COScene Live @UMS 2016 – Night 2

By Cherie Rae Cobbs 7/30/16

Night 2 of the 2016 Underground Music Showcase.

At the end of a long sunny day comes the reprieve of mysterious clouds crowding sunset skies, cool breeze lifting damp hair from glistening foreheads and fresh air to lift the mood and heighten the senses. It was the kind of night you long to get out into. There were so many great shows to see at all of the cozy clubs and venues but on a night like this you are drawn to the open air afforded by the Mainstage.

As hoped we found the streets of South Broadway full of the friendly faces that make this city home. For our second night at UMS, we made it to 7 shows in total and took a few notes below. These acts were all new to me, but therein lies the fun of exploration at UMSIMG_20160730_094705.

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6pm @Irish Rover – Ambit

We started our evening at the Irish Rover to check out Ambit. I loved them. They were long lines of thoughtful space to get lost in daydreams, sparse droning, repetitive vocals, post-punk dreamy drum beats with loops that stung with their own unique brand of friction. The trio’s set included hazy vocals, siren sounds and brought to mind what we love in reflective, rocking, moody Interpol.

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7pm @Main Stage – Lee Fields and the Expressions

Lee Fields is a smooth, classic, stylish, full-grown man that was there to entertain, school and inspire. He leads the best looking, suit wearing GQ band including a Dexter (Michael C. Hall) look-alike on saxophone. Lee was intent on sharing uplifting messages as most songs delivered messages like “…are you happy today?…Keep on tryin, you just might win!….Why can’t we talk and have a good time?…” All told Lee delivered swagger, slinky dance moves, charisma and led the tightest band all night including a highly impressive bass player. The sun was setting, the audience was willing and a good time was had by one and all under the open summer sky.

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7:30pm @Blue Ice – Kid Astronaut

We left the mainstage early so as to try and catch Kid Astronaut at Blue Ice. After the loud, boisterous fun of Lee Fields at the mainstage crossing the threshold into Blue Ice was a marked (but pleasant) shift. The venue was dark, the audience thin and hushed, up front was a single figure with guitar and a crystalline voice that illuminated all dark corners and climbed to the ceiling with ease. Kid Astronaut was informal, sweet, sang with an effortlessness and lightly flew fingers in simple patterns over his pretty guitar. Kid explained that he wanted the venue to “…feel like his living room..” and in response the audience was welcome and open. He asked “does anyone have any questions?” (which is not something I’ve heard at a show before) and while there were no questions asked, one brave comment came late from the back, “thank you for doing what you do.”

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8:30pm @Main Stage – Allah Las

Earlier in the day I listened to a quick sample of Allah Las and was impressed. I enjoy the mellow carefree sounds of Real Estate, Phosphorescence and Tame Impala and thought they had a similar vibe. Their set was driven by long winding intros, mild surf guitar meanderings and beachy breezes of harmony. The overall effect was a mix of classic rock tinged, smooth/chill energy at the hands of laid-back, easy-going guys gently imploring “tell me what’s on your mind…” They were loose, light and definitive in their own brand of outdoor summer-sway concert music.

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9pm @Irish Rover – Kissing Party

Heading into the Irish Rover I had heard only one Kissing Party song before called “Winter in the Pub”.

With that song in mind I was expecting a somber, thoughtful, perhaps bashful group so we were much surprised to find a group eager to dance and attempting to play 15 songs in 40 minutes.   They were loveable hyperactivity, race-paced indie rock playing short powerful songs imploring the audience to jump and move. They were sweet, welcoming and it felt like everyone belonged. Deirdre Sage was particularly impressive, she continually joined dancers on the floor which filled the room with light and life.

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10pm @Skylark Lounge – Helvetia

As the night wears on the lines get longer, the rooms get smaller and the beautiful sunset breeze begins to falter. It is about this time that we headed over to the Skylark Lounge to check out Helvetia. The Skylark Lounge is full and the band is already playing as we work our way in through a skinny snake trail. We take refuge near the pink neon jukebox and enjoy what we hear of Helvetia. They were something like Crowded House to me – on a small PA, stuck in the corner of that hot red room. They reminded me of vampire-like Lost Boys and they exude a timelessness that I could not put my finger on. In truth we could not stay long as the late night open air was again calling. We headed down to Illegal Pete’s to find our second wind or at least a cold, strong margarita.

