Monday, September 17, 2018

I'd Love to Turn You On #214 - The Residents – Fingerprince

When I was in junior high school MTV made its debut, but we didn’t have cable so it was just something I heard about or occasionally got to watch at friends’ houses. Instead, here in Denver on KBDI, the public TV channel 12, there was a locally produced program called Teletunes that actually started before MTV and ran music videos, most of them centered on the burgeoning New Wave and post-punk music that was coming out in the video era - and definitely a weirder bunch of tunes than MTV’s pop star-centered approach. If you’re around my age and grew up in or near Denver, you’re probably thinking right now of either King Crimson’s “Elephant Talk” or The The’s “I've Been Waiting for Tomorrow (All of My Life),” which ran under the show’s opening credits and meant you were about to be treated to an eclectic mix of music. It’s watching this program through junior high and high school that I first heard music by Talking Heads, Laurie Anderson, Devo, Joan Armatrading, Art of Noise, R.E.M. and dozens of other bands whose careers (or sometimes just individual songs, the 80s being a great time for one-hit wonders) would impact on my burgeoning tastes. Mostly these were artists who were being missed by both MTV and mainstream American radio alike (at least at the time) so this was the only way I got to hear them regularly (until I got my own stereo). Oh yeah, and it’s also where I first heard the weirdo, eccentric, frequently dissonant, almost always humorous art band The Residents - and their like-minded guitar-slinging pal Snakefinger, too.
When I got to college, I started reading a lot more about music. The Rolling Stone Record Guide felt hopelessly outdated to me, mostly stuck in the idea that nothing good ever happened after the 60s (unless it was by artists who’d started there). But then I found The New Trouser Press Record Guide, a book of music criticism that largely ignored the classic rock era (Beatles, Stones, Hendrix, Dylan, Zeppelin - none of them were reviewed in its pages, though all got mentioned in reviews of the many bands that owed to their sounds) and focused instead on being an overview of punk rock and its many fallouts in post-punk and new wave, plus a few select forefathers who’d laid the groundwork for this music. It also featured lengthy writeups on every one of the folks mentioned above that I found via Teletunes, and happened to give The Residents more ink than any other band in its pages, which kept me wondering exactly why they got so much space - and what they sounded like.
Cross-checking against the Rolling Stone Record Guide made it seem like their second album, the 60’s-skewering/homage The Third Reich ‘n’ Roll was the place to start. Trouser Press loved it, Rolling Stone gave it 3 out of five stars and warned that it would be dissonant (correct), but familiar due to its many covers of 60s tunes (correct) and an easier in because of that (incorrect). Turned out that it could be pretty tough going in its many parts - but there was still something entertaining and humorous (and musical) in its two side-long suites that engaged me. So I tried the debut Meet The Residents (Rolling Stone gave it four stars, Trouser Press found it solid yet with some longueurs), home to more playfully disrespectful nods to the 60s in its cover, title and its lead-off demolition of “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’.” It was also home to something musically even stranger, yet more accessible, somehow more... Residential, if you will. Here was the band in its truest form. Still a challenge, but still intriguing. And so entered into my collection the group’s third official album, Fingerprince.
            Immediately on picking this one up I noticed a difference. Not in ideas per se, this was still an oddball take on pop music, but there was a marked uptick in the recording quality and clarity of the music. Their simple, catchy melodies stood out more, instruments and voices were craftily deployed across the stereo spread, and it sounded (gasp) almost like the musicians knew how to play their instruments and chose to use dissonance freely rather than simply not knowing how to play in tune. In this, they’re aided by Snakefinger’s guitar - just check his slide work on the opening “You Yesyesyes” and the march-like “Tourniquet of Roses” (the original title of the album) or his delicate picking on “You Yesyesyes Again,” all of which cut their synthesized weirdness just enough to make it all feel something like pop music. In short, the crudity of the earlier releases was gone, replaced by a cleanness that would mark their albums from this point forward.
The lyrics still inhabit their own weird, jokey world, but they were couched in far more listenable surroundings. And to be honest, listening back to them now 30 years after I first bought the record, they sound less like the bizarro outsider art or missives from another planet I took them for then and more like actual commentary on the real world. Certainly given an eccentric skew, but these still read like things human beings experience - relationships mostly, though “Godsong” shows the same playful insouciance toward its subject that their covers of the 60s pop canon did on their previous albums.
All of this applies to the first half, the fragmented pop tunes that make up the former A-side, just like on Abbey Road, or Bowie’s album of the same year, Low. The B-side is something else altogether, and a leap forward for the band, musically speaking, taking their larger-scale works to a new level. The instrumental, Harry Partch-influenced “Six Things to a Cycle” takes up the entirety of the second side of the album, and it’s a wonder to behold, introducing new ideas and instrumentation throughout its length, never staying in one place long enough to stagnate. It’s rhythmic enough for their claims that it was written for a ballet troupe to seem plausible (their pronunciamentos about their own music and history are always to be taken with a grain of salt), and it pushes the limits of what they’d done thus far with the unschooled yet intuitively musical talents they’d developed. Adding to the ambition of “Six Things to a Cycle” is the remainder of the material on the first disc. Allegedly conceived as a three-sided album, four songs appeared the next year on an EP entitled “Babyfingers,” and that rounds out the first disc of this set. The second disc contains various outtakes, demos, and other pieces that will produce a warmly familiar glow for Fingerprince aficionados, but may be of more limited use for the casual listener.
From Fingerprince, the group moved into “pop” (quotation marks necessary) tunes for the EPs “Duck Stab” and “Buster and Glen” (compiled on the Duck Stab album), and began work on their masterwork Eskimo, which was three years in the making and which caused a lot of unreleased product (including the stellar Not Available) to hit the shelves to keep things going for them. During this run, from 1974 through the rest of the 70s and even into their first pair of 80s albums - the cheekily titled The Commercial Album and the industrialized Mark of the Mole - the band never stepped wrong. For me they stayed good through the 80s before things began to drift, but even their later material has its passionate supporters, just as I enjoy some of their late 80s work more than the diehard fans of the 70s' work. And that’s because even if the music has changed, the group never stopped speaking to the outsiders, the oddballs, the eccentrics. They inhabit the same world of American originals as Partch, Sun Ra, Captain Beefheart, and others. 1974-1981 was a particularly fertile period, and Fingerprince gets my vote as the easiest way into their world.

