It is almost time for the Underground Music Showcase (UMS) – one of Colorado’s best annual music festivals and one of my all-time favorite events in Colorado. Explore so many different types of music and scope out amazing venues over four nights. This is its 16th year and will be held July 28-31. Tickets are still on sale.
The streets – from Ellsworth to Alameda along Broadway – overflow with people. Bars like the Irish Rover, the Hi-Dive, Sputnik, and the Skylark Lounge open up their doors. Other venues include the local public library, a tattoo shop, and stages in the parking lot behind Goodwill. One year, we caught Raven and the Writing Desk at the South Broadway Christian Church. The sound was incredible, but the stained glass windows made the experience magical. Each venue attracts a different crowd of people so be sure to roam around.
Thanks to music festivals like the UMS, Colorado has become one of the best locations across the country. It’s drawing in artists who are priced out of expensive markets like New York, Los Angeles, and even Portland. What makes UMS so unique is that it highlights Colorado bands. About 70% of the artists that take the stage are currently based in Denver and other areas of the state.
A few years ago, with a drink in hand and taking in Esme Patterson (who is best known from her band Paper Bird) and her beautiful voice and soulful lyrics at 3 Kings, I noticed the nearby soundboard booth was covered in bumper stickers. One in particular caught my eye: “Bring Back Big Lots!” I couldn’t help but point it out to my friends, and we all had a good chuckle.
Those of you newer to Denver might not have been around before Big Lots was transformed into Punch Bowl Social. That area of South Broadway used to be a lot grittier than it is today. The big-box Big Lots – a symbolism of corporate America – was perceived by many who lived in the neighborhood as a better alternative to Punch Bowl Social, which was patronized by people normally not seen in that neighborhood. The idea behind “Bring Back Big Lots,” was to keep LoDo off South Broadway. Change is hard for many, but South Broadway now boasts the ability to attract people of both the 3 Kings and Punch Bowl Social communities.
Later that night, as we were watching Sawmill Joe at Gary Lee’s Motor Club and Grub, Esme Patterson sat down next to us to support her fellow musicians. Colorado truly is an amazing community.
Even if you can only make one of the four nights of tunes, head on down to the Underground Music Showcase. You can enjoy several shows and grab a bite to eat, all the while enjoying some great people watching.