Favorite UMS Memories


Matt Sandy’s impressive collection of programs over the years

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…the 2016 Underground Music Showcase popped off last night with a pre-party at 3 Kings and boy was it good (I am seriously still swooning over that Whitney set…) In order to commemorate yet another year of intimate performances, ringing ear drums, beer-soaked hair, drunken bro hugs, and awkward run-ins with your ex, I reached out to some folks and asked them to share their favorite memories from the fest.

Psst…if you haven’t gotten your wristband yet (shame!) they are still available online with single-day tickets available at the festival box office.

Ricardo Baca, UMS co-founder

My buddy John Moore and I co-founded The UMS together. He birthed it and gave it life at the Bluebird and Gothic and I raised it, moving it from four bands at a single venue to more bands, more venues, more days, more music. After John had handed me the reins, I remember sitting at Sputnik’s bar one day talking with Matt Labarge, who owned Sputnik and hi-dive at the time. I was headed over to the Larimer for a big show, though I forget who was playing, and I asked Matt if he wanted to come along. He hopped on the back of my scooter and over the course of the next couple hours, I talked with him about moving The UMS from the Bluebird to Broadway — incorporating the neighborhood’s rock clubs, coffee shops, bars, restos, and retail establishments into a SXSW-like festival. (Brief note: After attending 16 SXSWs, I loved the simplicity of the festival. One wristband means access to all venues for four days. As a native Coloradan, I knew that Denver needed something like that.) Matt saw the potential and we continued our brainstorming at the Larimer, on the scooter ride back to Sputnik, and over beers later that night. When I started to approach more venue owners to see if they’d be interested in participating, I began to envision what this festival could look like.

That first year was perfectly quaint, though massive compared to our previous outings: 25 bands, four or five venues, one night. We grew to two nights the next year, then three and four nights and now that I’m prepping for yet another gorgeous UMS weekend in Denver, I’m thankful that the festival’s director Kendall Smith has taken such good care of our baby. Helping to create this important community event that celebrates local and national artists will always be one of my proudest accomplishments.

[If you are interested in learning more about what the UMS does for the community, read this recent post from Ricardo]


Rob Burleson (aka #3), musician

I guess the old saying goes, “If you remember it, you weren’t there”. I’ll be honest, there are a lot of UMS memories I can’t remember but I had the bruises and strange itch to prove it 🙂 Forgive me if I can’t remember specific years but I’m not one for details. Here are a few things:

1. Nathan & Stephen reunion show at the Mayan Theater.

2. I’ve had the pleasure of playing every UMS with the exception of the first two, which were not on S. Broadway. Back in the early days, I was in three bands and one year I played an all-ages set in the afternoon with Lion Sized, ran over to Indyink to play a set with d. biddle, and then ran back to play another show with Lion Sized that evening. It was hilarious to watch me lugging my drums back and forth across S. Broadway. In between all the chaos of playing, I managed to catch two amazing acoustic sets by Nathan & Stephen (before I was in the band) and Nathaniel Rateliff w/ Joe Sampson at Fancy Tiger (original location). Back then, a lot of the smaller shops didn’t have real PAs so you got to see these amazing performers in a very up-close and intimate setting.

[Catch Rob perform this Thursday, July 28th with Andy Thomas’ Dust Hearts at 11pm at Gary Lee’s and on Sunday, July 29th with SPELLS at 10pm at the hi-dive]


Anthony Ruptak, musician

Sunday morning…the final morning of UMS 2014…My photo ID, debit card, and car keys were strewn throughout various S. Broadway hotspots. I found myself in front of my home in Commerce City with my guitarist, Jeb and his comedian friend from Costa Rica, Bob. We sat drinking lukewarm Lost Lakes and slowly attempted to reconnect the fragments of memories from the previous three days and nights.

I had a neighbor who drove a dump truck up and down my street regularly. He had a big, gray beard and eyes eternally fixed forward, smoking cigarettes. He looked mean as hell. I always wondered what he did for a living since I saw him nearly every day. At some point, I had wrapped myself in an American flag the night before, since I had abandoned my shirt. So in my current state, I rose, donning the stars and stripes (despite the admonition of my friends) and walked into the middle of the road with my hands waving to stop the oncoming dump truck. My neighbor laid on his horn and screeched to a halt and I, trying to be as respectful and friendly as possible, walked to the driver’s side window and asked, “Excuse me, what do you do for a living?” He then shouted back, “I BUILD FUCKING HOUSES!” and stepped on the gas and shot down the road.

