Here is the 2019 edition of UMS Unplugged. I cut down on bands this year but was still able to capture some amazing musicians. I started this project about three years ago and have been able to take it to a few festivals including SXSW, Austin City Limits Music Festival and Bumbershoot Music Festival. I have always loved capturing bands outside their live element and was lucky enough to capture these this year. Thank you to all the musicians who participated, let’s do it again next year! Bands or musicians interested in working please email Robert Castro at firstname.lastname@example.org
Denver music lovers have a new playground. The Mission Ballroom officially opened its door last night for their first ever concert courtesy of hometown crooners The Lumineers. The venue itself is a spectacle and thing of beauty. We had a chance to check out the soft opening a few days ago, but this was our first time covering a show there. Amongst the many amenities of the venue include amazing sight lines (not a bad seat in the house), gorgeous murals adoring the walls throughout (sourced from some Denver’s best artist), relatively pain-free beer lines (they even have tall-boy White Claws).
The sold out crowd took to their seats as Irish country star Jade Bird kicked things off with her unique take on a genre which had her singing with no recourse and gaining new fans. We first saw Jade Bird about three years ago at SXSW and knew then she was going to be a star.
The venue is able to accommodate from 2,200 to 3,950. For The Lumineers it was a perfect way to introduce the venue as founding members Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites got their careers started right down the road at open mic nights at The Meadowlark. “If you built it, they will come” proclaimed Schultz in between songs. With a new album set to drop in September the crowd got a heavy dose of new material leading up to a few toe-tapping, tambourine shaking favorites such as “Opheia”, “Ho, Hey” and “Stubborn Love”.
We can sit here and blast you with praise about the venue(we would rather you check it out yourself), but it was The Lumineers that shined and what a better way to introduce to you the Mission Ballroom.
Words and photos: Robert Castro
The Night Running Tour came through Denver recently with a heavyweight lineup that included Star Crawler, Spoon, Cage The Elephant and Beck. Tours like this are a concertgoer’s dream as they get to see bands that would normally sell out headline shows all on one bill. We didn’t manage to catch openers Starcrawler but they will be back in Denver at Lost Lake on October 12th.
We have been seeing Spoon for a number of years now including here in Denver and various festivals across the country. Brit Daniels and company always perform with an no holds barred right down to business approach. Nothing changed this time around, (only drawback of tours like this is late arrivals), right off the bat they demand your attention and are able to dig deep into their vast catalog to give you what you want. Consistency is synonymous with Spoon and that is what makes them a great band. Impressive performance nonetheless we hope they come back soon.
Next up was Cage The Elephant. We remember an interview back in 2013 that we did with the band and at that time they were opening for Muse. (Read interview here). We have always admired the approach they take into their live performances. Led by singer Matt Shultz, you never know what you are going to expect from their live performance. With a penchant for going all out crazy, nothing changed here, we figured the altitude would tame the frontman a bit, it wasn’t the case. Fully dressed in a subtle suit to begin with and left but nothing in his underwear to end the set, that basically defines the mayhem behind a Cage The Elephant show. Patrons truly got their money’s worth with this performance.
As the opening riffs of “Loser” were played, we were instantly taken back in time to what could easily be described as one of the best singles ever released. Albeit this was in 1993, the song has maintained its shine even throughout all these years and is still considered one of Beck’s best songs considering the amount of albums he has released since. His setlist was like a greatest hits album being played live as he pulled songs from eight different albums giving fans a dose of the different eras of Beck. He managed to hold some small stage banter (which may have cut into the venues curfew) but it was his showmanship that made it a worthy experience a fan of music.
UMS 2019: Denver shines as Two Parts unites it whole
Words by Jocelyn Rockhold
The Underground Music Showcase is obviously not so underground anymore—it seems like everyone in Denver was at the city’s best music festival. Part of this is due to the festival takeover of Two Parts, a local boutique event company. While this is only the company’s second year heading the festival, the increase in quality marketing, spatial planning, and vendor partnerships is obvious. The festival continues to evolve and we can only wait to see what comes of it the next few years.
While some of the smaller venues ran into issues of having huge lines and overwhelmingly hot temperatures, barriers were well-placed, the schedule was thought out, and artists were selected strategically.
Here are the top shows from the weekend.
Deezie Brown @ Odyssey Stage
Hailing from the Lone Star State, Brown brought his amazing lyrical prowess to the UMS for his third straight year. This year the emcee brought a more polished sound and showmanship on the tails of his recently released debut album Judith, which has been been playing on our rotation all year. The confidence of a Kanye West with the lyrical mastery of Kendrick Lamar, Brown showed us why he is one of hip hop’s hidden gems. In a few years we will be talking about how we saw him at this little festival called the UMS.