Patrick Brown

Monday, September 10, 2018

I’d Love To Turn You On At The Movies #200 - Novocaine (2001, dir. David Atkins)

            All through the 1980s and part of the ‘90s, Steve Martin was one of the biggest comedy stars in the world. If there was one thing that I could always rely on growing up it was that pretty much every year of my life, I would get to watch a new Steve Martin comedy with my father. It was one of many things my dad and I would bond over when I was a kid. Not only that, but his stand-up comedy records were some of the first records that I ever owned. However, by the 1990s and early 2000s, my super-fandom had waned considerably. Not only had my interest in film pivoted more toward a focus on independent filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, Noah Baumbach and the like, but Steve was also doing a lot of “family-friendly” dreck like Cheaper by the Dozen and Bringing Down the House that you couldn’t pay me to watch. I mean, even if I was still a comedy-hungry kid during this period, there’s no way I could have justified sitting through a viewing of Bowfinger.
            However, for all the bullshit that Martin attached his name to during this era, he would occasionally still shine through with some truly great moments. 2001’s Novocaine is one of these occasions. Martin plays Dr. Frank Sangster, a dentist whose mostly straight-laced life becomes anything but when a new patient, Susan Ivey (played by Helena Bonham Carter), arrives in his office. Frank is immediately attracted to Susan, even though it is revealed that she is clearly there to scam him out of painkillers. As their relationship begins to develop, Frank is pulled into a web of crime that involves drugs, deceit and murder. His once quiet life now turned upside down, Frank finds himself a fugitive wanted for murder. Normally I would say more about the plot here, but there are so many subtle plot twists that I really don’t want to give anything away.
            The first thing I noticed about the film was that it looked amazing. First time director David Atkins, evidently coming from a family of dentists, uses a montage of dental x-ray shots during the opening credits that continue as scene wipes throughout the film. Novocaine is pure noir, with its combination of banal scenes from inside the dentist’s office (symbolizing Frank’s boredom with his life), intercut with intense, almost Hitchcockian scenes of intrigue (revealing what might have been if he’d chosen a different path), all underscored by Frank’s voice-over narration and a phenomenally eerie score by Steve Bartek (with the help of soundtrack veteran Danny Elfman). Instead of shadowy back alleys, however, this film’s chief location is the sterile, brightly-lit Dr. Sanger’s office, which brings to the forefront the shadowy secrets and desires of the main characters.
The film also gives us plenty of glimpses into Martin’s comedic past, as we get to see him do both physical and verbal comedy without rendering any of the scenes silly, which is something my younger self would have appreciated. Another unlikely source of comedy relief comes in the form of Dr. Sangster’s hygienist and fiancée, Jean, played flawlessly by Laura Dern. Jean is the kind of overly-peppy that can often be terrifying in a fellow human being. She is devoted to Frank to a fault, helping him cover up crimes he’s involved in after continuously lying to her. She runs her life and her work with an OCD-like precision, which seems to act as a coping mechanism for her when things in her life get intense.
Novocaine did terribly at the box office, probably because of Martin’s aforementioned aimless drifting from one forgettable picture to the next during this time. I wish that I could say that it’s become a cult classic since then but, reading reviews recently, it doesn’t appear that the public’s reception is generally favorable. But there is no denying that the plot is a true original, blending mystery and intrigue with comedy in a way that just isn’t done much, if at all. Trust me when I say that if you are now or have ever been a fan of Steve Martin’s work, Novocaine is a picture you must see. I wouldn’t exactly call it a return to form, save for a few moments of slapstick here and there, but it’s not exactly much of a departure for him either.
-         Jonathan Eagle

Monday, September 3, 2018

I'd Love to Turn You On #213 - Wolfmoon – Wolfmoon

          I discovered the Wolfmoon record years ago while working in a small record shop in Iowa. As a vinyl-obsessed collector, I was immediately drawn to the cover art. Who was this purple cloaked cosmic warrior, palming the planet Earth like a basketball? Prince before there even was a Prince? Was he some long-lost fuzz-funk disciple of Funkadelic? Perhaps a forgotten psychedelic soul singer that I could brag about discovering? I had to know. To my surprise, Wolfmoon was all of these things and none of these things. The music on the record was a beautiful combination of gospel and Southern soul with occasional brilliant flourishes of funk, rock and even country. Upon further research, I discovered that he was associated with the legendary producer and songwriter, Swamp Dogg, of whom I was a big fan. I bought it sight unseen and it’s been in heavy rotation at my house ever since.
The story of how the Wolfmoon record came about is almost as interesting as the music itself. In the early 1960s, Tyrone Thomas began a successful career as an R&B singer in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia. A teenager at the time, Thomas, who was calling himself Lil Tommy (pre-Soundcloud rapper days), quickly established himself as a talented performer with his various backing groups, including the Teenagers, the Parakeets and the Out of Sights, and securing opening slots for such international acts as Fats Domino and Sam Cooke. It was around this time that Thomas decided that it was time for him to go solo. This decision led him to his first national tour at age 14. However, it was a hometown gig with fellow Richmond artist Brooks O’Dell that perhaps changed the trajectory of Thomas’ career for the better.
O’Dell was immediately impressed with the young Thomas and decided to introduce him to his friend Jerry Williams Jr., aka Swamp Dogg. If you’re a fan of southern soul music at all, no doubt you’re familiar with Swamp Dogg, whose first three albums are considered classics of the genre and solidified Swamp as a cult figure and legendary performer. But the Swamp Dogg persona would not come to be until a few years later. Williams began writing and recording songs for Tyrone Thomas starting as early as 1964. The relationship was tumultuous almost immediately. Williams invited Thomas to live in his house for a while and, according to Williams, he wore out his welcome very quickly. The first two songs they recorded together were “I’m Hurt” and its B-side “Lov’h,” which Thomas immediately took back to Richmond and submitted to local record producer Mr. Wiggles and, according to Williams, tried to pass them off as his own. Still, Williams believed in Thomas’ talents enough to work with him again.
In 1969, Williams, who was just starting to cultivate the Swamp Dogg sound and image that he would become notorious for, signed a deal with Canyon Records and was looking to pad his new label with like-minded artists, of which Thomas was to be the newest. Swamp Dogg re-dubbed Thomas as Wolfmoon and the pair recorded the ten tracks that would become the first and only Wolfmoon record; seven original Swamp Dogg compositions and three cover versions. However, the album would not see the light of day for another four years, as the Canyon Records deal fell through and the two were left without a label. Finally, in 1973, the small Fungus Records imprint released the Wolfmoon record.
Still not much is known about the actual man, Tyrone Thomas himself, apart from what Swamp Dogg has said in interviews and in print which generally tends to paint him in an unfavorable light. In one recent interview, Swamp said of Thomas “this motherfucker has no integrity… It’s all about him” and citing multiple occasions of feeling taken advantage of by Thomas. Personal animosity aside, the two managed to put out an incredible piece of R&B history. The songs range from the spiritual (“God Bless,” “If He Walked Today”) to the funky (“My Kinda People”) and many other styles in between. An epic 8+ minute sendup of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” showcases the multi-instrumental talents of Swamp Dogg while the piano ballad “Treasures That I Found” allows Wolfmoon to demonstrate his incredible vocal range.
Unfortunately, the record went almost completely unnoticed and it remained an obscure gem among record collectors for decades. Original copies were being sold for high sums of money for quite some time. That is, until 2013, when garage pop label Alive Natural Sound out of Los Angeles gave the album (and a handful of other Swamp Dogg releases) a proper CD and vinyl reissue, thus reintroducing the world to Wolfmoon. And let me tell you, this reissue sounds amazing. The only digital copies that I was able to find prior to the re-release were clearly vinyl rips that sounded kind of terrible. Alive presents the record with fully cleaned-up audio plus new detailed liner notes written by Swamp Dogg which alone is well worth the price.
-         Jonathan Eagle

