Looking for a new favorite band»
For Denver’s curious music mavens, Christmas in July was in full swing on Friday night thanks to the 17th annual Underground Music Showcase, the locally focused music festival that fashions a dozen stages out of the bars, parking lots and even a church along South Broadway.
In lieu of gifts, festivalgoers come to the UMS — a Denver Post Community Foundation-organized, nonprofit event — in search of moments.
Lafayette’s Charles Smith, 33, came to 3 Kings Tavern after work on a rainy, gray Friday evening in hopes that whoever was playing at that time might become his new favorite band.
“The best musical discoveries are when you have no expectations,” Smith said, shaking off the workweek to Serf and James, out of Napa, Calif., with a tall can of beer in hand.
In that sense, the UMS is as much a gift for the festival’s artists, who get the chance to pull the ears of wristband-wearing passers-by.
Denver-based alt-soul outfit Ghost Tapes managed just that with their set at the Skylark Lounge on Friday evening, effectively converting a room of strangers into doting fans in the span of 45 minutes.
“The attention is unexpected but welcome,” said frontwoman Ishka Phoenix, 25, who channeled Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes of female 1990s R&B trio TLC and sported a cat-ear hairband in her set. “I’m a bit of an exhibitionist.”
The revelry peaked early Saturday at 3 Kings Tavern with a funk fête thrown by The Other Black, a loosely organized and highly hyped party band led by musical renaissance man Wesley Watkins. With a healthy regiment of horns that fanned out throughout the crowd to start the set, Watkins challenged those still on their feet — the set ended at 2 a.m. — to move them.
Come Saturday afternoon, many of those hitting the floor hours early were still hitting the sack. Thanks to rowdy post-punk band Jane Doe, 3 Kings Tavern sounded like a party at noon, but only a couple dozen people were there to absorb the bedlam.
Juxtapose that with the hundreds of giddy young music fans lined up for the opportunity to buy merchandise from — and possibly catch a glimpse of — rapper Kendrick Lamar, whose one-day-only popup shop took over South Broadway clothing stores Abstract and Sneaks less than a block away. A 17year-old fan from Utah near the front of the line had been waiting since 4:30 a.m. to buy the merchandise from Lamar’s world tour, which stopped in Denver’s Pepsi Center on Saturday night. (He had heard of the UMS but wasn’t attending the festival.)
Over at the Irish Rover, a block north of the line, Kansas City, Mo.’s Sherry Butts knew about Lamar. But she came to South Broadway to hear something she didn’t already know.
“So far, I like them the best,” Butts said, nodding her head along with the healthy crowd packed in to catch the Denver folk-pop outfit Edison. “I think I’ll stay here for a couple of hours.”