Deezie Brown is Deezie Brown, Aldo aka Groove Remote and Dany aka Educacion
BLACK MOUNTAIN @ SHOWCASE STAGE
While stereotypes of Canada portray it as a polite, mild population, the country is full of vast wilderness, miles and miles of utter isolation, and weather that can be bitterly cold and dark. Black Mountain, from Vancouver, encapsulates the Canadian dark side that people rarely think about with a fervent, thunderous rumble.
Beginning with ominous chants leading up to a fiery video screen, a blood red “BLACK MOUNTAIN” shown in simple font, the 5-piece brought some dark, psychedelic masterpieces to the showcase stage. With a flaming background, Black Mountain launched into a set full of stoner, space rock goodness, relying on the music to speak for themselves rather than attempting to make small talk throughout the set.
Black Mountain utilized the video screen in perhaps the most apt way for the entire festival—the video screen complimented everything that the band stood for and created a foreboding presence that surely lasted in many minds for the rest of the weekend. Performing songs such as “Florian Saucer Attack” and “Space to Bakersfield,” Black Mountain brought one of the most impressive performances of the weekend.
Black Mountain is Stephen McBean, Arjan Miranda, Rachel Fannan, Adam Bulgasem and Jeremy Schmidt.
THE VELVETEERS @ 3 KINGS TAVERN
The Velveteers are much different from when we first saw them 4 or 5 years ago. Then, they were an emerging outfit from Boulder, a brother and sister two-piece that obviously had raw talent—now, they have fully grown into who they are meant to be, and that is a trio of full-blown, heavy, experienced rockers.
With Demi Demitro, front woman and guitarist, and both John Demitro and Adrian Pottersmith on the drums (you read that right—two drummers), the band mixed in both newer songs and older ones that we’ve been a fan of from the get go, such as “Just Like the Weather.” Tossing waxed letters into the
crowd, Demi had full control of the stage, shredding a guitar-driven frenzy, leaping from the drum kit and writhing on the ground with an electrified intensity. The three members clearly have an appreciation for each other, based on both familial and artistic connection.
The Demitros and Pottersmith clearly have much more in store for the world. This band is one that we have grown with, and we can’t wait to see them grow further as they tour the UK later this year.
The Velveteers is Demi Demitro, John Demitro, and Adrian Pottersmith.
The Green Room @ 3 Kings Tavern
An afterparty after a party. As rumors floated about a secret “Green Room” after party our spider senses were triggered. You had to sign up for an email list to get a code to enter the exclusive party, as boujee as we are sometimes, we were all over it. The good folks at 303 Magazine turned the 3 Kings basement into a green filled room with some amazing DJ’s to usher in the late night fans.
With shrubbery adorning the cavernous basement DJ’s such as Levi Double U and Motion Trap played amazing sets that had the crowds dancing up a storm.
Other notable sets: Wildermiss, Leikeli47, Covenhoven, Colfax Speed Queen, Izcalli
CHICANO BATMAN @ SHOWCASE STAGE
One of the more eclectic and genre-bending groups of the night, Chicano Batman also happened to be the best dressed. The funky, soulful group was effortlessly cool in blazers and skinny pants, garnering one of the largest crowds of the festival.
Chicano Batman certainly had one of the most interesting mixtures of styles of the weekend as well. Playing hits such as “Freedom is Free” and “Black Lipstick,” the band showed off its prowess as masters of indie pop, romanticism, and Tropicalia, a 1960’s artistic movement stemming from Brazil. Chicano Batman, with its unique sound and suave style, simply had a swagger that was unmatched by anyone else at the festival.
Chicano Batman is Eduardo Arenas, Carlos Arévalo, Bardo Martinez, and Gabriel Villa.
LAST CALL ROMANCE @ SKYLARK LOUNGE
To begin, Last Call Romance was a lucky encounter—after stumbling into Skylark Lounge looking for water, we were pleasantly greeted by the swingiest, most energetic group of the night. While our stay was brief, the impression left by the group lasted much longer. Despite everyone’s aching feet from an already long day, Last Call Romance had just the right amount of spirit to get everyone dancing.
tLast Call Romance’s complete comfortableness with each other lends itself to an environment that encourages the crowd to be wholly engaged. The genre of Rockabilly-Swing may be a turn off for some, but don’t let it deter you from seeing this enthusiastic, boogying group next time they hit the stage in Denver.
Last Call Romance is Chris Winters and Emily Winters, with various members on upright bass, lead guitar, saxophone and drums.
YASI @ HI-DIVE (SECRET SET)
YaSi has some big Stevie Nicks energy—and we aren’t just saying that because of her stylistic, hip-hop version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Visions.” Yasi gives off the impression that she knows exactly what you need to fix your life, and that includes some good old self-reflection.
