The UMS Main Stage (Photo Credit: Robert Castro Ultra5280)

If you’re wondering whether or not Colorado’s music scene is embodied solely by bass-heavy barons devastating Red Rocks on a regular basis, or the constant national and international accolades given to Beta Nightclub year after year, you can stop that right now. While much of the Mile High City’s music scene’s notoriety falls into those two aforementioned venues, The UMS flexed it’s mighty indie muscle two weekends ago, showing the city, the state, the nation, and the world that a handful of tiny venues deserves just as much attention.

Taking over one of Denver’s most prized neighborhoods, The UMS flooded the numerous dive bars, galleries, and restaurants that adorn the colorful South Broadway stretch. In a meticulous blend of some well known acts coupled with hyper-indie (so indie, even the hippest of your friends haven’t heard about them yet) there was more than enough to appease the auditory appetite of the thousands of festival goers that flooded the streets.

Knowing that there was too much music for one ninja to cover, we had to break up The UMS between two from our clan. Check out what Matty and Clayton experienced during their first full experience of this must-attend event.

Day 1, Thursday:

CRL CRRL. (Photo Credit: Robert Castro Ultra5280)

While we couldn’t yet make it out in full force to the first night of Denver’s incredible Underground Music Showcase, we did manage to make it to one of our favorite electronic artist’s sets, with CRL CRRLL (pronounced Carl Carrell) at Blue Ice. An abbreviated set to say the least, CRL CRRLL managed to warp our minds through different texturized soundscapes played off of his bevy of machines, MIDI controllers and gadgets on stage through the 40 minute performance. This was the second time we’ve had the pleasure of witnessing him live, as he played our TMN presented show in Denver with Young & Sick (which if you haven’t heard his remix of their tune “Glass”, check it out below) and it seems in the short span of time, CRLCRRLL’s reached a more fluid, comfortable and mature stage presence.

’Young & Sick Glass Remix By CRL CRRLL’

Day 2, Friday:

Tanlines. (Photo Credit: Robert Castro Ultra5280)

Day 2 of the incredible UMS saw this writer mainly permeating the Main Stage at SSFCU from 7:00 until its unfortunate closure at 10:00. Leading us off was a shapeshifting , eclectic set of sounds from Seattle based Astronautilus who touched on instrumental elements of hip-hop, indie, rock and folk throughout his 45 minute set all to an intimately gathered early crowd. Following the impressive performance, Brooklyn indie-pop darlings Tanlines took the UMS stage to an eager and clearly educated drove of onlookers. With only two members -Jesse Cohen and Eric Emm- but an army of MIDI controllers, synths, drum machines and guitars; their set was steeped in impressive electronicism, executed with the lush pop sensibility we’ve come to expect from the pair. Tanlines pulled  all of their big guns from debut LP Mixed Emotions, including “Abby”, “Brothers” and “Not the Same”, but it was their previously unheard material which solidified their performance as one our weekend’s highlights. While much of Mixed Emotions was a lighter shade of synthy pop tunes, Tanlines’ new tracks carried with them a weight not seen on past work. Their synths were heavier, darker and a yearning echoed throughout their new body of work not previously felt throughout their catalog. Suffice it to say, we are more than anxious to hear what’s in store for Tanlines at the tail end of 2014. After closing with a welcomely elongated version of “All of Me”, the pair wrapped up to what was by then, a bouncing and raucous crowd of sweaty dancers to clear the way for legendary Bay Area hip-hop outfit People Under the Stairs.

While some of us here at TMN may have been in high-school the last time P.U.T.S. was what the mainstream would call “relevant” we couldn’t have asked for a more special way to close out UMS’ first real weekend night on the Main Stage. Thes One and Double K strutted out to the packed main stage crowd to an uproar of hipster approval before delving into tunes dotting their entire music library. From 2002’s O.S.T. all the way to their most recent LP 12 Step Program, their sound was more than well accounted for, appealing to hip-hop heads across the board. Afterwards it was on to the token dance venue of the weekend, Sputnik, to watch another TMN favorite in electronic shapeshifter Mosis. Unlike the majority of DJ’s dotting the UMS lineup, Mosis crafted a set solely of original material ranging from shades of glitch and future bass into garage and house. The young producer who’s been supported by names like Two Fresh and Zed’s Dead showed why, and was the choice way to round out another eclectic day at the most eclectic festival lineup Denver has to offer.

’Tanlines – All of Me’
’People Under the Stairs – Summer Nights’
’Mosis – Where It Was’

Day 3, Saturday:

Miniature Tigers (Photo Credit: Robert Castro Ultra5280)

To say that Saturday’s lineup was memorable would be an understatement. Among the many names that oh-so-many music nerds galloped down the street to catch, if even for one song, there were a few that stood out far above the rest. Real Estate, that handsome pack of Jersey boys, wooed the crowd with their crystal clean guitar work and swooning, unassuming vocals. Prior to their set though, the crowd was fully submerged in indie-pop goodness, brought to you by the good people at Miniature Tigers. With a seemingly effortless ability to create mind-hooking pop anthems, these guys rocked the main stage with ease. Hits like “Used to Be the Shit” flooded the speakers, inciting the crowd to inevitably sing along, their words floating along with the playful piano chords that reverberated throughout the crowd.

We had to duck out from the festival for a bit, but for good reason. One of our favorite up-and-coming artists had finally arrived from their epic trek into Denver and were then ready for an interview. The Griswolds, who hail from the land down under, met up with us at Pie Hole for a quick chat. Sitting alongside the hungry patrons of this damn delicious pizza spot on Broadway, we caught up with these Aussies for a brief interview right before their show at Three Kings.


