Jul 262014

UMS logoSomewhere in between the moments of crazy danger (i.e., the car crashing into Skylark Lounge just before the first set) and the moments of crazy wonder (i.e., the brilliant full double rainbow that elicited hundreds of Facebook pics), Day Two of the Underground Music Showcase was just crazy good.

For me, much of the time last night was spent in one place.  After spending a few ear-bleeding moments with post-hardcore act Caramel Carmela at Moe’s, I ventured down to South Broadway Christian Church, where I ended up hanging out most of the evening (with a few ventures around the corner to the Irish Rover to catch a few choice songs from The Maykit and Rachel and the Kings). Not only did many of my personal picks just happen to be at SoBo Church last night, but thanks to the acoustics, it also happens to be one of my favorite UMS venues.

I arrived just in time to catch folk act Covenhoven tuning up (the full-band version, not simply Joel Van Horne and his guitar). It was fairly obvious that this is a band that’s gaining traction around Denver considering the large crowd that braved the lack of air conditioning, and considering their responses to the music.  Let’s just say when a mostly downtempo folk act can bring an audience to their feet during the last song, you’ve come across one of those moments of magic that musicians (and music fans) live for.

Covenhoven was followed up at SoBo Church with a quieter (but no less compelling) solo set from Americana songwriter Patrick Dethlefs, after which the volume went up again with a great set from indie-rock act Navy–who have been a bit sparse around town the past few months, but who reportedly are ramping up for more shows in the near future.

In order to make it back for most of Saturday, I called it an early night so I could get some writing assignments done in the morning (including, it would seem, this piece). Looking forward to a rich day today.  Here are a few promising picks for Day 3 of the UMS (again, NOT a comprehensive list):

Sarah & the Meanies (Punch Bowl Social, 3pm)
Wiredogs (Irish Rover, 4pm–closing out the SpokesBuzz Day Party)
Jessica Sonner (South Broadway Christian Church, 5pm)
Megan Burtt (Irish Rover, 5pm)
Dan Craig (South Broadway Christian Church, 6pm)
Post Paradise (Illegal Pete’s, 6pm)
The Belle Jar (Gary Lee’s, 6pm)
Pull the Alarm (Brendan’s, 7pm)
Natalie Tate (Gary Lee’s, 8pm)
Shady Elders (Hi-Dive, 9pm)
The Photo Atlas (3 Kings Tavern, 9pm)
Lara Ruggles (South Broadway Christian Church, 9pm)
Ark Life (Hi-Dive, 11pm)
The Epilogues (3 Kings Tavern, 11pm)
The Raven and the Writing Desk (Irish Rover, midnight)
My Body Sings Electric (3 Kings Tavern, midnight)

Jul 252014

UMS logoAfter an extended period of silence, The Oomph is reactivated (which is to say, I’m back) — just in time for the 2014 Underground Music Showcase.

I’ll talk more about changes in The Oomph after the UMS, but for now, let me use this as a bit of a diary to talk about Day One (yesterday), and share some picks for Day Two (tonight).

First of all, the UMS is my favorite Denver music fest, and it continues to grow year by year. While opening night crowds are usually a little sparse, they definitely were NOT sparse this year.  By the time the 9:00 hour rolled around, most of the venues I visited were at or near capacity–so I’m thinking the UMS may be breaking attendance records again this year.

I started out Thursday night at the Hi-Dive to catch psych-rockers Hollow Talk, who started late and stalled on their opening tune, but managed to hit their stride soon after.  A pretty solid opening once it got started.  Afterward, I hiked up to The Hornet to catch a Nashville-based artist named Christian Lee Hutson (well, actually, it was Christian Lee Hutson and a female friend on BGVs). A really cool vibe for those who like their country “old-school”.

Wandering down Broadway, I stopped in for a few minutes of local act Somerset Catalog, a self-described “bubble-gum doom pop outfit” comprised of bandmates from Poet’s Row and The Big Get Even.  I could tell within a minute why the Irish Rover was packed to the gills.  Keep your eye on this band.

From there, I wandered down to Skylark Lounge to catch the last 10 minutes of Calder’s Revolvers, which turned out to be the best 10 minutes of music I heard all night.  A solid soul/rock flavor, the kind that scratches the inner itch of a musical soul like mine. Definitely gonna make more time for these guys the next time around.

