The Underground Music Showcase
July 26-28, 2019
Broadway, Denver, CO
When you’re being dogged by the dog days of summer, an urban music concert featuring under-the-radar acts is the perfect refuge from the bite of the blistering sun. Hence the annual arrival of the three-day Underground Music Showcase, the Rocky Mountain equivalent of that other unsigned artist mecca in Austin, TX. Think of it as West by Midwest.
As with every year, UMS stretched its three main stages across four blocks of Denver’s Broadway by the hip Baker neighborhood. The event provided scores of indoor club gigs and coffee shop sets presenting indie rock, sultry rhythm and blues, eerie alt-country, standup comedy, and much more. Honne, Chicano Batman, Black Mountain, Tuxedo, EARTHGANG, Still Woozy and Empress Of headlined this year’s affair but many of the acts listed in tiny type on the event’s poster stole the show. For this reviewer, a highlight of Friday was Black Sabbath-inspired sludgemasters Black Mountain, whose riffs and distortion prompted a nearby festivalgoer to groan to his bros that it was “too much rock” as they headed out. I could regurgitate a number of superlatives about this band, but no review of mine will top that anti-endorsement. Another entertaining performance of the evening was had by hip hop collective Rapper Chicks. An ode to the miraculous powers of their anatomy entitled “My Pussy is Jesus” turned many a skeptic at the Odyssey Stage into converts. They were preaching to the choir by song’s end. A melodious fusion of Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot and Salt n Pepa 90s-style jams infused with sly feminist politics made the trio stand out. And finally, I’d be remiss not to mention Prince, Freddie Mercury, and Elvis roasting one another for laughs at Mutiny Information Café.
My favorite Saturday set was by power pop dynamos Dressy Bessy. The Denver punk stalwarts, who are back in the scene following an extended hiatus, closed their afternoon exhibition at the Showcase Stage with a cover of the Buzzcocks classic “What Do I Get” and made it evident to local music fans that they’re here to stay. UMS on Sunday upped the ante from there with a unique slate of talents. Slim Cessna’s Auto Club side project DBUK spooked the Knockout Stage onlookers with their take on haunting gothic country while the suave crooners of Tuxedo got feet moving and booties shaking over at Showcase. The main stages closed not long after dark, but the small venues dotting Broadway were just getting started. Hard rockers Citra packed the Hi-Dive with sweaty moshers like a Millennial version of the Foo Fighters. Yet, the last show I attended at UMS was perhaps the best; Skylark Lounge featured instrumental heavy hitters Atlas and their slow buildup/loud catharsis dynamic. A sound reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky, it served as a fitting end to a fun summer weekend of adventurous music and only a little bit of sunburn.
By Steve Lustig