By John Hendrickson, Reverb
They came with their pets and their piercings, on their skinny tired bikes, in their skinny legged jeans. And they came despite an early evening rainfall that soaked the beginning of the 2010 Underground Music Showcase Thursday night.
The annual music festival — presented by The Denver Post — celebrates its 10th anniversary this summer and will host more than 300 local and national acts over four days. What began as a one-night engagement at the Fox Theatre in 2001 now spans 25 stages in Denver’s South Broadway neighborhood.
UMS Day 1 slideshows:
Denver Post shooter Leah Millis’ pictures from UMS night No. 1.
AUDIO SLIDESHOW of Flashbulb Fires playing the first night of The UMS. Slideshow by Dan Petty and Deven Swartz, The Denver Post.
“People were told the box office would open at 5:30 and there was a line at 5:30,” said volunteer coordinator Ger Ree Hinshaw.
Patrons made their way into Sputnik nightclub by 6:30 p.m. to hear a happy hour DJ set from Dave Wilkinson of Denver’s legendary Wax Trax records.
“I feel more a part of it than I would other (festivals),” said Ryan Demers, 34, a Denver-based filmmaker at the end of the bar inside Sputnik. “A lot of times I’ll meet up with a friend, but it’s sort of an individual experience,” Demers said, adding that he was looking forward to seeing local bands Dovekins and Paper Bird later in the evening.
Further up the block, Chella Negro’s booming vocals pierced the Broadway sidewalks as the first act of the night at The Hornet bar.
Originally from Wisconsin, the folk singer has called Denver home for a decade and performed to a charmed crowd against a low-lit backdrop. Her long green tablecloth dress and sleepy country hymns evoked the likes of Patsy Cline and new country favorite Neko Case.
The pit-pat of the drummer’s wire brushes and Chella’s liquidy country yearn felt like a Thursday night in a far-off Texas roadhouse.
Local indie/punk act China Venture created a starkly different atmosphere down the street at 3 Kings Tavern. The band played a fast, loud, oft-distorted set of post-modern skater rock against the struggle of a still-filling venue.
But the absence of a mosh pit wasn’t enough to deter one fan near the front of the stage from head-banging and fist-pumping during a well-executed “Cigarettes.”
Across the street at the Hi-Dive, owner Matt LaBarge stood and watched the crowd file into his venue, the unofficial city hall of the UMS.
Inside, the largest crowd of the first round of showcases packed in to catch the local psychedelic swing act Dovekins. Upright bassist Blake Stepan plucked his strings with a Native American feather strapped to the back of his head and led the band with rompy, walking bass lines atop Griff Snyder’s warm guitar tones.
Once the music was well off and running, Hinshaw was all smiles outside at the box office.
“We had a moment of rain,” she said “but everybody just laughs and stands there getting wet. Everybody comes to the UMS expecting a good time and not demanding a good time. They make the good time happen.”
More UMS coverage on the next page …