UMS 2019: The Best of The Best (Top Performances)

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.

FRIDAY

Texas emcee Deezie Brown shines. (Photo Credit: Robert Castro)

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 played to a packed 3 Kings. (Photo Credt: Kate Rose)

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.

Levi Double U throwing down in the 303 Magazine Green Room at UMS. (Photo Credit: Robert Castro)

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

SATURDAY

Chicano Batman slaying their set. (Photo Credit: Robert Castro)

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

SUNDAY

Kyle Emerson one of the standout acts at UMS. (Photo Credit: Aly McClaran)

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.

Collin Johnson of Flaural. (Photo Credit: Aly McClaran)

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 takes his performance outside at the Irish Rover (Photo Credit: Robert Castro)

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 from Atlanta, Georgia leaving their mark. (Photo Credit: Robert Castro)

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.

Crowds gather at one of the three main stages at UMS. (Photo Credit: Robert Castro)

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

UMS Artist Spotlight: DRAMA

DRAMA (Image taken from Facebook Page)

Chicago R&B duo DRAMA were nice enough to chat with us on the eve of their Saturday performance at The Underground Music Showcase.

Ultra5280: If you could sum up the essence of Drama what would it be?

DRAMA: The essence of drama is creating the concept of originality, art and feeling. In general, we’re friends who were brought together by way of music that is way bigger than us. We didn’t know what to expect when we started sharing our art, but our mission was always to love everything we put out and connect with people and their day to day feelings. If you listen to our songs, our hope is that you might find one that will strike an emotional chord.

Ultra5280: Tell us about your music influences. What styles have the biggest pull when you’re creating your music?
Via: Sade and Drake. 100% smooth, simple, clever, relatable and impactful.

Na’el: I gain my influence from many different producers of various different skill sets. Pharrell for his drums, Kanye for his sampling chops, Jon Brion for his beautiful arrangements and overall production. I could go on, but I’ll leave it there for now.

Ultra5280: What was the hardest song to write and why?

Via: Our new single ‘Give No Fucks’ for sure. The beat is unlike anything we’ve done and the process was relatively unorthodox for me. When writing a song, I usually spend a good amount of time listening to the music before words form. GNF came together relatively quickly. The majority of my lyrics come from a dark and cold places of mourning and loss which, for me, help songs write themselves. GNF musically felt like a party everyone was trying to get into, I didn’t even know where to begin. So I had to picture what that might feel like and “what would Pharrell and Bruno Mars do” and let just let it flow.

Ultra5280: I would say my favorite genre of music is sad dance tunes. Why do you think listeners gravitate towards sad dance music?

DRAMA: The same reason the earth is dying but the flowers are still blooming… life goes on.

Ultra5280: What can we expect from your live performance this weekend at UMS?

DRAMA: Lots and lots of love and laughs, possibly some tears and some make out session in the audience… haha. It’s an emotional rollercoaster with us. You gotta come expecting to experience the ride.

Ultra5280: What’s the next move for Drama?


DRAMA: A lot of touring! We’ll be on the road this fall with SG Lewis in North America and back across the pond for some shows in Europe. Looking forward to also releasing our first full album in 2020! :)

UMS Artist Spotlight: Jackie Mendoza

Jackie Mendoza by Tayo Okyekan

We had a chance to catch up with Underground Music Showcase artist Jackie Mendoza before this weekends festival to chat about a variety of topics including the growth of Latin music and wha it means to be a Latina artist.

Ultra5280: There has recently been a huge shift in the popularity of Latin music in the United States, what do you think attributes to the success?

Jackie: More Latin artists have been highlighted in the mainstream media and bigger artists have been collaborating with Latin artists too. 

 

Ultra5280: What are some of the struggles you still see as a Latin artist and what obstacles have you had to overcome to be where you are at today?

Jackie: I think any POC would face similar limitations like stereotyping or lack of visibility. I’m lucky to be able to share my music with people of all cultures and I’m proud to be labeled as a Latin artist but sometimes it feels like it’s tokenized. I’ve also been criticized for singing in Spanish and for “taking advantage of the ‘Latin trend’ ”, but this wouldn’t come into question if they knew my story. 

 

Ultra5280: Do you see the genre expanding? Why or why not?

Jackie: Yeah! It’s expanding because people from other cultures are incorporating the Spanish language and Latin sounds into their music. It’s cool to see how reggaeton has completely taken over mainstream hip-hop and pop. We also hear a lot more Spanish and even non-Spanish speaking artists are singing in Spanish too. 

 

 Ultra5280: If you could collaborate with any Latin artist past or present, who would it be and why?

Jackie: I would love to collaborate with Juana Molina. I would learn so much from her and I have a feeling we could make cool and weird music together. She’s mastered the art of looping and I make most of my music from loops and small little hooks. I think our ideas would flow and meet at unexpected points. 

 

Ultra5280: Where do you see the shift in Latin music in the next five years?

Jackie: I think there will be an even bigger blend of Latin music with other types of genres. 

 

Ultra5280: You recently signed to Luminelle Records, how has that impacted you and who are some of your influences?

Jackie: Signing to Luminelle felt like the official start of a new stage for my music. Now I have a full team of awesome people supporting me and helping me move forward. I’m really excited to be on a label with artists I admire and love. Anemone and Munya have become influences for me since I joined Luminelle; Munya’s songwriting and Anemone’s energy on stage. 

 

Ultra5280:  Finally what can Denver expect from Jackie Mendoza next weekend at the Underground Music Showcase?


Jackie: You can expect my silly dance moves, techno beats, a swirly-sounding electric ukulele, and lots of singing :) 

The 10 Best Images of The Underground Music Showcase

Here are the ten best images from this year's 2018 Underground Music Showcase. Big thanks to Alyson McClaran and Robert Castro. Images in no particular order.

Tyto Alba (Photo: Aly McClaran)

Nightlove (Photo Credit: Robert Castro)

Bison Bone (Photo Credit: Aly McClaran)

Hot 8 Brass band (Photo Credit: Aly McClaran)

Madge (Photo Credit: Robert Credit)

PPL MVR (Photo Credit: Robert Castro)

Milky. WAV (Photo Credit: Robert Castro)

Digable Planets (Photo Credit: Aly McClaran)

The Corner Girls (Photo Credit: Aly McClaran)