A Perfect Night at The UMS 2011

This year I was unable to dedicate a full weekend to The 11th Annual Underground Music Showcase, but the hours I did spend on Broadway last weekend proved once again that this is one of the best weekends of the year in the Mile High CityFriday night was limited to Sage Francis and a partial set by Generationals before heat, hunger and lack of oxygen led us another direction.  It wasn’t until Saturday night around 7pm that our true UMS experience began with Old Canes at 3 Kings Tavern.  Having never heard Old Canes, I was really looking forward to their set based on glowing reviews from a few friends.  The band, led by Appleseed Cast‘s Christopher Crisci (immediately recognizable by his salt-and-pepper beard) performed an inspired set to a sizeable audience.  Xylophones, trumpet solos, melodicas — this band showed immense stage presence and creativity without getting bogged down in the details.  Overall just a real good time and blew away the Appleseed Cast set I saw at Fun Fun Fun last year.

Old Canes

Still high off our first set of the night and not wanting to venture back out into the heat, I convinced my group to stick around for Tin Horn Prayer.  This is a local  band comprised of members of too many other bands to go into here.  Folk punk, cow punk, alt-country punk — whatever you want to call these guys, their pure rowdiness and immense pool of talent was almost too big for the stage at 3 Kings.  Three lead vocalists, with styles that range from country to screamo, this band can change the plot in a matter of seconds without losing their audience.  Listening to their album is an unnecessary prerequisite to seeing them live, as it will in no way prepare you for the collaborate energy they bring to the stage.  The speakers might have been slightly blown and the sound not quite perfect, but this is punk rock and wouldn’t be right without a little dirt around the edges.  This ‘festival redemption show‘ was a success, even if the part about not being ‘black-out drunk‘ was a lie.

‘ We have records for sale in our van in a dark alley…after midnight.  Don’t worry we won’t rape you or anything’

The sun had set over our Rocky Mountains, leaving a pink hue in the sky and a slightly cooler, less sticky feel to the outside air.  We wandered over to the main stage in the Goodwill Parking Lot to get our spot for Snake Rattle Rattle Snake and on the way we were lucky enough to catch the final track from Sole.  Rocking the tiny stage with a DJ and a drummer, rapping something about hell being where the heart is, I had a moment of regret.  How did I miss this set?  But then I remembered Tin Horn Prayer and I realized you can’t be two places at once and felt lucky enough to have caught this last track.


Snake Rattle Rattle Snake took the stage just after 9am after being introduced by someone making jokes about Portland or something.  The wind was playing games with Hayley Helmericks‘ slinky black dress and she looked like sex on fire up on that stage.  I am embarrassed to say I have see Snake Rattle Rattle Snake perform countless times and I am at a loss to correctly identify even one of their songs.  They’ve got the one about waters rising, they’ve got the one about how you live is how you die and I really love that one that goes ‘days and days and days‘.  The psychedelic backdrop is cool as well.  I swear every time I see them I have good intentions of learning the songs, paying attention and not being distracted by Hayley, but it never happens.  Oh well, maybe at the record release party next month.

Overall, another great set from Denver‘s favorite indie rock band, although the volume could have been turned up a few notches as the wind was messing with the sound just as much as Hayley‘s dress.

Snake Rattle Rattle Snake

Sun or no sun, it was still a hot night and the cold drinks were harder and harder to come by as the main stage shut down and the mass of people rolled down Broadway, filling every bar in its path.  After a few unsuccessful stops, we ended back at 3 Kings.  When we walked in I immediately thought Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit were on the stage.  Obviously Isbell was not in town, but Alone at 3am from Cincinnati, OH were doing a damn good job entertaining the few smart people who were enjoying the relatively empty venue.  The calm before the storm so to say, 3 Kings and Alone at 3am were yet another example of how we just seemed to always be in the right place at the right time on this particular evening.

And then the storm.  The storm called HousesHouses, who will not be Houses much longer, brought their psychedelic rock revival to 3 Kings and instantly packed the venue.  It all happened so quickly I felt like I was going to drown in the wave.  Houses have been one of my favorite local bands since Westword Music Showcase 2010.  Unfortunately that heat, hunger and lack of oxygen got to the majority of my group and we left half-way through the set.  But who am I to complain?  It might not have been 4 full days of music this time around, but the hours I spent at UMS rivaled a lot of all weekend festivals I have attended in the past.