Last Thursday, I woke up surprisingly fresh-faced and energetic despite the fact I picked my sister up from the airport at 2:30 that morning. Normally, I would be dragging my feet and probably would’ve slept until noon, but it was not just any normal day. No, it was the beginning of Underground Music Showcase (UMS) weekend, my first-ever venture into the deep heart of one of Denver’s favorite local festivals, held annually in venues along South Broadway. Despite being only 19 years old when most of the shows were 21+, I was still able to see some bands (local and otherwise) that knocked my socks off. Check out my favorite performances from the weekend below as well as some rad photos from the Clarion’s photo editor, Gusto Kubiak.
- THE VELVETEERS @ Illegal Pete’s
To be blunt, Denver is not well known yet as a hub for musicians (most people think of Los Angeles or New York), but that is an assumption that local bands like The Velveteers prove wrong. This rock and roll duo made my heart sing and my Denver pride soar. Vocalist and guitarist Demi Demitro is slight in her appearance, but took up the stage with strong, unwavering vocals that make the crowd go wild. She had a handle on her guitar that tells of hard work and pure talent. Illegal Pete’s on South Broadway is obviously not the best stage set-up for any sound, but The Velveteers still managed to play brilliantly. This was probably my favorite performance at UMS, and this band definitely gained a new fan (along with dozens of others, most likely).
- IN THE WHALE @ The Main Stage
Another local group, In The Whale, was the first band I saw at UMS, and boy did it make a great first impression. I’m a little saddened I hadn’t seen the duo before as they’re very prominent in the local music scene, but this was a great first show to experience. Energetic doesn’t really do justice for the type of show I witnessed—it was electric, a live wire despite the dark clouds above that promised rain. Someone in a Broncos costume (nicknamed Miles) danced about on stage and in the crowd while In The Whale shredded wildly on guitars, singing and occasionally nearly screaming in the microphones. One member of the band, Eric Riley, drummer, even got a decent crowd surf out of the set before returning to the stage and launching into some more heavy rock. All in all, In The Whale was a bit heavier than the music I normally listen to, but it was such a great experience that I plan on seeing them again.
- DIIV @ The Main Stage
DIIV, pronounced “Dive” isn’t a local band (it’s from New York, as frontman Zachary Smith constantly reminded the crowd), but it would be sinful not to talk about at least one of the UMS headliners. I’ve never really listened to DIIV, and previously only knew of the band because Smith is dating Sky Ferreira, but I had high expectations for the performance. The band is blatantly indie rock with some shoegaze elements, so the show was not as energetic as some of the other UMS acts, but it wasn’t in any way less satisfying. There’s a distinct vibe of “I don’t care” coming from DIIV’s members; Smith wears excessively oversized flannel and pants that do not fit in the slightest degree. Smith also introduced the band before every song in a quirky, sarcastic joke. “Our name is Div,” Smith said, purposefully pronouncing the band’s name incorrectly. “We’re from New Bork City.” Sometimes I think downbeat sets are boring, but DIIV was just interesting, and I’m glad I made the time to see them.
For a UMS first-timer, I would say it was a pretty successful weekend. Between socializing and just walking around Broadway, it can be difficult to see a decent amount of bands, but I’m happy with what I saw. Other bands such as Brick + Mortar and Milo Greene put on entertaining shows as well, and the three bands above are standouts of the event. Sadly, I wasn’t able to see some great local acts such as Plum or Freaky North due to age restrictions, but I’m sure both bands will play some more shows soon. Overall, UMS was a great weekend, and I look forward going next year, and also when I’m 21 in order to maximize the fun. Thanks to all the UMS bands and to UMS organizers for putting on a great fest that made Denver proud.