We’ve been proponents of underground artists for as long as we’ve been in existence. In all honesty, we get more of a thrill from reading a submission with a subject line like, “Debut song from indie/folk artist from the UK,” than we do from something like, “Mega superstar announces 1,000,000 city tour.” There’s a certain excitement in showcasing an up-and-coming artist that simply can’t be obtained from any other type of music review.
The Underground Music Showcase (better known as The UMS) shares this affinity for what most call “Hipster One-Upping” by continually bringing in top-notch, lesser-known, independent acts for nearly a decade and a half. Starting out in a single venue, this showcase has grown tremendously, to the point where it now aggressively takes over a stretch of Denver’s most coveted neighborhoods, turning it into a four-day music festival.
We had a chance to catch up with one of the organizers, Kendall Smith of The Denver Post, who dropped some knowledge on how this thing started, whom he’s excited to see personally, and what this musical frenzy goes to benefit.
TMN: Thank you for taking some time to speak with us today. We’re less than two weeks out from The UMS, how are things coming along so far?
You bet. The clock seems to have sped up, but things are shaping up nicely. We keep improving every year. This year looks to be no exception.
TMN: Talk to us about the origins of this festival. It’s going into it’s 14th year, correct?
That is correct. The UMS was started by John Moore, formerly of The Denver Post. He wanted to showcase a few local bands he thought weren’t getting the attention they deserved. It started as a one night, one venue event. Eventually, the pop music critic for The Denver Post, Ricardo Baca, took it over, moved it to South Broadway and created the multi day, multi venue model it currently operates under. John and Ricardo are brilliant, passionate and talented men. I am a fortunate person to have worked with them both.
TMN: You’re bringing in artists from all over the world, including one of our current favorites, The Griswolds. How do you go about selecting your worldwide and national underground talent?
We have an awesome talent acquisition team led by James Irvine. James is the founder of Holy Underground and also books Larimer Lounge. We met The Griswolds through our efforts down in Austin during SXSW. The UMS produces a day party for our pals at Reverb every year. The Griswolds played this past year and turned in a burner of a set.
TMN: Some people may not know this, but this festival benefits the Denver Post Community Foundation. How did this partnership come to be and what types of causes does it support in the metro area?
When the festival was brought in house at The Denver Post, the decision was made to add it to the portfolio of Signature Events offered by The Denver Post Community Foundation. Net proceeds of the event are distributed to local non-profits to support of programs that benefit children, the arts, literacy and education and the provision of basic human services.
This year, we have two charitable partners. The first, a youth facing organization, Youth on Record, is a long time partner of The UMS. Our second, and a new partner this year, is an artist facing organization, MusiCares, a nonprofit arm of The Recording Academy.
TMN: Most festivals/showcases try to bring in those marquis artists that will sell tickets. You guys do exactly the opposite of that, providing music lovers with a glimpse into some lesser known bands. What are some of the struggles with putting on a show like this?
How much time do you have? Kidding aside, the core mission of The UMS is to showcase the vast talent we have in this region while also growing the audience for the local scene. We hope through our efforts, we continue to build trust. Trust with fans that the quality of the bands is going to be great. Trust with national booking managers that The UMS will a great look for them in Denver.
TMN: Denver seems to be a hotbed for all different types of music, filling up a sizable number of venues week to week. Aside from the obvious notable venues (Red Rocks, Fillmore, Beta Nightclub) what are some of your favorite spots to catch a show?
We are so lucky in this town. There are so many great rooms. I love the Gothic, hi-dive and Larimer Lounge. I recently saw a pretty rad Devo show at Summitt Music Hall and Colorado Springs has a pretty terrific new room at Ivywild.
TMN: What’s the one venue at UMS that everyone should check out, if they haven’t already?
All of them! Four days is plenty of time. I encourage everyone to check out the Main Stage this year. We have moved next door to Security Service Federal Credit Union and have made some upgrades to the stage and infrastructure. It’s going to be great!
TMN: What artist are you most looking forward to checking out this year?
I love and hate this question. I love the lineup this year, but we get so busy running things I just don’t ever plan on being able to see anybody in particular. My best bets are usually to see some of the main stage acts. Should a happy accident occur whereby I am in the right place at the right time and get to see any one of Ark Life, A Tom Collins, Eros and the Eschaton, Dragondeer or Roadkill Ghost Choir, I will be way pleased.
TMN: If you had to describe this event in three words, what would they be?
Music. Community. Goodness.
TMN: Thanks for your time! We can’t wait for the showcase July 24-27.
Thank you! See you on South Broadway!
’People Under The Stairs – Acid Raindrops’
The Beware the Dog’
’Brother Tiger – This Must Be the Place (Talking Heads Cover)’
’Miniature Tigers – Used To Be The Shit’
’Speedwolf – Up All Night’
’Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Ffunny Ffrends’
’Hillary Hand – Tameless Tongues’
’American Tomahawk – Do Not’
’Kyle James Hauser – Maria’
’Goodnight, Texas – Santa Cruz’
’Heart Attack – Lions & Lambs EP’
’Keepers – Hello (Original Mix)’