Monday, August 27, 2018

I’d Love To Turn You On At The Movies #199 - Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991, dir. Nicholas Meyer)

The summer of 1991 was a wonderful time to be a Star Trek fan. The franchise was celebrating its 25th anniversary, Star Trek: The Next Generation had completed its fourth season and was rivaling its predecessor in terms of popularity, and a new movie with the original cast was due in a few months. I walked into a theater that July to watch a movie I remember nothing about, but witnessed something I’ll never forget, the teaser trailer for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Images from episodes of the original series and earlier films filled the screen in an overlapping, shifting collage while a narrator described the exploits of the crew of the Starship Enterprise over the last quarter century. Just as the narrator invited the audience to join the crew for “one last adventure,” the camera pulled back to reveal that the patchwork of scenes had been projected onto the hull of Enterprise itself, right before the ship jumped to warp speed!
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not always easy to be a Star Trek fan because there’s so much inconsistency within a franchise that’s now over 50 years old. After a very uneven beginning with Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, director Nicholas Meyer effectively restarted and rejuvenated the movie series in 1982 with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which has become one of high points of the entire franchise. The series expanded over the next few years and actor Leonard Nimoy, best known for his performance of the Vulcan science officer Spock, directed the next two installments and delivered another franchise high point with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (best known to the general public as “the one with the whales”). William Shatner, who portrayed Captain Kirk, nearly harpooned the series with the dreadful, bloated, and misguided Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, which he wrote and directed. After this low point, Meyer and Nimoy teamed up once more to craft The Undiscovered Country, one of Star Trek’s brightest moments, which just never seems to get enough credit.
The original television series in the mid-1960s established that Klingons were the primary enemies of the United Federation of Planets and served as stand-ins for Soviet era Russians in a loose parallel to the Cold War that ran through many episodes. Decades into the future, as depicted in Star Trek: The Next Generation, we know that hostilities have ended between the Federation and the Klingons, but we don’t know any of the details of how it happened. Meyer and Nimoy wisely seized the moment of current events with the recent collapse of the Soviet Union to illustrate how this peace was achieved. This story brings a logical conclusion to the series’ Cold War parallels, offers up one last great challenge for the original cast that allows all seven actors to shine, and merges the narratives of the original cast and The Next Generation (Nimoy also guest starred on a two-part episode of that series in a tie-in with the movie just weeks before its release). In addition to the seven original cast members, the movie features an outstanding ensemble of supporting actors including Christopher Plummer, Kim Cattrall, Brock Peters, Rosanna DeSoto, David Warner, and Michael Dorn (who plays the grandfather of his character, Worf, in The Next Generation). Yes, I could certainly go on about all of the fascinating minutiae connected to this movie, but I don’t want to distract from the fact that is an exciting sci-fi adventure with elements of a political mystery that’s well worth your time.
As a fan of Star Trek, there have been few moments that compare with the excitement and wonder I felt when I watched that teaser for The Undiscovered Country in the summer of 1991. The reason those feelings have stayed with me over the last 27 years stems from the fact that the movie delivered on the promise of that trailer as well as the entire series itself. When Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek in 1966, he wanted to present an optimistic view of the human race exploring the universe in the future. In a way that few other Star Trek stories have been able, The Undiscovered Country reconciles that positive outlook with a view of humanity with which the audience can identify. On the path to universal peace, Meyer and Nimoy were willing to reveal the flaws and prejudices of a noble group of heroic explorers. Traveling through this darkness allows the light of peace and reconciliation to shine with meaning and consequence. On the final voyage of the U.S.S. Enterprise, the veteran crew members show us once again how to meet the future (the undiscovered country) with courage, humor, and hope.

-         John Parsell

Monday, August 20, 2018

I'd Love to Turn You On #212 - TV on the Radio – Return to Cookie Mountain

           Last Wednesday I witnessed one of those magical moments that can only happen at Red Rocks. TV on the Radio opened for Father John Misty and drew an impressive crowd so early in the night. As light began to fade from the sky about halfway through their set, vocalist Tunde Adebimpe mused in a playful sing-song voice, “I see the moon and the moon sees me.” The band gave the audience a moment to turn around and regard the crescent moon rising between the amphitheater’s rock formations before launching into a blistering rendition of their biggest hit, “Wolf Like Me.” Just as the moon triggers a supernatural transformation within the song, it played a key role in morphing the relatively subdued audience into an ecstatic, howling mass during the song. The enduring appeal of “Wolf Like Me” hints at what makes Return to Cookie Mountain, one of this young century’s greatest albums.
TV on the Radio built on the promise of their debut EP, Young Liars, and their dynamic first full-length album, Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, and delivered a mind-blowing collection of genre-defying, cathartic songs with Return to Cookie Mountain. Looking back, I remember how much I looked forward to the release of Return to Cookie Mountain in the summer of 2006. Sure, I had enjoyed the band’s first couple of releases, but I had a feeling that this new album would help me get through the very challenging times I was going through personally and professionally. Well, the album certainly didn’t disappoint me and the opening track, “I Was a Lover,” provided a well-tailored soundtrack and a much needed outlet to transcend the miserable situation surrounding me. Through the orchestrated cacophony of an overdriven bass drum, a sorrowful horn sample, layers of glitchy distortion, and countless other sonic elements, Kyp Malone and Adebimpe inject passion and anguish into Malone’s brainy, surreal lyrics that capture the fever-dream paranoia that results from the implosion of a relationship. “Province” treads on similar thematic territory, but ascends with a tentative sense of hope and optimism for what the future holds. David Bowie joins Malone and Adebimpe on vocals for this song and not only helps create one of this band’s finest moments, but also marks a highlight among his late career collaborations. When the band played the Boulder Theater three years ago, Malone introduced “Blues from Down Here” by skewing the now common on-stage banter about legal marijuana in Colorado and asked the audience if they would seek justice for those who have been imprisoned under severe drug laws. This literal application of Malone’s harrowing metaphor within the song surprised me at the time, but has helped me appreciate the layers of meaning contained in this haunting perspective of isolation, oppression, and hopelessness.
As much as I love Return to Cookie Mountain, I have to admit that a lot of what makes it such an amazing work can also weigh it down if you’re not feeling up for taking the album’s emotional journeys. In 2008, when TV on the Radio released their next album, Dear Science, I was delighted that the band offered up a bright, beautiful set of songs as complex, innovative, and satisfying as their earlier work. Two of that album’s high points, “Golden Age” and “Lover’s Day,” feel like intentional counter-balances to the heaviness of Return to Cookie Mountain. In 2011, the band released Nine Types of Light, an album I’ve liked, but never really loved (a point I’ve had to debate repeatedly with a number of TVOTR fans over the years). Three years later, TV on the Radio’s fifth album, Seeds, won me back with a set of concise, polished, and upbeat songs proving that these remarkable musicians still have plenty of room for exploration and expression.