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11pm @South Broadway Church – Poet’s Row

We stopped into the South Broadway Church for our final show of the evening. We had seen Poet’s Row before and well-remembered the pitch perfect lullaby’s for which they are known. The church was absolutely stifling. The heat when mingled with the music created a powerful analgesic. I was lulled sleepy and my thoughts would trail off into quiet places. This soundtrack embodied the sweet cocktail of lemonade, campfire song, the love of your grandma’s house, the limp summer dreams of youth, crushes and love and was a perfect bookend to our second night at UMS.

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COScene Live @UMS 2016 – Night 1

By Cherie Rae Cobbs 7/28/16

Night 1 of the 2016 Underground Music Showcase.

There was a sea of passersby’s adorned well in smiles and gold lame without explanation. There was the sweet/dream/sugarplum breeze of fresh ice cream cones perfuming the dewy night air. The first foray into Denver’s largest music festival was polite and organized, illustrated by countless show posters clinging so evenly to saran-wrapped street poles. There were parking spaces, swung-open venue doors, cheer and anticipation. The locals in attendance were the early-birds, the curious, the ones who took Friday off, they were clean, energetic and the low-hung dinnertime clouds seemed to set the tone for a tame and melodious evening.

We will be walking for miles up and down South Broadway these next 3 days hoping to bump into friends and fellow musicians, looking for inspiration and stories, unique performance, new music, good food and the general communal merriment such a fest promises to deliver.

All told we enjoyed ourselves. We made the requisite food stops at Pie Hole and Senor Burrito. We had nice summery beer at the Irish Rover and watched three performances detailed below. We hope to see you there!

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8pm @Irish Rover – Beautiful Machines

The self-described ‘cinametronic group’ from San Francisco, Beautiful Machines kicked off the night at Irish Rover setting the stage for an electropop affair. This was a buoyant trio which brought driving beats, happy faces, neon lights and new wave inspired upbeat numbers to a large, amiable audience. The sound was interesting and best described as glam-rock infused Bret Michaels/Jon Bon Jovi vocals (if they were doing something cool) intermingled with feel-good dance retro 80’s strokes (like Erasure) utilizing ample synths, keytar and textured lush sounds. Beautiful Machines is Conrad Schuman (Vocal/Guitar), Veli-Matti Mattila (Drums), Stef Ku (Synth/Keys). They were light and fun.

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9pm @Irish Rover – *Repeat Repeat

Repeat Repeat was a scrumptious, stylish band hailing from Nashville, TN. They were golden go-go boots, a darkened stage, “…can you turn the lights down more, a little more, let’s get sexy in here…” they instilled drama by way of a mysterious illuminated brief case poised up-front (hands reaching in for nothing easily understood) swagger and sass. They were all energy, urging, surf rock meets punk influenced delivery where laundry-list vocals were spit with articulation, emotion and passion. They sound like a Popsicle wishes it could, all vibrant color, brilliant flavor and smooth, refreshing coolness. It felt like road trip, carefree music, something Jack White/Modest Mouse and MGMT may team up to concoct in days gone by.

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10pm @Irish Rover – Bollywood Life

We finished our evening (early) at Irish Rover with local EDM hero Bollywood Life.

Anton Krueger was a joy to behold. His set included quirky, chasing, percussive, electropop, vibrant with videogame undercurrents and unexpected remix prowess. Anton donned a black sleeveless tank with a torso sized white tiger and did not sit still for a moment. He asked the audience, “…anyone ever played a remix of My Humps…cuz I’m about to!” The fun was a constant, somehow My Humps was fresh and fun and parlayed seamlessly into Tender Roni – classic late 80’s Bobby Brown and a personal favorite of mine. Anton was frenetic, he spins, jumps, sweats profusely, habitually pushes up his glasses, dashes, and sings along with every syllable. He knows exactly what he’s doing and you can’t help but crush a little, he’s infectious, sincere and fun.

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UMS 2015 – Day 4

As I mentioned, I woke up on day 4 feeling pretty terrible.  The beers and Pie Hole and ice cream and walking and a regrettable decision to eat late night Blue Bonnet mexican, had all caught up to me.  This was also the day of my other band’s (Cougar Gold) official set, which means I had to drag my beaten self to early afternoon rehearsal and load out.

Welcome to the last day of UMS!

While I didn’t make it the whole night, I also didn’t cash in my chips before seeing some great music either.  Similar to Thursday, a lot of my time was spent at the venue my band was playing in.  In this case, it was Illegal Pete’s.

