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UMS founders celebrate twenty years of musical discovery

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The Underground Music Showcase returns August 27-29.

Miles Chrisinger

Four bands. Five dollars.

The Showcase of underground music, which launched in 2001 and returns to Broadway this weekend, had humble origins.

“Mary Robertson, who worked at Gothic theater at the time, told me the story of this client who approached her in a very confrontational manner and said, “Why wasn’t there a good band from Colorado? since Big Head Todd and the Monsters? ‘”recalls John Moore, journalist, playwright and organizer who has done as much for the Denver arts scene as anyone in town.” His response was,’ There have been dozens. You just haven’t heard of them. When the idea of ​​a showcase of local groups came up, it was to change that.

While Westword, which already covered the local scene for more than two decades, launched the Westword Music Showcase in 1995, the Denver PostMoore’s employer at the time had not organized such an event showcasing local music. Moore and Ricardo Baca, a To post colleague on the beat of the music, decided to change that with a showcase of the To postis clean.

The goal was to recruit a handful of Denver’s best unknown bands to play for a night; the next day they would each be featured in the newspaper.

“If you’re someone interested in the local music scene, here’s an opportunity for you to get a good sample,” says Moore. “The pride factor was that if we were just completely local programming, that people would come and see it, and we didn’t need a Death Cab for Cutie or some sort of national band topping it up. poster for people to come and see local bands.

The festival slogan, “The UMS Is Love,” has guided the event over the years.

Baca, who later became editor-in-chief of To post’s now gone Cannabist, then quit publishing and founded Meadows, a cannabis marketing company, five years ago, is proud of himself and those who followed him for turning the One Night Affair into one of the world’s greatest music festivals from Denver. Stylize UMS after SXSW, Baca recruited national talent and increased the number of sites involved. He ceded the post of festival director to his collaborator Kendall Smith, and in 2018 the Denver Post sold UMS to event promoter Two Parts.

“Starting UMS with John will always be one of the most important things I’ve ever done,” says Baca. “Music festivals should be about discovery, and I really think what we built was a vehicle for discovery. And what Kendall took from me really pushed it forward and amplified it, and what Two Parts has done with the festival in general has been very smart and thoughtful. ”

As Baca has moved well beyond the stage of emerging musicians in Denver, he’s excited to show up and discover new talent he’s never heard of before.

“I’m a fan,” he says. “I can’t wait to get to South Broadway on Friday.”

The Underground Music Showcase, canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, spent last summer stimulating local artists through live broadcasts, championing local musicians while trying to stand out. When UMS announced that he would return in person on the last weekend of August 2021, there was a feeling the pandemic was drawing to a close. After all, vaccines were widely available and cases of COVID were on the decline.

Then Delta struck, and the festival had to do last-minute calculations, including demanding proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the event. The announcement of these guidelines came minutes before AEG Presents announced that it would require full vaccination at all sites from October 1. The live music industry, desperate to avoid another round of shutdowns, had adopted tougher security policies than Governor Jared Polis. or Mayor Michael Hancock have so far.

And so the show will continue.

UMS headliners this year include Pinegrove, Remi Wolf, Allah-Las, Shannon & the Clams, Neil Frances, DāM-FunK, Yoke Lore, Sofía Valdés, Kamauu, Mike, Thee Sacred Souls and Ekkstacy.

The highlight of the festival has always been the impressive mix of local talent, which this year includes bands such as A-Mac & the Height, Bud Bronson and the Good Timers, CRL CRRLL, DespAIR Jordan, Float Like a Buffalo, the Grand Alliance, iZCALLi, Lolita, Ramakhandra, Schama Noel, Slow Caves, the Still Tide, Toussaint Lorenz, Venus Cruz & Super Distant Boyfriend, Wildermiss and YaSi.

Local businesses are also getting into the action. UMS weekends are almost always scorching, and Hope Reservoir, a South Broadway gift shop that aims to give back to the community and amplify the city’s worthy causes, will sell festival care packages. In the mix: portable AC units that you can wrap around your neck that will keep you cool no matter what the temperature, face and body wipes, ventilators, small handbags and various bright tchotchkes, for make sure you have the time of your life.

And Baca and Moore will be back for fun, even hosting an aperitif-time Founders Party, where the public is invited to have a drink and relax at Grasslands, 100 Santa Fe Drive. While the event – and alcohol – is free, guests are asked to bring wads of cash to donate to the Colorado Freedom of Information Council, a non-partisan group that fights for transparency in state and local governments and helps journalists and the public secure access to public records.

The event aims to connect all of UMS’s new energy to its DIY roots.

“Twenty years later, the 21st UMS is coming. I look at him with wonder, humility and wonder, ”says Moore. “If anything, I think we just set up a little domino and knocked it over. And it grew from there, mainly thanks to Ricardo Baca’s vision. He made it to the potential that he is realizing today.

Things can get a bit teary-eyed at the Founders Party, Baca and Moore warn.

“Ricardo and I are known to be very careless at the end of the night and very sentimental, teary eyed like ‘We did this’,” Moore said. “We are foolish people.”

Find the complete UMS program by visiting the UMS in line. The Founder’s Day runs from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, August 28 at Grasslands, 100 Santa Fe Drive. For more information, visit Founders Day Facebook page.


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