-         John Parsell

Monday, August 13, 2018

I’d Love To Turn You On At The Movies #198 - Body Heat (1981, dir. Lawrence Kasdan)

In one of my favorite scenes from The Simpsons, Nelson Muntz is seen coming out of a movie theatre showing Naked Lunch. He angrily looks up at the marquee and says, “I can think of at least two things wrong with that title!” If Nelson were exiting Lawrence Kasdan’s stylish noir thriller Body Heat, he would not have said the same. Body Heat delivers on all three things promised in its title. Hot stars William Hurt (in his third appearance) and Kathleen Turner (in her first film role) are undressed and entwined A LOT in this movie. We know much about their bodies by the end of the film. The movie takes place during a stifling heat wave in a small Florida town, and by the end, one is dying for nothing more than a cool shower. And finally, the movie gives flesh to the idea of “body heat” or human sexual chemistry as few films have.
William Hurt plays Ned Racine, an ambulance-chasing lothario whose crappiness as a lawyer is only outdone by his lack of discrimination in sexual partners. He’s defended every loser in the city, and slept with most of the single and unhappily married women. He’s good looking, in a sleazy 70’s porn-star way, so he’s lucky but he seems bored with his usual prey. One night while cruising for love, he meets a beautiful and mysterious woman named Matty Walker (Turner) and begins a wild sexual affair with her. This is not your typical movie affair. Director Kasdan mixes equal parts film technique and softcore porn levels of eroticism to create some seriously hot scenes. The slavish rules of film noir lighting, dialogue (often hilariously stilted), and camera angle were never put more directly to the task of filming sex, and as a result the entire genre is moved forward just a little bit. More than any other way, Body Heat succeeds almost as a tribute to the noir genre and specifically films like The Postman Always Rings Twice.
Obviously, there’s a rub, and it is that Matty is unhappily married to another man (Richard Crenna), who happens to be fabulously wealthy. Matty convinces Ned that if he kills her husband they can live sexily ever after with the money she inherits. Ned, being a sleazy small-town lawyer doesn’t need a lot of convincing. Like many of the best noir thrillers, the characters seem to inhabit an alternate universe where morality is for the weak, and the spoils go the brash. Hmmm, considering the state of the world we currently inhabit, I wonder whether this is the alternate or the actual state of things. Situational ethics and expected results from hard-boiled threats may seem like a crazy way to live, but look how far they’ve taken our president. All this is to point out that there are no protagonists in this film, just antagonists and double-crossers. Even Ned’s friends, a local police detective and the town’s D.A. (ably played by J.A. Preston and an impossibly young Ted Danson respectively) turn out to be the guys leading the investigation of the murder. Nobody can be trusted and loyalty is only skin deep - no matter how beautiful your skin is.
As the investigation heats up and Ned and Matty’s relationship shows cracks, a sense of claustrophobic disaster reigns. Eroticism is replaced with dread as the story devolves into one of the more memorable cross, double-cross, triple-cross, hidden identity plot twists and revelations of modern cinema. Of course, none of it is really that believable, but throughout, Body Heat succeeds as a stylish tribute to film noir sensibilities and conventions, while offering two important actors early screen cred and a scrap book of themselves when they were young and beautiful. For the viewer, it is simply a hell of a lot of fun.

-         Paul Epstein

Monday, August 6, 2018

Twist & Shout at UMS!: Part Two


  John P:
After catching the second half of Red Baraat’s energetic, propulsive (non-UMS) free show at the Clyfford Still museum and grabbing a bite to eat Friday evening, I picked up my wristband and made my way to The UMS mainstage. Unfortunately, I missed Frankie Cosmos, but I was able to enjoy almost all of Digable Planets’ expansive, good-natured set. All three M.C.s appeared to be in great spirits and it was cool to see that they all still share the singular chemistry that set them apart in the 90s. I wasn’t expecting Digable Planets to tour with such an incredible backing band and I was impressed throughout the night with how these musicians fleshed out the group’s signature sound. In short, it was a great show for the first night’s headlining act and it set an excellent tone for the festival’s first outing under new management.
After taking a break on Saturday, I biked over to South Broadway on Sunday afternoon and had a great time running into group after group of friends as I made my way to the Sesh Stage for White Denim. I arrived there just as the band was entering their final stretch of the show and I was glad I got a chance to see these guys again as they bashed out their upbeat, quirky take on indie rock. I joined Pat Brown as he walked over to the Imagination Stage to see Night Beats and I’m happy I went with him to check out the venue. I wasn’t able to stay for the band, but I really liked exploring the interactive, immersive installations populating a high end mechanic’s garage and parking lot. The space compared very favorably to the kinds of designs and layouts I’ve gotten to know attending the Treefort Music Fest in Boise, Idaho for the last two years.
Following a pause to snack and cool down for a bit, I headed straight for the mainstage and prepared myself to see Superchunk for the tenth time. All day, I watched weather reports that vaguely threatened severe thunderstorms exactly at the time of Superchunk’s set, so I was ready to deal with delays or disappointments, but luckily the weather held. The band took to the stage and launched right into “Hyper Enough” from their 1995 album, Here’s Where the Strings Come In, and established the mood for a lively, blistering set that included material from almost all of their eleven studio albums. Understandably, they focused on songs from their most recent and notably political album, What a Time to Be Alive. It was awesome to hear these new songs performed live as well as hear lead singer Mac McCaughan encourage the audience to pay attention and vote this fall. Peter Hughes from Merge label-mates The Mountain Goats subbed as bass player for Laura Balance, who’s still in the band but no longer tours. Other than that personnel change and a brief technical issue when the sound went out on the left side of the stage for a song and a half, it was every bit a Superchunk show on par with all the times I’ve seen them in the last twenty-three years. It was wonderful to hear mainstays like “Driveway to Driveway” and “Detroit Has a Skyline Too” again, but I was delighted that they played “Cursed Mirror,” a deep cut from their underrated 1999 album, Come Pick Me Up. By the time Superchunk played their last song, I couldn’t have been happier to be surrounded by my friends as they played their iconic indie-rock anthem, “Slack Motherfucker,” and we all shouted along with the chorus!
Following such an exciting, satisfying show, I lingered in the mainstage area talking with friends about the performance, but ended up staying for Alvvays’ entire headlining set. I knew next to nothing before the show and I was pleasantly surprised by their brand of infectious jangle pop. The lead singer has a great voice and I enjoyed her natural, self-effacing stage presence. The band played with a slow-building energy and democratic spirit that left a very favorable impression on me. As I walked out of the mainstage area and onto South Broadway at the end of the show, I felt very fortunate to have been able to attend such a successful and positive music festival right in the heart of the streets of Denver. I’m very happy that The UMS is alive and kicking once again.     