YaSi, a first-generation Iranian-American rapper, knows how to have fun but also how to keep it real. Speaking of her experience of being in Iran when the Muslim ban was announced under Trump, she elaborated on how despite her and her family’s unique challenges, she was still here and she was going to do a damn good job of doing her own thing.
Backed by a hype-man DJ and an incredibly talented drummer relaying YaSi’s oh-so-essential beats, YaSi proved that yes, she’s a girl, and yes, she’s learning and having fun just like the rest of us. We promise— listen to “Issues” and you won’t regret it.
Yasi is also known as Yasman Azimi.
Other notable sets: Wheelchair Sports Camp, Turrvy Organ, Tyto Alba, Whiskey Autumn, Zach Maxwell, Oxeye Daisy
KYLE EMERSON @SHOWCASE STAGE
Kyle Emerson and his band seem to be an introspective bunch. While drummer Mark Anderson seemed to be the source of most light-hearted stage banter, Emerson and his band, rather than relying on any witty set talk or flashy lights, are simply extraordinary musicians and that is what makes this band great. It’s obvious that all members of the band, including guitarist Miles Eichner and bassist Daniel Vollmar, have honed the technical aspects of their instruments. After all, they each have many years of experience—Emerson has had a hand in past musical projects such as Plum, and Eichner and Vollmar played together in now defunct Shady Elders. Vollmar and Emerson even played together 11 years ago in a church youth group.
Emerson’s set consisted of some songs off his EP Dorothy Alice such as “Goddamn Low” and some newer pieces such as “I Can Change.” Songs such as the latter really show off some of the artist’s best songwriting ability and leaves the audience with some questions themselves—can we actually change? If we can, how do we do it? If we do change, who are we doing it for?
Kyle Emerson is supported by Miles Eichner, Daniel Vollmar, and Mark Anderson.
FLAURAL @ SHOWCASE STAGE
Flaural at this point has joined UMS royalty—the band even had a moniker slice at Pie Hole UMS weekend. Despite the heat on Sunday, Flaural was nothing but cool, each of them donning a pair of sunglasses and the confidence of a band who is well, constantly touring. We were lucky enough to catch them in town during UMS.
One of the most unique aspects of Flaural is its modern shoegaze twist—while clearly taking influence from shoegaze’s archetypical walls of noisy, overwhelming sound, the band uses enough psychedelic While the band mostly played songs off its new album, Postponement, the crowd favorite was obviously “Nonnie,” a song from Flaural’s EP Over Imaginary Cigarettes.
Flaural is Noah Pfaff, Collin Johnson, Nick Berlin, and Connor Birch.
Adiel Mitchell @ Irish Rover
Every year we see a breakout performance at UMS that has us in awe. In all the years we have covered this festival we have never seen anybody take the performance outside the venue, Mitchell carried his outside to a gathering crowd as he serenade them for a brief moment. Still a newcomer to the scene he is slowly etching his way to being one of the best live performers in Denver. The kid has all the tools to take it to the next level, this is just the beginning for Mitchell as he continues to take the world by storm.
Adiel Mitchell is Adiel Mitchell and Levi Double U
Earth Gang @ Odyssey Stage
Th party didn’t let up Sunday night as Atlanta duo- Earth Gang took to the stage to close out the Odyssey Stage. The rappers Olu (aka Johnny Venus) and WowGr8 (aka Doctur Dot) set the stage on fire as they brought out their much hypes set to the masses. Recently signed to J. Cole’s Dreamville Records the duo emits comparisons to groups such as Outkast, Goddie Mob, and The Pharcyde. At one point during their set they probably had about 15-20 people on stage dancing with them making for an amazing spectacle.
Other notables sets: Rad Dudes, Vic N’ The Narwals, Cheap Perfume, Jackie Mendoza, Bud Bronson & The Good Timers, Tuxedo
Overall, UMS 2019 was an utter success. Despite the newness of Two Parts’ ownership, the festival ran without a hitch. We are certain that UMS can only go up from here.
Photo Gallery: Robert Castro
Colfax Speed Queen - Photo Credit: Kate Rose
LVDY - Photo Credit: Kate Rose
Motion Trap - Photo Credit: Kate Rose
The Odyssey Stage - Kate Rose
Slow Caves - Photo Credit: Kate Rose
Sophie Meiers - Photo Credit: Kate Rose
The Velveteers - Photo Credit: Kate Rose
Cheap Perfume - Photo Credit: Kate Rose
Flaural - Photo Credit: Kate Rose
Jackie Mendoza - Photo Credit: Kate Rose
Rad Dudes - Photo Credit: Kate Rose
Y La Bamba - Photo Credit: Kate Rose
Zebroids - Photo Credit: Kate Rose
Various Artist - Photo Credit: Aly McClaran