Bighorn – Bighorn is a newer rock band based here in Denver.  It’s a lovely, full throated, unapologetic offering of rock.  Driving, heavy riffs and fluid yet punchy bass help to move their songs under the talents of their vocalist, who delivers solid grunge-ish melodies over top.  These guys have something fun and I look forward to seeing more.IMG_7290

Oko Tygra – I felt like I was waiting all weekend for this one set.  I love me some Oko Tygra and to see them on the main stage was such a treat.  These guys are headed for something big…and quickly.  They give us a welcomed nostalgia of 80’s new wave but with a bent that is completely new and fresh.  All elements of this band are putting in 110%.  The bass and drums are just locked in and on point from start to finish.  The guitars both move the wonderful progressions forward as well as linger playfully over the mix.  And Joshua fronts the group with the confidence and command of a veteran star.  This is one of those bands that we will all probably be talking about how we got to see them when they (insert fun locally based anecdote here).IMG_7297

Surrender Signal – These guys made me mad.  Why?  Because they played before us (Cougar Gold) at Pete’s….and they were really good.  You always secretly hope the people before you kind of suck so that you look more betterer (oh stop….you know it’s true).  However, that most certainly wasn’t the case here.  They are musical, technical, but yet  convey a sense of emotion that is often missing in mathy rock.  They are all working in perfect unison to push forward a hard edged and forceful sound that I believe has the potential to make a mark here in Denver.  This appears to be a newer project and I can’t wait to see where they take it!IMG_7309

…and the Black Feathers – These guys are the very definition of great rock performers.  I mean, they just sell it from the moment they take the stage to the moment they pull away.  And it’s not just about the coordinated outfits (although I could talk your ear off about how I think more bands should put a little effort into being a band and yes…that might involve thinking about wearing something other than cargo shorts and a tee).  And The Black Feathers teach us a thing or two about making sure to love what you do.  They deliver to us a brand of rock that is energetic, danceable and often even anthem-esque.  It’s refreshingly soulful and yet strikingly fun.  It’s not just any band that can get a line of hot, tired and grumpy people to start dancing as they wait for their burritos.  They did so with ease.  Be sure to check them out and if you like to smile and enjoy stuff…go and see them live.IMG_7314

Male Blonding – This is another one of those “I’ve heard of them…but have never heard them” bands.  I’ve wanted to see them for quite some time.  Every ounce of me was ready to throw in the towel before they played however.  It was 6:45.  I was a tired and worn man.  All I wanted to do was to find my bed and close my eyes for as long as they would stay closed.  I am so happy that I was able to push ahead and make the long and arduous journey from Pete’s to Irish Rover (trust me, at the end of UMS…this .3 mile is indeed long and arduous).

Male Blonding did not disappoint.  There is a pop-punk element to them but one that is fresh and exciting.  Rich with movement, their music is intelligently crafted and masterfully performed.  It’s music with hook enough to keep you tapping your toes but with a depth that makes you want to run and find their recorded offerings asap.  I couldn’t have asked for a better set to close out my UMS 2015 with.  Along with a handful of others, Male Blonding has found its way into my list of UMS discoveries that I will be following for a long time to come.IMG_7323

 

UMS 2015 – Day 3

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.IMG_7145

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.IMG_7167

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.IMG_7172

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. IMG_7181

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.IMG_7194

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.IMG_7211

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.IMG_7233

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!IMG_7259

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.  IMG_7266

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.IMG_7287

UMS 2015 – Day 2

Day 2 of the Underground Music Showcase was definitely one for the books.  It also was the day of one of my band’s performances (Plume Varia).  Luckily, we were placed at the Eslinger Art Gallery, which ended up being our home for nearly the whole evening as they hosted one amazing act after another the entire night.  Below are the bands I caught.

Albny – The first show at Eslinger was by a Denver group called Albny and really set the tone of the whole night.  Their music is psychedelic, melodic and yet pulls in some beautiful folk-inspired harmonies.  Think Shins….yet soulful.  You will be hearing more from these guys, believe me.IMG_7130

 

Church Fire – I am a long time Church Fire fan.  These two just kill it every single time they plug in.  Their music is pulsating, it’s emotional, it’s transformative.  Shannon puts her entire self into her performances and David hunkers down and works the production a masterful wizard.  With touches of Industrial, Noise and even electro-pop elements, they have crafted a sound that is one of a kind in Denver.  That is no easy task.IMG_7082

 

