Denver’s Snake Rattle Rattle Snake Interview with ArtistRoster.com from Artist Roster on Vimeo. The band plays at 7:30 p.m. tonight on the CarToys stage at the Goodwill Parking Lot.
By John Hendrickson, Reverb
Jesse Elliott of the indie Americana band These United States saddled up against the black fence in the Goodwill parking lot to join the early evening concert crowd. Vocalist Brer Rabbit of the Flobots stood a few feet behind him. They each hail from two of the marquee bands at this year’s Underground Music Showcase yet blended into the crowd as well as any concertgoer on Friday night.
Such was the case an hour earlier at Sputnik nightclub, where Elliott and his bandmates waited several minutes for a booth, eventually ordering dinner directly from the bar.
This is how The UMS works — the lines between the fans and artists are blurred, sometimes they’re non-existent. With 300 acts on the same strip, you’re just as likely to spot an artist on stage as off.
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“You have to trust the people you’re working with,” said These United States drummer Robby Cosenza on playing showcase-style festivals. “It’s hard to know what you’re getting yourself into a lot of the time.”
His band is one of several national acts who have journeyed to Denver specifically for the festival — in their case, a one hour Friday night slot at the Hi-Dive. The band will play Chicago’s Lollapalooza festival next month, though the group agreed that smaller festivals such as The UMS are often more pleasurable.
“Big stages are a double-edged sword,” said Elliott. “You’re reaching people but you’re reaching them in a less quality way. Part of what you lose is the intimacy with the fans.”
Friday night at The UMS saw an increased number of venues offering live music to a growing South Broadway community of music fiends and wanderers. The T-shirt shop Indy Ink hosted outlaw singer/songwriter Mishka Shubaly for a second consecutive year. Though originally from Denver, Shubaly now calls Brooklyn home and played a strong set of lonesome drinking songs to a semi-familiar audience.
“Thanks for coming to my soccer game, Dad!” Shubaly joked mid-set, pointing to his father watching the intimate performance from a stool near the cash register. The elder Shubaly tapped his foot while his son strummed the electric guitar and sang of empty liquor bottles and shotgun barrels.
Next door at Illiterate Magazine, Denton, Texas-based Fur produced a slew of ambient drones over lo-fi hip hop beats that ricocheted off of the gallery’s four white walls. Fur’s unique percussion arrangements – a hybrid of digital laptops, keyboards and a free standing floor tom from a traditional drum kit made for one of the more creative sets of the night.
First-time festival goer Lisa Simms called the diversity of the lineup “amazing.”
For Simms, a Denver native, The UMS offers an opportunity to venture into a new part of the city.
“I think it’s drawing people to an area that’s always been up and coming, but this year it feels like it’s finally arrived.”
She stood toward the back of the crowd at the smaller of two stages in the Goodwill parking lot watching YouTube star Danielle Ate the Sandwich. The Fort Collins-based folk singer (real name Danielle Anderson) represents a new era in the music industry — a time when bedroom guitar players can make a name for themselves on the web and draw a crowd in real life, as was the case Friday night.
Anderson warmed the crowd for locals Paper Bird who took to the CarToys stage shortly after the end of her set. Caleb Summeril’s soft plucking banjo and whirly mouth harp kept heads bobbing atop the group’s staple female harmonies — all while the sun went down in a little too picturesque of a summer evening.
Across the street, two guys drank beer on the open windowsill of a corner apartment above the Walnut Room Pizzeria, another unlikely venue at this year’s festival.
Downstairs, amidst the bell pepper and basil fumes of Friday night dining, volunteer stage manager Tom South couldn’t be happier with not knowing names in the program guide. South, a Denver area high school history teacher, said he heard about the event through Facebook and decided to volunteer three days ago.
It’s part of the ownership that many feel over this festival in its tenth year.
From the back booth at Sputnik, Jesse Elliott mused over his own band’s career and its place as one of the bigger names at this year’s festival.
“The shows themselves are the end — it’s not a means to something better.”
More UMS coverage on the next page …