple of years since we partied regularly. In the land of drinking and bars and staying up past midnight, taking a hiatus of two years is pretty much like calling it quits for good. Once you stop, it is very hard to get back into the swing of whooping it up.
So, we arrived at Hi-Dive around 9:30-ish pm. My rum-and-root-beer float was delicious, made even more so by the fact that I didn't have to buy myself a drink all night. High-five for cheapskates!
Like the old biddies we are, we immediately noticed the stifling hot air in the club. We watched Shapes Stars Make! (that's their exclamation point, not mine) play a couple of songs, but decided we would rather wait outside for Ian Cooke's set. The band wasn't terrible, but paired with the muggy atmosphere, our respective senses of patience wore thin very quickly. Finally, it was time for Ian Cooke. We summoned up the energy to at least kind of bop along to the music. Or, if not bop, at least we sleepily swayed a bit.
Cooke and his band put on a fantastic show, even playing "The Race," which is my favorite of his songs.
If you're interested, here is the song from YouTube. Um, about the leg-dancers, well, uh... I don't know. Artsy types can be weird sometimes. If you don't want to watch it, minimize your browser and just listen to the song. Or you can watch it. Some of their moves are pretty hardcore. Around the six-minute mark, it starts to look like Kama Sutra for the Ballet Arts.
By the time, Cooke finished, it was around midnight. Paper Bird was playing next, but we were feeling worn out and both had to get up early the next day. I vowed to catch their performance on the next day. I dragged myself home and into bed (but not before riding around on my new bike until about 1:15am).
End of UMS Day One.
Number of Performances I Saw: 1.25
The bands I wanted to see were Big Motif, Danielle Ate the Sandwich (who I am in love with), Action Packed Thrill Ride, Paper Bird, Dust on the Breakers, The Knew, and finally, Achille freakin' Lauro. Whew! What a lineup!
However, what I did instead was work until 9:15pm. Thank you, important last-minute proposal! Keene and I grabbed dinner at Tom's Diner, then headed back to Broadway, in time to catch the last band. We snagged a booth right next to the stage area. Score! Yet once again, by the time the band came on, I was exhausted from my fourteen-hour workday.
Nevertheless, Achille Lauro played an excellent set. As always. I have never seen them play a less-than-stellar show.
Towards the end of their set, Keene saved the show when the bassist had a malfunction. Well, they could have reasonably stopped the show then and there and no one would have faulted them. But they had been about to play "The Unicorn Song," so it would have been a travesty for them to get so close to playing it, then have to quit.
So, as the bassist tinkered with cables, Keene pushed his way to the front, up to the stage area, and promptly fixed the problem (which was because of something-something-something battery blah-blah-blah). A round of gratitude later, the band played on.
When I have more time, maybe I'll draw a picture of Superman Keene in some red skivvies.
End of UMS Day Two.
Number of Performances I Saw: 1
We woke up after about four hours of sleep, amped (low amps, that is) to sell our stuff at the flea market. Due to my latest house-purge (and that of my friend), I had a lot of shiznit to sell. Turns out, though, lots of coffee mixed with very little sleep makes me one sick pup.
I wasn't going to post this picture because I look half-dead, but eh, it is what it is. (I know people who have been driven insane by that phrase.) Besides, show me a person who looks fresh-eyed, clean, and beautiful at the flea market...and I'll show you someone who doesn't belong there.
After about six hours of flea-marketeering, we decided to set out for UMS.
Rush, rush, rush. We got there just in time to catch Houses.
They played a great set. (Are you sensing a theme here? These bands are all the tops. There must be something in microbrews here, because Denver has an excellent music scene.)
After Houses' set, we explored the neighboring thrift store.
I read this sign and giggled like Beavis and Butthead for about five minutes. "How may I please you, half-priced blue plates?"
No, no, no. "Thank YOU!"
The next band I wanted to see was Legendary River Drifters, playing at 7:00pm. However, I had to pick up Kayden at 7:30 from his dad. Foiled!
After getting home and spending exactly fifteen minutes of quality-time with Kayden, it was time to head out to meet Kortney for the next show: Flobots!
And who should introduce them but Mayor Hickenlooper (i.e. coolest politician ever). He talked about how important music is to a city. He mentioned that hi brother once joked that politics is "rock and roll for ugly people." Nice.
I'm curious as to what others think of Flobots. I think many people only know them by their radio hit, "Handlebars." Yet while I like that song a lot, it isn't really like the rest of their music. I adore this band, though. I have been attending their shows since early-2008. They always put on a great show, they spread positively charged messages to their fans, and they are very active in the community.
Nevertheless, they are a great, great band. I can think of very few who deserve success like they do.
(I found this video while searching for a song of theirs on YouTube. I like it because I always see the words in my mind as I hear them externally, so to me, this video makes perfect sense. All music videos should just be bouncing lyrics, really.)
The show ended and we realized there was still a few hours before the next band we wanted to see--Widow's Bane--would play. I told Kortney, "I will buy you tickets to their next show, if we can just skip it tonight." She enthusiastically agreed and we crawled back to our respective homes and passed out.
Reliving late-night party days of yore: fail.
End of UMS Day Three.
Number of Performances I Saw: 2 + a Mayor
Another bright and early start. Sigh.
This time, Kayden and I packed up the car and drove to Kort's house, where we set up a garage sale, determined to shed the last of our junk.
Meanwhile, Kayden sold lemonade:
He made about eight dollars from selling cups at $0.25 each. I was mightily impressed with the attitude of garage-sale visitors. Many of them bought lemonade and even tipped him. I was also impressed with Kayden for sticking it out, despite the 90+ degree heat. He definitely earned those quarters, even if all he did was stir and pour.
Note to readers: when you see a lemonade stand, give them some business. Kids probably appreciate that quarter much more than you do and it teaches them to work for their money. Plus, if there is a heaven, that is totally the way to bypass the bouncers.
By the time we packed up the garage sale, it was early-evening and we had to pick up Kayden's friend for swimming and a sleepover.
And you know what that means?
End of UMS Day Four.
Number of Performances I Saw: Big fat zero
So, in conclusion, UMS is an awesome festival...if you have the time and energy. But if you are routinely pulled in twelve directions and have trouble finding time to even shower, you may want to pass on this. Besides, the good thing about local bands is that you can almost always catch another performance when it is more convenient.
And in further conclusion, Kortney and I have accepted that we are getting old.
It is what it is.