The Saturday of UMS is always the big one. This is the day that is the most packed. It starts earlier, it finishes later. Naturally, this made it so this was the day that I was able to catch the most sets. It was wonderfully exhausting. Therefore, I awoke on Day 4 pretty much dead. I tried with an assured heart and strong cup of bean to put together my day 3 recap post the morning after, but I just couldn’t squeak it out, so I am a day late. Despite taking it’s toll on my old soul, Day 3 proved to be filled with absolutely fantastic music.
Chemistry Club – Continuing the goal of seeing several bands that I’ve not yet been able to, Chemistry Club was top on my list. I have heard the name repeatedly but the stars just never aligned to see them live. I am glad they did so for UMS. They are energetic, groove heavy, fill your heart with love dance pop. Their music to me seems ripe for TV/Film licensing…and I mean that in a wonderful way. I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing them break nationally in the coming years.
The Golden Apples of the Sun – I was pleasantly surprised by these Golden Apples. This was one of those open time slots where I chose the set based not on the band (just had never heard the name before) but rather I stopped in because I have been loving what’s been happing at Eslinger. Golden Apples of the Sun helped to cement the decision as they offered up a very tasty take on 60’s influenced surf psych. Shimmery guitar over solid rock foundations proved a lovely early afternoon offering.
Qbala – So nice I had to see Qbala twice! Yes I already wrote about Qbala for the Thursday night recap. So what. She’s been added to my official list of ‘artists to geek out to’. I think national level hip hop is in a lull these days. It’s independents like Qbala that have the potential to raise the bar once again. If I don’t see Qbala headlining her own national theater venue tour in the next few years, I’m going to pack it up and move to Moldova.
Povi – There is a lack of good R&B in Denver. Well, to be fair, I should say that I don’t hear about a lot of good R&B in Denver. There may be an abundance of great stuff out there that I’ve just have yet to hear of. Either way, I love soulful, groove heavy, sway-inducing R&B. And that is exactly what Povi offers us up. She played on the main stage mid afternoon and delivered a wonderful, lively and unique set complete with dancers to her sides and Jillian Grutta (of Circus House) spinning her beats at the DJ table. Povi is a classic performer and I couldn’t be happier to have her brand of electro-soul leading the way to bringing good R&B back to the limelight here in Denver.
Joy Subtraction – This might have been my favorite set of the day. I still can’t decide. Fervent, intense, fun, meaty punk. This is the kind of punk for people who remember when moshing was called slam-dancing and was still allowed to happen at shows. If they played that set at CBGB’s in the 70’s, people today would probably be referring to them as influences. To me, it is what I want out of my rock. I invented an equation just now (it’s pretty amazing actually…check it out). It is S + E^2 = GP which of course is Skill + Emotion and Energy = Great Performances. this is science people, don’t question it.
Ancient Elk – How the &^%$ have I not seen an Ancient Elk show until now? I don’t even understand. This was an absolutely stunning set and the perfect way to ease the soul in preparation for a busy evening. We got word that they were opening the set with one of my wife’s and my favorite songs “When You’re Sleeping” so we were frantically speed walking to 3 Kings. We made it there out of breath but relieved to see they were just finishing up sound check. Anna Smiths voice dances light and beautiful over dynamic, almost jazzy beats and glistening guitars and synth. Take a good folk band, remove all of their acoustic instruments and replace with synths and electric bass and guitars with rich trem and light touches of drive and you have AE. It’s actually a stunningly unique addition to Denver’s amazing psych rock scene.
Altas – Anyone who knows me knows that Altas is one of my favorite bands. I’ve talked about them before, I’ll talk about them again. They just go so far beyond traditional psych. Without a word being sung, they are able to push forward such powerful emotions in their music. One thing that made this set fun for me is it was the first time I got to see them on a larger non-club stage. This is where they belong. Also, this is the 3rd time I’ve seen them in their current configuration (with somewhat recent additions of Amanda on bass and Meaghan on keys) and it is, in my not so humble opinion, the best Altas to date. They have become a staple of Denver music and for good reason. If you haven’t made yourself familiar yet…do so soon.
Force Publique – I had not heard of Portland based Force Publique before but came to this set at Blue Ice on recommendation from a good friend. A wonderful recommendation it was! A lovely offering of danceable electro pop driven by intelligently produced beats with warm and commanding indie guitar filling out the sound. I try not to do too many comparisons in my little write ups. But sometimes, I just need to. And with Force Publique, I hear this call back to The Sugarcubes (a wonderful post punk band featuring Bjork before her wildly successful solo career started). I hope they come back through Denver soon!
Snake Rattle Rattle Snake – It doesn’t take long when talking with me to understand that I am a fan of Snake Rattle Rattle Snake. They are not only leading the Denver psych rock movement, they are setting the standard to which the rest of us aim to meet. Led by brother and sister team of Wilson and Hayley Helmericks, SRRS offers addictive melodies comprised of both vocals and synth that wind through the often raw and tribal percussion. All the while, supported by extremely dance worthy bass grooves and intoxicating guitar layers. They are not a band to miss.
Emerald Siam – Confession time. I thought I saw Emerald Siam before and I thought I didn’t like them. What I found out this night though…is that who I saw before, was NOT Emerald Siam! I believe I got schedules mixed up at a previous festival or something. Anyway, imposters aside, I was ever so pleased to close out my evening with another top offering from Denver’s psych rock scene. Emerald Siam offered the 1am half-dead Eslinger crowd a stunning performance that shook us all alive and dancing (well, I don’t dance…I do the white guy thing where I stand in one place and kind of rock back and forth to the beat). Their music is ambient, lush, dramatic and moving. Punchy, up front bass leading the progressions as arresting waves of guitar wash over you. I am so glad I got the chance to solve the case of the mistaken identities. Emerald Siam is now firmly implanted on my list of Denver favorites.