Sunday, July 26, 2009

Denver Underground Music Showcase - Saturday

I learned tonight that similar to SXSW, the best plan for the Underground Music Showcase is to pore over the list of bands, carefully make a schedule of everyone that you want to see, allow for plenty of time to get to the first venue just a little bit early, and then throw away your list and wing it. It's not that you shouldn't work to see everyone you want, but expecting everything to run on the same schedule turns out to be fairly unrealistic.

I didn't have a ton of bands on my to-see list this rainy Saturday evening, but I did want to see the comics of Wrist Deep Productions. These include Adam Cayton-Holland, Greg Baumhauer, Jim Hickox, and Ben Roy, a group that has begun to make a name for themselves in the media over the past year or two. Slotted to start at 9 p.m., I showed up to Sobo 151, a sports bar where the showcase was to take place, and my first impression was that I was not in the right venue. Nonetheless, I waited it out and eventually saw the comics come in. However, in the mean time, I overheard discussion that a band, maybe more of a flash mob, called Boba Fett and the Americans was going to be making an appearance in front of the Sputnik at 9:45. Greg Baumhauer did start the comedy off around 9:30, although this was out of order from the schedule. I stayed for his set, which was hard to hear over the sports bar crowd, but there were some decent high points. I left out soon after to find out about Boba Fett.

Getting to the Sputnik about 9:45, I heard lots of talk about the band, which over time devolved into talk of whether they would show up or not. By 10 p.m., I was starting to think I should head back to the comedy, but on my way back that direction, I finally saw the Boba Fett crew warming up in the parking lot. Back at the Sputnik, the marching band finally showed up outside, possibly more fueled by the rain than deterred by it. Given the lack of any major headliner of the night, Boba Fett was really the talk of the town, and apparently the talk of the twitter as well.

(Boba Fett and the Americans outside of Sputnik)

It's hard to show exactly how many people gathered on the street to watch, but it was quite the party. Here was just a sampling of some of the crowd. I was really never able to get a picture of the entire band, nor of the entire crowd, which is probably the way it should be. Tons of local musicians, from bands such as the Wheel and Everything Absent or Distorted, could be found among the crowd, as well as festival organizer Ricardo Baca, who I happened to catch in this picture on the right side of the frame (holding the camera).

After the Sputnik performance, the band retreated briefly to regroup, but they proceeded to march around South Broadway for a couple of hours with groups of followers of varying sizes throughout that time. It was definitely a highlight of the night. The band ventured down as far as the front of a (maybe out of business?) adult entertainment store, stopping to play a song, and then proceeding to talk about how awesome it was the time they played Pleasures.

(Boba Fett shortly after their awesome gig in front of Pleasures)

Anyway, back to the comedy, I arrived back at the bar in the middle of Adam Cayton-Holland's set. Of the 4 comics I saw, Cayton-Holland seemed to keep the sports bar crowd at bay better than most, such that one could actually hear his set over the din of the crowd. Given that he was supposed to go on at 10:30, and actually was finished about 10 minutes before then, I overheard some disappointment from the late arrivals who had come to see him. But that's the nature of things like this. Ben Roy finished out the night, and while he hit a few high points, the crowd didn't really respond to his antagonistic antics, and rather just kept talking, so things didn't really finish on a high note. I would really like to see the comedy showcases get moved to a gallery or some non-sports bar in future years, as this setting was far from ideal.

I had to work a volunteer shift in the middle of all of this, so I ended up seeing one band I hadn't planned on. A hip hop group backed by a live band called Input played to an enthusiastic crowd. While I don't really listen to their type of music on a regular basis, the live band was extremely tight and the show was really high energy. Pretty cool show for a band I hadn't heard of or expected to see.

Next I checked out a band at the Irish Rover called A Mouthful of Thunder. Pretty cool stuff. I didn't know much about them, and still don't, but apparently at least some of them were/are in a local band called Hearts of Palm that has been around for a while. The lead singer said that they had gotten together most of the songs as a group fairly recently, but you really wouldn't have known if he hadn't told you. It is discoveries like this one that make festivals like this the most worth it for me. No matter how many national acts the UMS brings in in the future, you really have to hope that it always leaves room for musicians to throw together bands/side projects/marching bands at the last minute and give the fans something they hadn't expected.

(A Mouthful of Thunder at the Irish Rover)

The rest of the night unfortunately involved me standing in line for 10-15 minutes or so at the Hi-Dive and 3 Kings, mostly to see bands that I watched one song of and then moved on. Saw a band from L.A. called El Ten Eleven that had one guy on double necked guitar/bass and a drummer. The guitarist did some pretty cool loops and seemed to have a really strong crowd, but it was so packed that I moved on. Unfortunately the biggest excitement after that was watching a 3 Kings bouncer give a young woman a seriously hard time about her ID. The fact that she just walked away when he said he was keeping the ID didn't bode well for her credibility. That and a person driving the wrong way down one-way Lincoln Street pretty well capped off the night. It's always quite an experience at that time of night being the only sober driver on the road.

With the extreme drunkenness I saw last night, I don't expect a large number of folks to come out tonight, but I hope they do, as there are some great bands still on the schedule. Come on people, just hold it together for one more night.

Update: The Denver Post has a ton of pictures up and more accounts of the Boba Fett appearance, if you're in to that sort of thing.

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