To be honest, we didn’t really know what to expect from this four piece as far as live performances went. While we did premiere their smash hit “Beware the Dog,” catching a show of theirs was pretty much impossible until the UMS brought them in. Across the dimly lit dance floor, the masses filed in to catch an act that many had heard of simply from twitter buzzing with anticipation. The end result: a simply flawless execution that had the crowd not only moving, but belting out lyrics left and right. At one point, front man Christopher Whitehall exlaimed, “holy shit, Denver. You are fucking nuts.”

While we know that every artist is going to try and court their crowd, it wasn’t until after their set that we realized it wasn’t a simple courtship. We have to paraphrase a little bit here, given the fact that we weren’t recording the conversation, but Whitehall jogged over to the bar when they were done packing up.

Mate, that was absolutely mental! I really mean it. We haven’t had a show like this in the states.

After a few sweaty, celebratory hugs, we proceeded to knock a few back with The Griswolds. Their down-to-earth, folksy persona was more than welcome after a long day of hanging around strangers all day. While that wasn’t the end of the evening for us, it was pretty much the climax.

’Real Estate – Crime’
’Miniature Tigers – Used To Be The Shit’
’The Griswolds – Beware the Dog’

Day 4, Sunday:


After a bustling three days at UMS, we decided to experience the festival in an up close and personal manner by checking out some of the smaller venues, as opposed to the main stage. Given the fact that we had been out and about for the past three days, we felt it necessary to divide and conquer. Clayton took on the early half of the day, and Matty took on the latter. We will confirm that the seven years age difference was what allowed Matty to charge forward for one more evening.

Regardless of who’s an old man or not (we’ll let you guess who’s writing right now), Clayton was down at the festival early, bobbing and weaving through venues like the Skylark, The Irish Rover, and the Hornet, casually stopping in, having a recovery beverage, and enjoying some of the smaller names that this event had to offer.

We caught A Band in Pictures at the notoriously ear-ruining Skylark Lounge to kick off our day. We mean absolutely no offense by that previous statement, but do offer a sincere warning for those who are attending a show. Bring earplugs. This young fourpiece had a visual set up, displaying video against their grinning faces. Their hazy, guitar-centric sound coupled perfectly with the subdued imagery splaying across the back wall of this small venue.

For a moment, we stopped by the Irish Rover and caught the last song of the cello-equiped powerful Post Paradise, who had the early-risers of Denver’s music community fawning. We only wish we had scooted over a few moments before to catch another tune.

Next up, Matty headed out and caught Denver dream-poppers Inner Oceans turning in one of the most charming sets of the weekend at the Skylark Lounge. The small venue was absolutely stuffed to the gills, functioning as one sweaty mass of entranced listeners eating out of their proverbial hands. Inneroceans’ brand of avant garde pop captivated all in attendance, and was without a doubt, a shimmering light of the entire experience. Next though, it was a quick stop at Blue Ice down the street for an intimate psych-rock performance from Grease Pony to a relaxed group of attendees in leather chairs. Which, if you were following our Twitter feed last weekend, was truly quite the sight. But, after two stripped down sets geared towards listening, it was time for a little bit of house music back at Sputnik from one of the Denver underground dance scene’s best kept secrets: Keepers. With only a 45 minute window, the deep-house duo managed to craft a bouncy set and get more than a few of us twerking our stuff around the  restaurant turned dance party. While cut short, it was actually the perfect time for the end of Keepers. as indie legends Blonde Redhead were just taking over the last performance of the weekend on a completely packed main stage.

A “thank you” for the weekend on behalf of UMS’ head honchos from the Denver Post and Colorado Public Radio prefaced a raucous welcome to the stage from the New York veterans, and immediately Blonde Redhead dove head first into an incredible offering of lo-fi, indie rock  and more; captivating the surely tired but strong dancing throng of attendees. However, our attention was being called towards the Hi-Dive bar for one of our absolute favorite artists of the moment, Brothertiger. Featuring just two members, their lush set of synth-pop will remain with us for the rest an absurd amount of time. Almost from the onset, it felt like we were being let in on the best secret we’ve ever been. About 100 strong filled the room, and as the Hi-Dive was one of UMS’ more spacious venues, we found the perfect amount of room to dance and become lost in their sultry instrumentation and soft, but authoritative stage presence. The live two-piece worked through much of their viral hits including “Feel”, “You’re Afraid” and “Lover” but their performance apex came in the form of their cover of the Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” as all in attendance were invited on stage for the last real dance party of the four day music spectacle. From my perspective, Brothertiger delivered the best performance of the weekend, and capped off just an absurdly lucky weekend for The Music Ninjas.

’This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) – Talking Heads (Cover)’
’Keepers – Hello (Original Mix)’
’Inner Oceans – The Night (Demo)’
’A Band in Pictures – Recess’
’Post Paradise – Nights Of Future Past’

Without a doubt UMS has been the Summer highlight of the last few years for us Denver Ninjas as far as depth, quality and opportunity for discovery and the 2014 installment was stacked more than ever before. If you find yourself in the Rocky Mountain Capitol city, don’t miss out on the most gorgeous slice of four days steeped in underground music you’ll find next to SXSW.

On a side note, we’d like to offer up a sincere thank you to the good people at Ultra5280 for sharing their photos with us. If you haven’t checked out what they’re doing, please do so.

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