April 1, 2010

Our own little SXSW of the Rockies

ums storefront

The Denver Post ran a story last month detailing the work of a very cool ongoing study about the city’s high “Creative Vitality Index,” which measures economic factors related to the music community. Through a series of qualitative interviews (I got to wax lyrical a few months ago over mimosas; it’s how we do research here) and analysis of quantitative data, they discovered that music matters in Denver — “even more than it does in self-declared music cities like Seattle, Austin, Chicago and Portland.” According to the study, the amount spent per person on music-related items in Denver is twice the national average, and so are the number of folks who are employed full-time in music-related jobs. This doesn’t surprise me at all, although to an outsider, Denver might be the last place you’d look.

One of the best ways to see this blooming, inclusive, high-quality, diverse scene –and one factor cited in our high Creative Vitality Index– is our Underground Music Showcase. This late-July showcase festival saw a doubling in attendance from 2008 to last year’s marvelous fest. The bands that play are 90% buzzworthy local acts (although last year I helped to bring some 10% rad national acts to our streets, and I believe this year will be no different). All 300 bands, singer-songwriters and comedians play in a walkable radius at venues ranging from the usual rock clubs to the non-traditional art galleries, and knitting stores, the church, parking lots, and Persian rug shops. All of the hip South Broadway neighborhood pours out into the warm summer streets with music coming from every open door and strip of lawn. This July also marks the tenth anniversary of this festival I warmly like to call “the SXSW of Denver,” and it really does feel like it to me. It’s massive; absolutely one of my favorite weekends of the whole year.

Today our alt-weekly The Westword named many of the noteworthy bands in Denver right now, and it made me even more excited for this mega-display of our city’s grandeur.

This year the event is July 22nd-25th, and wristbands and badges are on sale now for ridiculously cheap — $25 for a wristband and $60 for a badge! Come visit. Seriously.

The UMS looks and feels like this:
(I’ve happily got a cameo, waiting in line at the Irish Rover on a warm rainy night in my favorite purple dress)

…and might sound something like this:

I Can’t Wait – The Pirate Signal
Picnic – The Knew
Love Is A Shark – John Common & Blinding Flashes of Light
Red Feather – Houses
Mark Twain – I Am The Dot (Zach from Young Coyotes)
My Hanging Surrender – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Wheel
I Can See It In Your Face – Pretty Lights
Kingdom – Ian Cooke
Raygun – Revenge of Astrophagus
That Moon Song – Gregory Alan Isakov & Brandi Carlile
Bird (demo) – Scott Brabson
Kafka – Snake Rattle Rattle Snake


And the national acts we’ve rocked in the past have included:

Northern Lights – The Bowerbirds
Restless – Langhorne Slim
Paranoid Android (Radiohead cover) – El Ten Eleven

[top photo from the Denver Post]

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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