Other honorable mentions of the evening go to Science Partner at Skylark Lounge (who are consistently great to listen to, and fun to watch), and folk artist Elin Palmer at The Hornet, who recently began performing again in Denver after spending several years in her home country of Sweden (welcome back!).


Just so you know, I generally leave main stage coverage to the other guys, so if you’re coming to the UMS for the headliners, hang out there, and you’ll hear some good music.  If you’re like me and you are looking for gems in the smaller venues, here are just a few bands worth checking out Friday night (obviously NOT a comprehensive list):

Kyle James Houser (Skylark Lounge, 6pm)
A Mouthful of Thunder (Illegal Pete’s, 6pm)
Covenhoven (South Broadway Christian Church, 7pm)
The Maykit (Irish Rover, 7pm)
Rachel and the Kings (Irish Rover, 9pm)
Navy (South Broadway Christian Church, 9pm)
Disgrace the Traitor (Moe’s BBQ, 10pm)
Flashbulb Fires (Illegal Pete’s, 11pm)
Strange Americans (Irish Rover, midnight)
The Yawpers (Skylark Lounge, midnight)

Jul 212013

Underground Music ShowcaseThis year’s Underground Music Showcase is destined to be one for the books–huge crowds, great bands, and great performances, overall. Day 3 was my favorite so far. I know there were some great performances on the main stage, but I gravitated toward some of the smaller venues, and found lots of “wow” moments in the process. I was a little sparing with pictures this time around, partly to save battery, partly because of poor lighting, and partly because I just wanted to focus on the music. But here are a few highlights from yesterday:

No sooner had I arrived and got settled at Punch Bowl Social but this guitarist phenom set the place on fire. Not literally, but you know. Jaden Carlson is barely a teenager, if that, but she’s got the chops and musicality of veterans three and four times her age. I don’t know how I’ve been a part of this scene without seeing her before now. One of the best moments of the UMS for me thus far.

Jaden Carlson

Jaden Carlson

I stayed on at the Punch Bowl to have a hot pretzel and listen to this promising newer rock act, War Over Water. Looking forward to seeing their progress in days ahead.

War Over Water

War Over Water

Headed on over the Gary Lee’s Motor Club and Grub for the last few minutes of singer-songwriter Holly Lovell’s set. Her mellow style was perfect for sitting in a cool space on a hot, breezy afternoon.

Holly Lovell

Holly Lovell

Next up at Gary Lee’s was Navy, the latest indie-rock incarnation from Dan Craig (sorry, no pic). Another “wow” moment, I think Dan has stumbled on a great combination with this one. Love the songs, love the vibe.


Patrick Dethlefs did an outstanding acoustic set at South Broadway Christian Church. Loved the slide guitar behind him, and the music sounded awesome in this space. South Broadway continues to be one of my favorite venues of the UMS each year.


Patrick Dethlefs

Other acts I caught that deserve a shout-out: Hindershot set up a party at Illegal Pete’s (although the beach balls reportedly got a little out of hand); Attic Attack rocked the Skylark Lounge; Anthony Ruptak and his band had a great set at South Broadway Christian; and it was good to see Jen Korte and the Loss back in action, packing out the Irish Rover.


Katie Laurel
Lindsey O’Brien
Jessica Sonner
Sarah and the Meanies
The Epilogues
Shady Elders
Red Fox Run

Whew! On to Day Four…

Jul 202013

Underground Music ShowcaseMomentum for the 2013 Underground Music Showcase is definitely increasing. More crowds, more bands, comfortable evening weather and dynamic performances were the norm last night at the UMS, as the Baker district filled with music and music lovers.

I tend to focus on local talent, so to my shame, I missed headliner Mudhoney at the main stage, although I heard from several sources that the band was outstanding. (I had “mudhoney” ice cream at Sweet Action–does that count?) I did, however, manage to catch a few minutes of LA-based girl pop-punk band Bleached on my way from one local act to another–and that was worth the detour.

Some other highlights from Day Two:

Indie-rockers The Belle Jar started off playing to a sparse crowd at 3 Kings Tavern, but by the end of the set the venue area was full–partly because people finally started navigating through Denver’s Friday night traffic, and partly, I think, because word was spreading about them while they played. A great way to kick off the evening.

The Belle Jar

The Belle Jar

Guitarist Ryan Chrys has a well-established reputation in Denver for his crazy guitar work in The Demon Funkies, but his newly formed country act, Ryan Chrys and the Rough Cuts, is gaining traction as well. I managed to catch a few minutes of their set at The Hornet.

