Why Denver is the next destination city for music

Sean getting into 'No More' Photo cred: Juli Williams / Reverb
Sean getting into 'No More' Photo cred: Juli Williams / Reverb

As a new weekend rapidly approaches, I still find myself reliving this past weekend. Not to say that I'm not excited about the upcoming summer party that my work throws (Mel, I sincerely apologize if you ever read this), but it's going to be pretty hard to beat the UMS.

If you live in Denver and are into the local music scene, there's no doubt that you've heard about the Underground Music Showcase  (or maybe you recently read about it in Paste). Well this year, I was lucky enough to participate in it with my band Lazer Wolf (now Retrofette). We had a modest 4pm slot on Saturday. A slot that we were excited about to be sure - it was on the biggest day of the festival, didn't interfere with the touring acts, and hey, we got to play - but not the most glamourous. Heck, we had no idea how we were going to get a bunch of wristband wearing hipsters to come see a band they had never heard of play an art gallery in the middle of the afternoon.

So 4pm rolls around and there we were, all set up and ready to play. Somehow, the sound guy didn't get the memo. On top of that, the venue wasn't provided with the necessary equipment for all of our instruments to be plugged in. I swear, this band never gets a break. So we rig up our gear in such a manner that would make any audio engineer cringe and begin playing. Truth be told, we had that place packed with strangers by the end of our set. Man did we have a blast! By the end of the weekend, I needed more than two hands to count the amount of people who had approached me about the band. Now that felt pretty cool considering we've only been playing out for a few months.

That's the beauty of the UMS. People came to that festival with an open mind. They sought out new music. Sure, there was probably another band they already knew playing when we were, but they ducked into that tiny art gallery to listen to us. I couldn't be more grateful.

I did the best I could to take advantage of the festival too. With the exception of day parties on Saturday (I was waaay too tired from friday), I saw just about every possible time slot of music that I could. Friends bands, bands that I had seen before, bands whose names I was only familiar with, and bands that I just had no idea existed. The latter may have been the greatest surprise. Among those surprises were American Tomahawk, A. Tom Collins, GEMS (D.C.), and last but not least, the disco dj duo Black Amex.

Before this weekend, I hadn't realized just how talented the pop musicians and indie bands in this town really were. I was confined to my jazz and funk circle. But after UMS, I can tell that Denver is going to explode onto the national scene as the next best city for music. I cannot stress enough how high the level of musicianship was in the local bands that I saw (A Band in Pictures, Inner Oceans, deCollage, Rubedo, the list goes on...). I am truly impressed, grateful to all the local music fans, and excited that Lazer Wolf will be joining the ranks of some phenomenal Denver bands.

If you do the Spotify thing, I've been compiling a playlist of music that thoroughly impressed me at the UMS. Check it here: ums 2014.

Thanks for reading,

Xavier