Four days in the summer that change the course of the summer – almost every one of the last 15 times – The Denver Post Underground Music Festival is once again upon us. Featuring more than 400 bands – the vast majority of which are local Denver bands – performing on 20 stages along South Broadway, the Rocky Mountain region’s largest music festival (and, some say, the Only Festival That Matters this (and Every) Summer) starts this Thursday, July 28, and runs through Sunday night, July 31st.
Watch DenverThread.com for daily listings of “Best Bands To See at UMS By the Hour,” all weekend!
During this weekend, if you’re on South Broadway from about 4th Avenue all the way down to Alameda, you’ll probably see hundreds – thousands – of local and regional hipsters walking, both in packs and alone, faces in their phones and (as likely as not) gently stumbling from stage to stage, zombie-like. But this group won’t be the Pokémon Go-playing crowd. They’ll be stumbling from the exhaustion of seeing their 50th band over 2 days – and only half way through Day 3.
Dehydrated, delirious, afflicted by sound – some with earplugs still lodged in both ears. These music fans will be roaming the festival in search of new, undiscovered underground bands. Or they’ll be desperately trying to get to see their hometown faves after catching something they’ve never heard of – destined to become their next hometown faves.
Or, you may see some of them running wildly down Broadway – guitar, drums, bass (and sometimes amp, or mic, or mic-stand) in hand, rushing to get to the gig their first band is playing that started while their second band was finishing up. Denver’s got a friendly, cooperative scene – one that fully supports members of many bands playing in other bands with members from many other bands. Yet, they all sound different, unique.
It’s not the “Denver Sound” anymore
There’s something that comes through in all these local acts that’s somehow intrinsically Denver – despite recent floods of talent (and bodies) from both coasts that threaten to dilute the stream (but fail, for the most part, thank goodness). It’s hard to put your finger on it – and I don’t mean the country-goth “Denver Sound” of the ’90s & ‘aughts, born on the backs of classic Denver bands like 16 Horsepower and The Denver Gentlemen, and that lives on quite well in the sound of the brilliant Slim Cessna’s Auto Club and a few other bands. This sound just as often owes more to ’70s country or prog rock as it does to ’60s hard psychedelia, or to mid-’70s punk, late ’80s shoegaze, or ’90s grunge/metal.
Maybe it’s the sound of a town/scene that has largely accepted just about every genre at one time or another, as well as spawned as many that moved to the coasts and – in some cases, for some short periods of time – took over. I’m looking at bands like The Fluid, DeVotchka, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats – bands that still (if they’re around) call Denver their home (or at least their birthplace). Denver’s always been a “stop on the way to somewhere else” – San Fransisco, L.A., Chicago, NYC. But it’s always been welcoming, and supported its musicians with more than enough venues, usually filled with more than enough wild, enthralled but discerning fans.
The UMS is a celebration of all of that talent, but it’s also a celebration of those fans, those audiences, the venues, the support systems – all of it. Brave the heat. It’ll be worth it.