The Raven and the Writing Desk – So first of all, sorry about the bad photo.  The reason for this bad photo is it was taken outside on the sidewalk, looking through the window.  Why?  Because there were so many people packed in to see The Raven and The Writing Desk, I couldn’t get closer!  This is a good problem to have.  They have made a name for themselves in Denver and for wonderful reason.  Their music is a stunning symphony of electronic psych-pop that swirls in your subconscious long after the last note is played.  Beautifully soaring guitars, rich dancing synths and dominating beats set the tone for their generous contribution to Denver’s thriving Dreampop and Darkwave scene.IMG_7094

 

Lucida Tela – This was Lucida Tela’s first time at UMS and they couldn’t have delivered a more perfect set.  They are a wall of ambient, evocative power.  Lush, dark, and soaring shoegazey guitar on top of inventive beats and a soulful groove forming a sound that will fill you with warmth and comfort like a steaming bowl of chicken noodle on a frigid winter day.  Their set was one of those that grabs and holds on…keeping you locked in from the moment your ears take in the first strum.IMG_7096

 

Pxlman – Ok.  Here it is.  I’m going to say it.  Randy Washington is the best frontman in Denver.  If you know him from Total Ghost, you know that statement is fact.  This night though was about Pxlman, Randy’s new electro-pop project that has already hit the ground in Denver running.  It is rich, melodic and infectious singing over a gorgeous electronic musical bed; all tightly woven together by forceful and driving live percussion.  You can’t help but enjoy yourself as Randy takes command of the room and draws you into his world of pop. IMG_7113

 

Residual Kid – I first saw Residual Kid when they had the wonderful opportunity to open for Peter Murphy a couple years ago at Summit.  We were blown away by them.  Yes they are youngsters.  But really, that’s irrelevant. They aren’t interesting because they are teens.  They are interesting because they have crafted a masterful Austin skate-punk sound that is uniquely their own.  They are energetic, powerful and just plain fun.  This was the last set of the night for me and  I couldn’t have asked for a better soundtrack to the excess libations and endless laughs with friends while closing out day two of my UMS.IMG_7128

UMS 2015 – Day 1

UMS 2015 is here!  The challenge with this amazing episode is of course trying to fit in all that you want to see.  You are trying to balance between supporting those bands you already know and love and catching the sets of bands you’ve never seen before or even that you’ve never heard of.

My time at this great festival is no exception, and that couldn’t please me more. Here are the artists that I caught on night one of the Underground Music Showcase.

LZRWLF – This is my first time catching LZRWLF and they were the perfect way to kick off my personal UMS season.  They are beautiful dance pop that calls back to some of our favorite classic new wave but yet puts forth a groove and style of their own.  IMG_7030

For Keeps – I’ve written about and have seen For Keeps before but that wasn’t going to stop me from swinging by the set of these wonderful people.  Fun, infectious pop that will absolutely force you to start tapping those toes.  Go ahead, try to sit still during their set.  It’s not happening.  Plus, this was also a celebration of the release of their new single, “No Left Behinds”.  Congratulations to them!  IMG_7050

Qbala – I have heard about Qbala for a long time now but have actually never had the chance to see a set.  This was the one show of the night that I was determined not to miss.  I was not disappointed.  Qbala is now listed in my brain as one of the best local hip hop artists in Denver.   Her flow and energy are driving, authoritative and yet often playful and fun.  Also, I am not sure who produces the beats that Qbala delivers her gold over, but they are absolutely stunning compilations of groove, melody and production.  IMG_7049

Strawberry Runners – I’ve had the lovely chance to meet Strawberry Runners before and had the opportunity to see them soundcheck, but this was my first time actually being able to watch them in full action.  With thoughtful harmonies and glistening, light, and floating melodies, Strawberry Runners produce beautiful music.  They have been getting some enthusiastic attention this year and it is 100% deserved.  I expect to see them continue to rise amongst the ranks here in Denver music.IMG_7062

UMS 2015 is here!

Denver’s 4 day onslaught of wonderful Independent music is here.  It’s a marathon folks.  Stock the advil, sunscreen, and sunglasses. Charge up the phone battery and ready the liver.

Music festivals that highlight our amazing local talent are what sets Colorado apart from the rest of the cities and their paltry music scenes.  Let’s all appreciate that and head on down to baker to show some love to hundreds and hundreds of wonderful artists.

If I can offer a piece of advice it would be this. Go into this’ years UMS with the following goal:  Make an effort to see multiple artists that you have not previously heard of.  This is what it’s all about!

Have fun and stay safe!

-CoScene

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