Now that the UMS is under new management after being run by the Denver Post for so many years, I was very curious to see how the event would go and I’m happy to say that this was one of the best years that I have ever been a part of it! Everything was well-organized and promoted, and as an artist I felt very well taken care of. Among the hundreds of bands that played, some of my favorites included Slow Caves, Overslept, Its Just Bugs, Ivory Circle, The Savage Blush, and way too many more to list. Also, thanks so much to everyone who came out to watch One Flew West's set! It was a great show to come back to after being off for a month!

            This UMS was my first time and it was pretty fuckin’ rad! The stages were so cool, each had their own theme. I got my face rocked off by Its Just Bugs, Hot 8 Brass Band, Green Druid, Holy Wave, Night Beats, The Savage Blush, Superchunk, Alvvays, and Serpentfoot! I loved getting to see the cool people I work with play awesome music. I also was not disappointed seeing John Parsell see Superchunk! He let out a few very loud and excited “Whoo”s; those made my soul happy! My favorite band I didn’t know I was going to see/didn’t know about was Serpentfoot – damn that was awesome! As long as I live here I will go to the UMS!

This year was my very first UMS experience. I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t go to UMS last year. I’d like to be able to say I was doing something far more important, but the truth is that I was probably at home watching The O.C. on Hulu and being lame. Regardless, I’m really glad that I went this year. Even though I was only able to make it for one full day, I saw some truly awesome shows and hung out with some truly awesome folks. A highlight was Superchunk, of course. I’ve been a fan of that band since I was a pre-teen and they still rock hard. Another was Casey James Prestwood & the Burning Angels, who I discovered by accident a few weeks ago and are now one of my absolute favorite locals. But I was also excited to finally see my fellow Twist-er Brian do his thing in The Savage Blush. Also saw great sets by Pale Sun, the Night Beats and a partial set by Alvvays. All in all, a great day of music, local and otherwise. I’m excited to be a part of this weekend in the years to come.

            This was my first year attending UMS and it was probably the best showcase experience I have had. I was most excited to see Digable Planets. I have been an active listener for a very long time and had a general idea of what most of their shows consisted of. Seeing them in person was a very VERY unifying experience and just as great as everyone had said it was BUT! I was FAR more impressed and inspired by Frankie Cosmos who had played right before Digable Planets. Frankie Cosmos’ set was really f***ing beautiful and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to see them and experience the simplicity of their sound and appearance/performance. Until UMS, I have not exclusively listened to Frankie Cosmos, but for the past week I have been listening to their 2016 album Next Thing on repeat. Overall, UMS was 10/10 and I really hope I get this opportunity next year!

Patrick B:
            I skipped UMS last year because life works that way, stuff came up, and it just didn’t work out. And I hear people say they had issues with the setup last year and I was like “Whew!” and not so worried that I’d missed out on the usual fun of the festival, but I was also concerned when I heard that new folks were taking over the festival – would they understand what had made it special in the past? Would they continue down what seemed to be the wrong road taken last year? Turns out I needn’t have worried, because Two Parts, the organization that took it over, has done a superb job not only keeping the flavor of Denver’s best music festival, but also stepped up the game a bit in a few key areas.
            Music was great as always – kept the vibe of the biggest bands on the festival still being groups that some of my friends say “Who?” about when I mention them; plus the plethora of local music of all varieties – my only wish about the music is that I could be in more than one place at the same time and that I could still keep myself staying up and going three days in a row until after midnight on days that I work so I could’ve seen The Savage Blush and Specific Ocean, one of whom played up against one of those big bands at the festival and one of whom played at midnight on Sunday when I was long asleep.
            Setup was great across the board. Alameda and 6th Ave. are good borders that shouldn’t be gone past for this festival so it’s nice to see it back within them. The addition of the Sesh Stage and (especially) the Imagination Stage, with cool spaces, shade, seating, and water coolers were very welcome - and whoever thought up the idea of running a path through the auto dealership to an enclosed space in the alley deserves a special prize. Only two down points for me were that there was no central set of bike parking – though the place that has been used in the past is now fenced in an presumably won’t be there in the future – and that one of my favorite places to eat – Socorro’s Street Tacos – had their last day open during the festival (insert frowny face here).
But the entire experience reminded me again just what a great thing we have here in the UMS, how a diverse music scene of rock, hip-hop, electronic music, jazz, country, folk, and more can all converge on South Broadway for a weekend and still feel like it’s a unified festival with one idea driving it. And did I mention all the friends? Within five minutes of arrival I ran into about a dozen folks I knew, and that, too, is a huge part of what makes the weekend special. If you missed it this year, look forward to next year’s and be ready to pounce when tickets go on sale!

Patrick “Wavvy” R:
            Wow, another UMS has come and gone; I wouldn’t believe it even happened if I wasn’t still hung over from the three day party. It flew by. I survived, I didn’t get dehydrated or cramp up, and here are my takeaways from the festivities:
            Digable Planets: Very good.
            Alvvays: Very good
            Inflatable beach balls: Very bad (ed: Both Patricks agree wholeheartedly on this point)
            And my favorite act of the entire UMS? Easy – Its Just Bugs. My band. Wowee we were so good. I’m sorry if you missed it. See ya next year. I’ll be the guy slicing beach ball in half with a katana.
            Love, Wavvy

Matt Cobos:
The 2018 UMS was an absolutely killer one. One of my personal favorites that I've been to, they proved once again that they are the best music festival in Denver. So many killer performances happened that when you talked to people around the fest, you would often hear "if you didn't see __________, you're an idiot.", and I felt the same way. Pretty much everything I saw was at least "really good."
The High Plains Comedy Stage was amazing and packed all weekend. My favorite comedy performances were from Drennon Davis, Ramon Rivas II, Tom Thakkar, Janae Burris, Kate Willett, Brandy Posey, and the awesome drop-in set from Comedy Works headliner and Aurora boy, Dan Soder. I'm very excited to see what UMS does with their new found commitment to comedy, and their partnership High Plains Comedy Festival in the future. Be sure to check out the High Plains Comedy Festival this month as not one, but TWO of your favorite record store jerks are performing on it this year! Myself and Patrick R. will be telling jokes on the August 23-25 fest. Tickets available at

As for the music, holy crap was there a lot of great performances. My absolute standout favorite was It's Just Bugs at 3 Kings. This full band hip hop group absolutely blew the roof off of the place. Their energy was unmatched by anything else I saw at the festival. When they finished their performance all you heard around the audience was "HOLY %$#&!" as everyone reeled from what just happened. If you are a fan of Death Grips, or aggressive hip hop in general, do not miss this band. Holy crap.