The UMS is a magical time. I learn something new about myself and my community every year.

[Catch Anthony perform on Sunday, July 31st at 6pm at the South Broadway Christian Church]


Matty Clark, co-owner of hi-dive

Most of my memories are a blur, but last year I ate some weird-tasting mushrooms, swam in Nathaniel Rateliff’s pool, found a DirectTV satellite dish in an alley, and shot fireworks off during Dirty Few’s set. That was just on Sunday.

[Be sure to check out Matty’s new endeavor, The Overland, a bar/restaurant recently opened with members of Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats]


Chella Negro, musician

I don’t have one favorite memory of the Underground Music Showcase. I can’t think of one time that sticks out as the “perfect moment.” That’s because the UMS has, for me, been a series of “perfect moments” since 2009. Whether it was standing at the front of the stage with the best friends I’ve ever had while A. Tom Collins blew the roof off of 3 Kings, or talking dunk tanks over numerous whiskey shots with Gary Lee, or recording a podcast at a tiki bar, or every Machine Gun Blues show I’ve been treated to over the years, the UMS always outshines even my greatest expectations. I could go on but, unfortunately, some of the memories have melded thanks to long days and smoke-filled nights on South Broadway.

It has always felt like an honor to be asked to play amongst our city’s most talented musicians. It has always been a weekend to reconnect, make new friends, and fill your ears with all the good this city has to offer. God bless the UMS. Stay rad.

[Follow Chella and the Charm to see where they play next]


Nigel Penhale, great addition to any dance floor

My first UMS was in 2010 and I was lucky enough to have direction from a few friends on who to see and how to navigate the beautiful, chaotic mess. Nathan & Stephen were playing a midnight at the Mayan reunion show and several people strongly suggested/forced me to go. That was the first time I saw them and it was incredible. I’ve managed to make it to almost every show, pop-up or planned, they’ve played since. Including a barn burner at old Lost Lake where Nathan lost his voice two songs in but the crowd sang the rest of the set for him. The energy that band creates in the crowd now is exactly the same as it was the first time I saw them and that’s why I love the UMS. For four days straight, you’re going to get bands putting on performances with a special intimacy and urgency, in a crazy atmosphere.

My second UMS, I saw a band, the Fox & The Bird, randomly. None of their equipment worked. After five minutes, they said fuck it, walked into the crowd, and played a literal foot-stomping, hand-clapping acoustic set and it was nuts.

In 2011, I had no idea who A. Tom Collins was. I parked at 3 Kings at 8pm to watch Tin Horn Prayer because someone told me to and then watched A. Tom burn down the house at the 11 o’clock slot. Two years later, they did the same thing – lit sparklers inside and marched to hi-dive for the Zebroids set. I had three sparklers in my mouth and got tackled by security, knowing full well I was being an asshole. People may hate on the current iteration of the UMS but I learned and saw so much and made a lot of friends from this ballet of music, booze, and madness.

[Follow Nigel’s UMS adventure this year @milehighgotham]



Miles getting down with In The Whale last year

Matt Sandy, beer writer for Dear Denver

I first experienced UMS in 2008, the year I moved to Denver and haven’t missed one since. That first year, I remember Hearts of Palm (there’s a band due for a reunion…) leading an epic sing-along of “We Have No Water” at the hi-dive and Magic Cyclops doing his best rendition of the CarToys – the presenting sponsor – jingle as the emcee on the main stage (at that point it was in the backyard of a church, as I recall).

While each UMS tends to blur together in a marathon session of music, good friends, hooch, and too many slices of pizza, some moments stand out more distinctly than others. I recall my ears ringing for days after Colourmusic’s set at 3 Kings and a rambunctious, crowd-surfing, booze-flinging, silly-string soaked one, two, three, four gut punch of Colfax Speed Queen, Bud Bronson & the Good Timers, Dirty Few, and The Knew. Sometimes whiskey happens way too early in the day like when The Blind Pets played on the bar at the hi-dive and passed a bottle around. Thankfully, one can always seek respite from the madness in the calming ballads of singer/songwriters at the South Broadway Christian Church. Getting through 2016 will be similarly simple: listen, drink, socialize, eat pizza, repeat.

[Follow Matt’s UMS adventure this year @rexgrant]


Tyler Jacobson, Mile High Soul Club

UMS 2013 – We were booked at Sputnik, which was already packed when we arrived and then doubled once we started playing. The audience was dancing so hard that we couldn’t get through a full song on the turntables because the needles were bouncing. It was like spinning records on a trampoline. It didn’t matter though – seemed like everyone in the bar, especially us, was having a ball. Luckily, we had a laptop and switched over to it for the remainder of our set.