Ryan Chrys

Ryan Chrys and the Rough Cuts

New Denver “supergroup” Hollow Talk (comprised of members of d.biddle, Il Cattivo and Ideal Feathers) played a loud and raucous set at the Hi-Dive. The backlighting was cool live but hard to catch on the iPhone…but you can see ’em if you squint a little.

Hollow Talk

Hollow Talk


Besides the main outdoor stage, it seems the place to be last night was the Irish Rover. Absolutely packed with people for most of the night. I couldn’t get close enough to get pics of Sweet Tooth Meat Tooth or The Raven and the Writing Desk, but both sets were awesome. (I would have loved to see how TRATWD managed on that tiny stage with six people, a keyboard, drums and a marimba–but I just couldn’t get close enough to find out.) I did manage to squeeze to the front just enough to grab a picture or two of Science Partner, who also killed it.


Science Partner

Science Partner

Other acts I caught in passing that are worth mentioning last night were Gristle Gals at Illegal Pete’s (caught the sound check on my way to Belle Jar), and Ivory Circle and Shenandoah Davis at Gary Lee’s. All worth checking out. Also, the few minutes I caught of Common Anomaly’s set at Skylark Lounge were impressive.


Mudhoney (obviously)
Esme Patterson
Thee Dang Dangs
Chimney Choir
Princess Music
A. Tom Collins
Bop Skizzum
Ark Life


Big day today: Day 3!!

Jul 192013

umsAs the Underground Music Showcase (UMS) is my favorite festival of the year (and it certainly helps that I only have to drive a few miles to get to it), I like to debrief a little bit after each day and share some of the highlights, and perhaps put a few bands on your radar to check out.

As for me, I generally keep my expectations of Day One of the UMS to a minimum, since things are just sort of ramping up, and crowds are generally sparse the first night. It usually takes some time to gain momentum. That wasn’t the case this year. Not only were the bands I saw putting their best foot forward from the jump, but this year a lot of people were already around to see it happen. In short–it was a great first night.

Some quick highlights to share with you–and forgive the pics, they’re taken with an iPhone (hey, I’m a writer, not a photographer):

Local revival rock act The Wales kicked off the night at the Hi-Dive. They’re relative newcomers to the Denver scene and only have a couple of demos up on Bandcamp, but they show promise. Keep your eyes on ’em.


The Wales

The Wales

I have discovered I’m a sucker for well-played blues-rock. For some reason I never quite caught, West Water Outlaws had their midnight slot changed to 8:00 PM at the Irish Rover. I managed to stop in for the last few minutes. Hoo, boy. Look for a debut album from them in the fall.

West Water Outlaws

West Water Outlaws

I stayed on at the Irish Rover to catch the first part of soul-rock act Calder’s Revolvers, on the advice of a friend. Glad I lingered. I’ll definitely be watching for these guys.

Calder's Revolvers

Calder’s Revolvers

Denver food establishment Illegal Pete’s opened up a new location on S. Broadway just in time for the UMS, and it’s worth checking out as a venue on its own. The Jekylls, a 60’s pop act comprised of members of The Hollyfelds, The Railbenders and Sunday Girl, were rocking it onstage.

The Jekylls

The Jekylls

And then there’s Varlet, who entertained a crowded Hi-Dive with their quirky, almost cabaret version of indie-rock. (Non-locals might faintly recognize the lead singer there; that’s Lily Scott, the indie singer-songwriter who got voted off American Idol Season 9 far too soon, in an early-season shocker.



There were a couple of other highlights I couldn’t get pictures of. Andy Palmer‘s set at The Hornet was one of my faves of the night, but it was too dark to grab a picture without flash. Then there was the guy in a gorilla suit that hi-fived me on Broadway, but it happened so fast that I didn’t have the presence of mind to get someone to snap a picture of it.

There are, of course, far too many great bands playing at the UMS to catch them all, and there were some shows I wanted to see that I didn’t. So I’ll close out the highlights each day with a note of regret…


On to Day Two…

Jul 182013

umsI’ll make this simple: the place to be in Denver for live music this weekend is the Denver Post Underground Music Showcase 2013, which kicks off this evening (Thursday) and runs through Sunday throughout Denver’s Baker district.

Over 400 bands. Nearly two dozen venues. Four days. $50. Best live music deal in Denver, and it only happens once a year.