Other bands that I thought had great performances: Green Druid, and Savage Blush killed it, and Jeff The Brotherhood, Night Beats, and Holy Wave were all great. There was a lot of stuff I knew and didn't know about that I missed, but that's how you know it's a good music festival. Don't miss it next year.

Now it's time to catch a breath, take a nap, re-hydrate and get ready for the other best party of the year every year, High Plains Comedy Festival. August in Denver rules. Hell yeah.

            Grungy, chaotic, and incredibly fun, the UMS was an event I didn’t realize could exist in Denver. Between the well-staffed main stages and the crowded bar venues shows went off seemingly without a hitch. I was rarely thirsty (and never bored) as I bounced between acts both local and national. I enjoyed discovering new music, dancing to Digable Planets, and meeting new people. In the future, I’d love to see more musical diversity at the UMS; if this year is an indicator for future UMS's though, it seems like a great (re)starting point.

I'd Love to Turn You On #211 - Ron Miles – Witness

Most Denver jazz fans have heard of Ron Miles, and if you haven’t you're in for a treat. Witness is his second record and it was released in 1990 on Capri Records. It features compositions by Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Billy Strayhorn, fellow bandmate Fred Hess, and two original compositions by Ron Miles. The band is made up Denver jazz veterans. It features Ron Miles on trumpet, Fred Hess on tenor saxophone and flute, Art Lande on piano, Ken Walker on bass, and Bruno Carr on drums. This band has respect and command of the jazz tradition, and that respect and command of tradition frees them to be exploratory and adventurous within the framework of both standards and originals.
Art Lande starts out the song “Witness” with a beautiful chordal variation of the theme on piano. He is then joined by Ken Walker on bass for a more straightforward statement of the theme. The drums then join in a march feel, and the horns of Miles and Hess state the melody in full force. The piano is the first to solo, showing immediately that it is not just a straightforward blowing session by establishing a percussive rhythmic bed using an extended piano technique. Moving from decisive single note lines to clusters and chordal stabs, Lande summons the rhythm section into action. As they activate beneath him the entire feel starts to pick up energy and move from a march to a swinging, dynamic ball of 4/4 energy fueled by Bruno Carr and Ken Walker. The group then switches back to the march feel for the beginning of Miles’s solo. Miles starts out by quoting the melody but then runs into a series of melodic flurries. The main melody is never far from his improvisation. As Bruno Carr moves into a rhythmic motif on his tom toms under Miles, the trumpet player suspends tones while the tension builds. There is a certain sense of wondering if the rhythmic direction will again be pulled back to swing but the listener is drawn in as Miles stretches out dissonant tones and textural flurries. Bruno Carr hammers away on the toms maintaining the energy. Lande responds with interjections and clusters as Walker provides tonal and rhythmic anchors. As the solo ends the melody is restated for the exit out. I’m always captivated by the joyousness of this melody.
“Ugly Beauty” is a waltz by Thelonious Monk. It starts out with Fred Hess playing the melody on the flute. Miles is the first to solo and he has a gentle approach featuring large melodic leaps. Miles makes technically difficult passages sound elegant and graceful, which is a testament to his mastery of the trumpet. The next solo by Lande and Hess includes tandem flurries, playfulness, questions and answers, all within a format and structure. This displays a great concept of a duel solo, or two people occupying a space typically reserved for one individual.
“Just Like You (I Don’t Want To Be)” starts out with a unison horn head at blistering pace. It moves thru some free form soloing by Miles and then Hess before it enters an interesting composed hit-and-silence structure that replaces a traditional harmonic framework. This solo framework is expanded upon and fleshed out with an additional melody over the stop time. Miles takes another solo over this new texture, and the original melodic statement is then played again. Bruno Carr takes a solo at a ridiculous tempo and then the melody is played one last time. The structure of the song provides for a great contrast to other tracks on the CD. The untraditional structure of this song highlights the strengths of the group. They are creative enough to follow and explore where the music takes them and able enough to adeptly lead themselves back to the predetermined rallying points. A highly original tune by Ron Miles with some interesting compositional devices.
“A Flower Is A Lonesome Thing” starts out with a solo statement of the melody. The experience of the group really shines in this performance. It is as if they are playing not so much in the expected places but around them. Bruno Carr’s brush work is amazing. Lande’s comping is excellent, whether he provides direct harmonic support, answers solo statements, or provides antecedent statements. Miles’s solo begins in the upper register and descends into a playful skirmish before settling in at the bridge. A double time hint by Carr sends Miles into a final flurry of activity before he settles his solo. Lande follows by beginning his solo with some dissonant block chords before moving into single line question and answer statements. This falls briefly back to a chordal statement, followed by just a glimmer of swing before Miles is back in at the bridge to play out the melody.
“Pithecanthropus Erectus” is a Charles Mingus tune. The band lays down some heavy harmonic pads from which they can contrast further playing. This is a hard swinging tour de force take on this this tune with spirited solos by Hess, Lande, and Miles. Bruno Carr and Ken Walker are holding down the groove solidly while Lande hammers out chords. Hess takes a feisty solo which falls way to a free horn duet after which the tempo ratchets up quite a bit. Lande then churns out a technically commanding and harmonically explorative solo that eventually reinstates the original tempo and groove. Miles then begins his solo calmly but works it to a raging storm. The band then plays the melody out.
The final track on the record is “Our Time” by Fred Hess. It is a spritely, upbeat, technical number. Fred Hess is playing flute, Ron Miles is playing muted trumpet, and Bruno Carr once again shows off his masterful brush work. Ron Miles takes a couple of excellent spins thru the challenging changes and then he is joined by Fred Hess for an interlude, after which Hess speeds into a solo of his own. Ken Walker then takes a solo and shows why he is known as one of the top bassists around. He nimbly executes a solo over the challenging changes before Lande takes a quick chorus. Then we have a round of trading bars of four between Miles, Carr, and Lande. After this the interlude is cued and the melody is played out.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy this CD is to pick a particular player and listen to how they choose to interact with the ensemble. I think each one of the players has an exceptional ability to generate and stay true to an idea, or conversely, support another band member’s idea. All of the playing seems in service to the music. One of my regrets is that I didn’t see this band around this time, I’m not sure if I knew of Ron Miles then. Then again all these gentlemen, with the exception of Bruno Carr who passed away in 1993, can be seen in and around Denver. If you don’t have or know of this CD I’d Love To Turn You On to it - and go see so these guys live! You won’t regret it! In addition, please check some of Ron Miles’s other works. His original compositions are truly great and he has many more records to enjoy.