[Catch Mile High Soul Club spinning on Friday, July 29th at 5pm on the main stage and in between sets that night]


Georgina Guidotti, musician

My first thought is walking in on what may have been the first iteration of Weird Touch, the dance party/DJ night that Matthew Brown of Fancy Tiger does. I forget the small gallery on S. Broadway that we stumbled into, but it ended up being the highlight of the weekend. We were dead tired, ready to go home, hot, probably drunk. We walked by and it was super dark inside without too much ambient light. We were curious what it was. Well, the energy of the crowd was just so happy and carefree, and of course, the music was irresistible. So we danced and sweat it out with our temporary kindred UMS-goers.

That, and Somerset Catalog (our 6-piece band with lots of equipment) squeezing onto the tiny stage at the Irish Rover, wondering how in the hell we were going to pull off our set with no room to move. Well, we did. We ended up playing to a packed crowd and had one of our best sets.

[Follow Somerset Catalog to see where they play next]


Matthew Brown, DJ and owner of Fancy Tiger Clothing

OK, I was thinking I needed some crazy story about drinking my own pee or something but I realize I can just tell you a great story about music…

During UMS four years ago, I stumbled into Blue Ice for the first time. I hadn’t followed the festivals roster too closely so I wasn’t sure what to expect. To my surprise, this neighborhood salsa/hip-hop/goth(?) bar was hosting HUMANS, an incredibly talented Vancouver-based electronic outfit that I had recently become obsessed with. Who knew? Thanks, UMS.

And how about that time Nathaniel & the Night Sweats played the Meese house? I was late to the show so I rushed into the house hoping I would be lucky enough to catch the opening song. The front rooms were empty, which confused me. Did I get the times right? Was I there on the wrong day? I moved through the space looking for a sign. I ran into Nathaniel in the kitchen as he put his guitar over his shoulder. Apparently, the band was playing in the back yard and I was about to follow Nathaniel on stage. We had a good laugh about that.

[You can dance it out with Weird Touch on Saturday, July 30th at 9pm at Syntax Physic Opera] 


Marc Hughes, The Postman

1. In 2012, I was DJing in the window of what is now Gozo (I think it was Lolas or something like that) and this group of kids (like 6 – 8 years old) that were selling water and snacks on the sidewalk started dancing in the middle of the sidewalk. Everything I played, they just started dancing more and cheering. Eventually, they got a small crowd around them dancing as well. I learned after that it was one of the boy’s birthdays and he was beaming, saying it was one of the best he’s had. [Peep this video at 0:57]

2. One of the early ones, but it was a Friday night and I pulled a triple shift for Ben and Rick. I started off DJing at Sputnik, then went down to Skylark, then went and played in the basement of 3 Kings for a bit, then finally ended up at the Mayan for a show (Faceman, I think) and then ended up driving Ross and Jimmy’s drunk asses home at 4 in the morning. It was so memorable because I remember playing three totally different sets of music. I played poppy dancey stuff at Sputnik, some R&B and blues at Skylark, and some crazy electronic stuff at 3 Kings. It was one of the first times I really felt like I could DJ anything and people would enjoy it.

[Did you know this Postman also brews saké? Check out Gaijin 24866 to learn more!]


Kendall Smith, UMS Event Director

My favorite part is when it is over.

[Editor’s note: That’s so Raven, I mean Kendall]

All right, well I can’t present a list of favorite memories from UMS without including mine…like many of the folks that I reached out to, I feel like the best moments are actually the haziest ones as well…There are performances that have stuck with me over the years (e.g. Wentworth Kersey at the Fentress Architects Materials Garden; Cults on the main stage; BLKHRTS at Blue Ice; SPELLS at the hi-dive; Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats at the yellow house…can we all please pour one out for the yellow house?) however, one of my favorite *moments* happened last year. It was Sunday night – me, my boo, and our friend Javier were headed to our bikes to officially end the fest. We ran into Ethan Converse (from Rose Quartz) standing on the corner. We started going on about how fun his sets were, how much we loved the UMS, and ultimately we all just ended up in a giddy group hug on the side of S. Broadway. I’ll admit that it’s kinda silly but that’s one of the main reasons why I love this fest…it’s an event where you get to have drunken, group hugs with musicians you dig. And everyone is really happy.

[Follow Dear Denver this weekend @dear_denver]

Got a favorite UMS memory? Please share it in the comments section below and party on.