Headlining acts at this year’s UMS include Mudhoney, Small Black, Cults and Lord Huron, among others. While these shows promise to be awesome, some of the best stuff happens in the smaller venues, with smaller indie bands. Not to mention some of the best local talent Denver has to offer. The lineup is to massive to mention, but just a few of the local acts include The Epilogues, Ark Life, Princess Music, Born In the Flood, The Centennial, Varlet, The Raven and the Writing Desk, Vices I Admire, and many, many others. (A full lineup and schedule can be found at the UMS website.)

A limited number of wristbands and VIP badges are still available, so if you’re in town and haven’t gotten yours yet, you can pick it up at the UMS box office (located a 1 S. Broadway tonight, and at 21 S. Broadway for the rest of the festival). Four-day wristbands are only $50, and VIP badges (offering extra perks) are $120. I’ll be live-tweeting throughout the weekend, so follow me at @jeffmcq if you want updates.

Jul 232012

Nathaniel Rateliff

*Sigh* I love the Denver music scene.

The Underground Music Showcase 2012 is officially a wrap, and lots of bands, artists and music fans now have that satisfied-but-exhausted feeling that comes at the end of every one of these things. Here’s a quick recap of some things seen and heard on Day Four.

One thing I love about the UMS is finding little “hidden treasures”–great music from artists that are just emerging or that aren’t that well-known as of yet. While great acts like Paper Bird and Nathaniel Rateliff (pictured left) were drawing crowds to the main stage, lots of great music was happening in front of smaller crowds in venues all up and down Broadway.


The first pleasant surprise I found was Stephanie Dorman, a newbie to the Denver music scene who played a solo set at The Hornet. I went on the recommendation of one of the members of Churchill, and I’m glad I went. Stephanie has a current voice and a great songwriting style. I look forward to hearing more from this one.

Stephanie Dorman

A bit later in the evening, singer/songwriter Kyle James Houser played a great solo set at Delite. He played an electric banjo, something you don’t see every day. The people outside on the street liked it, too.

Kyle James Houser

Another cool moment was watching Rachel and the Kings’ Denver debut on the main stage. This band consists of several Colorado music scene veterans, including Rachel James and members of the now-defunct (sort of) Tickle Me Pink, and recently beat out hundreds of other bands to win the Ford “Gimme the Gig” band competition. Their set showed us why. While still quite unknown in the Denver area under this moniker, R.a.t. Kings played some great music for the sparse but growing crowd, and excitement built for the band throughout the set.

Rachel and the Kings

Glowing House is another up-and-coming Denver act with a promising future. (I profiled their recent album here.) During their set at South Broadway Christian Church, they joked good-naturedly about their unfortunate time slot, playing at the same time as veteran indie-folk artist Nathaniel Rateliff, who indeed packed out the main stage area. However, those who sat in on the Glowing House performance got to experience a great set of music. (I would have included a picture, but the lighting was too dim by that time for my little point-and-shoot without flash.)

Other high points of the day included rocking sets at the Skylark Lounge by Megan Burtt and Jen Korte and the Loss, plus Dan Craig and The Centennial at the Irish Rover. Another great moment was when Science Partner’s jam session at Delite wafted into the streets and drew a large crowd to the open window to see, even while there was standing room only indoors.

Megan Burtt

Jen Korte and the Loss

I’ve had the privilege of attending the Underground Music Showcase for the past three years; this was the best one so far. It felt as though everyone stepped up their game, from the novices to veterans, and gave their all for the music fans.

Have I mentioned I love the Denver music scene?

Jul 222012

I have to be honest: between a hectic schedule involving more than just the UMS and overall exhaustion, I went home a bit early from the Underground Music Showcase on Saturday in order to save my strength for Sunday. :) However, I did manage to catch a few cool shows in the time I was there, including separate acoustic sets by Churchill’s Tim Bruns and Bethany Kelly at The Hornet (with an acoustic set by The Heyday sandwiched in between them).

(Forgive the quality of the pics–point-and-shoot on the fly.) :)

Bethany Kelly

I also stopped by The Irish Rover to catch a few minutes of Americana/country artist Patrick Dethlefs, and was duly impressed. I’m gonna have to make plans to hear more of this guy.

Patrick Dethlefs

Evening on the main stage was dominated by touring noise-rockers A Place to Bury Strangers and local act Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, both of whom drew large crowds, and both of whom did justice to their sets.