-         Doug Anderson

Monday, July 30, 2018

I’d Love To Turn You On At The Movies #197 - The Milky Way (1969, dir. Luis Buñuel)

    In searching for a way to talk about an “in” to this very odd film, I was struck by a passage in a book I was reading at lunch on the very day I was coalescing ideas about the film. In Saul D. Alinsky’s 1971 book Rules for Radicals he writes this about the qualities of a good political organizer: “...for him life is a search for a pattern, for similarities in seeming differences, for differences in seeming similarities, for an order in the chaos about us, for a meaning to the life around him and its relationship to his own life - and the search never ends. He goes forth with the question as his mark, and suspects that there are no answers, only further questions.” Nothing could be more dead-on in nailing what I respond to in the works of my favorite director, Luis Buñuel. And in The Milky Way, the controversial director turns his absurd vision loose on an obscure topic – Catholic dogma and heresy – drawn directly from historical documents.
            But let’s back up a moment. Buñuel had something of a history with religion in film. His 1930 film L’Age d’Or caused a riot in Paris at its premiere with its scandalous ending in which the actions of a depraved count (based on the writings of the Marquis de Sade) are described in detail and then he is depicted as the popular image of Jesus (this got the film banned in France for over 30 years). His 1961 film Viridiana was made under the auspices of Franco’s Spain, but when word got out that Buñuel again had an anti-clerical bent to the film – this time a visual parody of Da Vinci’s famous The Last Supper – Spanish authorities tried to get the film recalled and destroyed, but Buñuel had already left Spain with a copy, and ended up winning the Palme d'Or at Cannes. And there were other films in and around these where Buñuel took a questioning or satirical stance toward religion – but more specifically this stance was aimed toward religious dogma, where in his words “each person obstinately clings to his own particle of truth, ready, if need be, to kill or to die for it.” It’s this sort of absurdity that The Milky Way examines.
            The film may seem out of step and politically disengaged compared with the intensely political climate of the times – the film started shooting in France before the events of May 1968 and its completion was delayed because of them – and it is. The film may be disengaged with the contemporary events, but the events were engaged with what Buñuel had talked about his entire career: the tendency of institutions – religious, governmental, political – to assert an authoritarian rule over the individual and this is precisely what the students and workers in France were rebelling against, even adopting the very slogans that the Surrealists used when Buñuel was a member of the Surrealist group in the 1920s – “It is forbidden to forbid” “Be realistic, ask the impossible” and the like.
So the film is un-contemporary perhaps, but the artistic style was very much in the air, inspired perhaps by The Saragrossa Manuscript (of which Buñuel was a fan) and the Spanish picarqesque, he and co-screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière fashioned a loose narrative in which two pilgrims/tramps en route to Santiago de Compostela wander through history in disconnected sequences, entering into different time periods and places on their journey.
The film is ambiguous from the first scene, in which a passing stranger seems to speak in allegory to the pilgrims rather than having a conversation with them, then the scene cuts abruptly from one of them noting “It reminds me of something my mother used to say” to a scene with Jesus and Mary, him contemplating a nice shave and her telling him he looks better with a beard. Is the pilgrim the younger child depicted in the “flashback”? Is he meant to be Jesus? Is it a false memory or flashback? Who knows? Next it cuts right back to them with no explanation and they discover a child on the side of the road with stigmata. The child refuses to speak or answer them, but flags down a car when they are unable to, but they are promptly evicted for offending their driver when one utters “Christ Almighty” in thanks for the relative comfort of the car’s backseat. Here we’re just over ten minutes in to the film and it continues in this disjointed form for the remainder, offering up scenarios which our pilgrims wander into, witness from the sidelines, or even pass by, walking into debates that are intellectually/philosophically abstracted above their day to day concerns. They encounter such instances as a restaurant manager beset by theological questions by his staff, a class of young girls reciting heresies and proclaiming them "anathema," a Jesuit and a Jansenist dueling while arguing specific points of doctrine, a heretical priest being exhumed and burned, and so forth.
The film is full of the types of narrative digressions that populate this era of Buñuel’s films – dreams, reveries, illustrations of ideas that come up in conversations, etc. – and they create a unique narrative world full of the sort of mystery and ambiguity that Buñuel loved and created in his art from his earliest works. In his autobiography, he called the The Milky Way the first in a trilogy (along with The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Phantom of Liberty) about "the search for truth, as well as the necessity of abandoning it as soon as you’ve found it." Here he looks at the life-or-death importance of theological doctrines for his characters to show the complete arbitrariness of such things, noting that “The Milky Way is neither for nor against anything at all . . . The film is above all a journey through fanaticism, where each person obstinately clings to his own particle of truth, ready, if need be, to kill or to die for it. The road traveled by the two pilgrims can represent, finally, any political or even aesthetic ideology.” A character in the film at one point notes “A religion without mystery is no religion at all.” and the same can be said of the art of Luis Buñuel’s films – the very ambiguity and irrationality is what makes them Buñuel films. No one has ever made anything like them before or since, and The Milky Way is one of his most eccentric, and his most rewarding.

-         Patrick Brown

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Twist & Shout at UMS!: Part One

John Parsell:

     Last year I didn’t really get it together to participate that much in The UMS, but this year I’m excited about the line-up and ready to experience the unique dynamic of this festival. After work Friday evening, I’m looking forward to seeing Frankie Cosmos on the main stage. We’ve played their recent release, Vessel, in the store a few times and I’m excited to hear how those songs sound live. Right after that also on the main stage, I plan on catching Digable Planets. This will be my first time to see these legends of 90s hip-hop, although I watched Shabazz Palaces (Ishmael Butler’s contemporary project) open for Black Star in 2011. I’ll be working a closing shift on Saturday, but I might rally and get it together to see Green Druid play at the Hi-Dive around 10:00 pm. Although I’ll be working during these sets, I’ve been recommending catching Kadhja Bonet and Deerhunter to my friends. 
     I’ve got the day off on Sunday so you’ll definitely find me in the vicinity of Broadway checking out all things UMS. A couple of years ago, White Denim came through town and delivered a highly enjoyable in-store performance so I’m curious to hear what they sound like these days. I can’t say that all of my excitement for this year’s UMS comes from the fact that Superchunk will be playing the main stage, but that accounts for at least eighty percent of my enthusiasm for this year’s festival. I first saw Superchunk in 1995 at the age of eighteen and Sunday’s set will be the tenth time I’ve seen them. I love this band and I can’t wait to hear them play songs from their excellent new album, What a Time to Be Alive! Hopefully that performance will grant me unlimited energy and I’ll be up for checking out my friends Specific Ocean play a midnight set at The Hornet.

Patrick Brown:

     Last year I missed going to the UMS because I had other obligations, so I’m really happy to see that it’s back under new ownership and seems to be in exactly the same spirit as previous years. I’ve always gone to the festival with a pretty open schedule, marking a handful of acts I need to go see (to wit: Superchunk, Digable Planets, Deerhunter), and a bunch of friends’ acts in many genres that I am gonna do my best to make it to (namely: One Flew West, There’s An Ape For That, Yasi, Porlolo, Roger Green, Oko Tygra, It’s Just Bugs, Green Druid, Kyle Emerson, Specific Ocean), and then keeping the rest of my time open – and ears open – to just go with the flow. I listen for what people are recommending to me; I listen to the sounds coming out of the venues; I listen for what bands are getting a buzz, and I go check out anything that sounds appealing. There’s such a bounty of great stuff at the festival every year that I always feel like I’ve missed at least four dozen bands I would’ve enjoyed – but maybe I’ll catch them next year! And maybe I’ll see you there this weekend! Stay hydrated out there folks.

Linden Jackson:

     For me, the UMS is a particularly special time of the year not just because I get to go out and see 20+ of my favorite Denver bands at one festival, but also because it’s an amazing opportunity for musicians and people in the neighborhood to connect with each other on a level that isn't really possible with other festivals. It doesn't get much cooler than seeing an entire chunk of the city completely shut down and allow music to reign supreme, converting the most diverse and seemingly unaccommodating businesses into totally kick ass venues. You might see someone stage diving in your favorite book store or shotgunning a beer at the spot you usually go for coffee, but everyone rolls with it and that's the magic of the UMS. My band One Flew West will be playing Illegal Pete's on Friday the 27th at 8pm!

Brian Wyatt:

     I accidentally said I would be happy to go to U.M.S. because initially I thought it stood for Universal Mallomar Society. It turned out OK though, it’s more bands than fingers on hands. Mine is playing Sunday on the Imagination Stage at 6:20. Come say hi and I’ll give you some of my Mallomars.

Patrick ‘Wavvy’ Richardson:

     For me, UMS weekend is the sweatiest weekend of the whole damn year. My top priority is staying hydrated. If I can manage that, I’m gonna consider it a successful weekend. Here’s a day by day breakdown of where you can find me seeing the acts I’m most excited about:
            Friday: - Bouxku Jones @ Blue Ice Lounge 6PM. Bouxku is a local rapper originally from New Orleans. His Bayou roots shine through in his energetic, thoughtful brand of hip-hop. I should still be pretty hydrated at this point.
                        - Futurebabes @ Gary Lee’s Motor Club 7PM. Futurebabes is a solo synthpop artist hailing from Greeley, CO. For fans of Depeche Mode and Joy Division. The swirling synth arpeggios and catchy vocal melodies will have your feet tappin’ and your head swirlin’. I’ll probably be a lil’ sweaty at this point.
                        - Digable Planets – Hip-hop legends, duh!
            Saturday: Okay, day 2 is the dangerous day. Things start out early and the sun is out. Wear a hat and comfy shoes (I sound like a dad).
                        - The Velveteers @ Sesh Stage 2:20PM. This brother/sister rock duo is the perfect way to start your Saturday. The Velveteers are a fast-rising Denver act not to be missed.
                        - Slow Caves @ 3 Kings 3PM. You live in Colorado and you haven’t seen Slow Caves yet? One of my favorite local bands – I’m gonna be in full-on, soaked-shirt, sweaty-boy mode at this time – please keep an eye on me in case my legs cramp up. I might need you.
                        - Its Just Bugs @ 3 Kings 8PM. This is my band. Come see us, come see how incredibly sweaty I’ll be. Aggressive, full-band hip-hop.
            Sunday: If I survive and make it to Sunday. You can find me here, and Twist & Shout in the cool, cool air conditioning. But that shouldn’t deter you from checking out the rest of the festival. I just know I’ll need a day of recovery, because taking care of yourself is punk rock.
Happy UMS – Love, Wavvy

Anna Bero:

     This will be my first UMS experience and I'm so stoked to be able to go! It's a great opportunity to see some of my co-workers perform. Y'all need to go see It's Just Bugs, One Flew West, Savage Blush, Green Druid, and of course - Matt Cobos (I mean, come one, have you seen that dudes mustache?)
     Sadly, I'll be holding down the fort at good ole Twist & Shout on Friday night so I won't be able to see Boss Eagle, that just means every one of y'all need to go see him if you have the chance. I'm also excited to see Superchunk, mostly just to see my co-worker John Parsell see them - it will be his 10th time seeing the band.
     The last and possibly the raddest thing aboust UMS is just being able to wander around and discover new music.

See y'all there!

Matt Cobos:

     UMS is finally here! It is THE Colorado music and arts fest to go to, and boy am I ready to rage. This year is stacked with not only great music, but great comedy, too! For the first time, UMS decided to make a concerted effort to make comedy an important part of the festival by partnering with the High Plains Comedy Festival to bring in some of the best comics from around the country to a dedicated comedy main stage. Drennon Davis, Tom Thakkar, Kate Willett, Ramon Rivas II, Brandy Posey, and Carmen Morales will all be here slinging chuckles alongside some of Denver's best local comedians. One of those local performers is your favorite little record store clerk and writer, ME! I'll be performing at 6 pm Friday on the comedy main stage outside of Illegal Pete's Broadway! Come party!
     As for music acts, we all know that's the bread and butter of UMS and this year is no exception. The band I'm most excited for is psych-garage band Night Beats. Their last 2 albums were fantastic and I don't expect any less from their live performance. Other great national acts I'm stoked for are Holy Wave, White Denim, and Alvvays. All have some element of psych/garage/party, which is what I can't get enough of.
     Per usual, there are too many awesome local bands for me to list them all, but I'll name some of my favorites that I never miss. The Savage Blush (psych), Bud Bronson and the Goodtimers (party-garage), Colfax Speed Queen (garage-rage), Dirty Few (party garage-punk), Ned Garthe Explosion (party-garage), Cheap Perfume (punk), Green Druid (stoner metal), Grayson County Burn Ban (country), Its Just Bugs (aggressive, full band hip hop), and Vic N The Narwhals (garage rock). Every one of those bands is worth checking out if you like to rock n party.
     Holy crap. This is going to rule. I'm going to start hydrating right now, and I'll see you party people on Broadway!

And at my show on Friday!