A Place to Bury Strangers

Off the beaten path of UMS are several “unofficial” house shows that go on now and again. I stopped by for a few minutes at the home of Nate Meese (dubbed “The Banana Stand”) to catch glimpses of In the Whale, The Centennial and Churchill.

The Centennial

Before heading home, I stopped into South Broadway Christian Church (along with a lot of other people) to see cellist Ian Cooke’s solo performance. If you haven’t heard him play, you haven’t fully experienced the Denver music scene. There’s a reason he draws crowds.

Tonight wraps up the UMS, and on the hot list tonight for me: Nathaniel Rateliff, Megan Burtt, In the Whale, Glowing House, The Centennial, and Rachel and the Kings, among others.

Jul 212012

As expected, Friday night at the Underground Music Showcase saw growing crowds as things began to get into full swing. While the Main Stage opened up with acts like Mancub, Signal Path and Big Freedia & the Divas, the numerous other venues up and down Broadway saw some great shows, including late performances by The Photo Atlas and The Epilogues at the Hi-Dive, and Churchill at 3 Kings Tavern. Here are just a few personal highlights from Day Two.

I showed up early (by “early” I mean 6pm) to Gary Lee’s Motor Pub & Grub to catch former Meese (and current Centennial) guitarist Nate Meese do a mellow set of songs under his solo moniker Lips & Teeth. Churchill’s Bethany Kelly stepped up to help with vocals on a couple of the tunes. A great way to start the evening.

Thanks to my trusty scooter (lessons learned from the last two UMS festivals), I spent the seven-o’clock hour making the rounds down Broadway to catch a few minutes each of Swing Hero at Moe’s BBQ, Roniit at Compound Basix, and Signal Path on the Main Stage–I liked all of them.

The Raven and the Writing Desk took over South Broadway Christian Church a few minutes after 8pm, and a near-capacity crowd piled into the church to hear them play. I mentioned in the preview piece that this band sounds really good in live acoustic environments, and this set was even better than last year’s. As an added flash of creativity, they projected their video backdrop against the array of organ pipes, turning it into a makeshift screen. Very effective.

Next up at South Broadway Christian was indie rock outfit FaceMan; they started about 20 minutes late due in part to technical difficulties, but they were the final act on the stage that evening, and the crowd didn’t seem to mind. They turned in a powerful performance that was well worth the wait.

I finished up my rounds with an 11pm show at Moe’s BBQ with John Common & Blinding Flashes of Light–a great way to end the evening. I’m always struck not just by John’s songwriting, but by the impeccable musicianship of the band–and tonight was no exception. In fact, John played the whole set on electric guitar, which added a fresh vibe to his material–and keyboardist Jon Wirtz wowed the crowd multiple times with incredible solos on the Fender Rhodes.

Tonight I’m a little torn, because on more than one occasion I’ll have to be in two places at once to catch bands I want to see. Oh, well, it comes with the territory. On the short list are Varlet, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, The Swayback, Patrick Dehthlefs, Kentucky Street Parlour Pickers and Jessica Sonner…

Jul 202012

If day one is any indication, this year’s Underground Music Showcase is on track to be the best attended yet, and possibly the best one overall.

I’ve been to several of these things, and in my experience, opening night of the UMS is generally slow as things are just getting started and people are just starting to trickle into the event. But last night, it felt as though everything was already in full swing, even without the main outdoor stages active (which will open tonight), with numerous shows filled almost to capacity. (Not bad considering the current heat wave.) Likewise, the bands I saw all seemed to be energized and on their game. A lot of great music for opening night. Here is just a sampling of things seen and heard at Day One of UMS 2012.

Indie rock band Wire Faces kicked things off at 3 Kings Tavern with a high-energy set of music. This interesting 3-piece band has a sound that somehow seems bigger than the sum of its parts, with Shane Zweigardt leading center stage from the drums. Very solid.  Meanwhile, a couple of doors down at the Irish Rover, there was standing room only for the set of indie-folk band Fairchildren, who plays around the area when not backing up Nathaniel Rateliff. (Nathaniel is slated for the main stage Sunday night.)

The Oak Creek Band, a Denver roots/rock band (by way of Arizona), also played a lively set at the Skylark Lounge. It was my first time hearing them play and I was fairly impressed by their sound, which blends elements of rock, soul and even a tinge of country.

I’m taking a quick break to write this as the UMS is already underway tonight (Friday). Must-sees for tonight include The Raven and the Writing Desk and John Common & Blinding Flashes of Light. I’ll let you know.