Thursday, July 28, 2011

Paul Custer's UMS Wrap-Up

This years UMS was loaded with talent and variety. Everyone I’ve talked to had a blast and saw entirely different artists. Below are the 6 bands that did it (most) for me: 
Gauntlet Hair – Caught these Rhinoceropolis veterans at the Hi-Dive Thursday and left bewildered in the best way possible. Though they don’t love the comparison to Animal Collective, I couldn’t help but find a couple of small similarities (mainly the mixture of analog and digital drums and the frantic vocals.) But the likeness ends there, as Gauntlet Hair definitely couldn’t be further from the Beach Boys. Recently signed to Dead Oceans I highly recommend checking them out if you’re looking for a band that is incredibly unique, obsessed with rhythm and pushing boundaries. 
Accordion Crimes – Denver’s answer to Steve Albini and the DC Hardcore scene. The elements are simple: trashy guitar, a lockstep rhythm section and the unbridled vocals of a bespectacled everyman. For all of its simplicity in elemental makeup the band’s songs are packed with ideas. And, rather than beat you over the head on full blast, they deftly vary the dynamics and provide the perfect amount of dissonance.   
Hindershot – Good old-fashioned indie rock. I know that description will elicit many a groan (from myself included) but these guys are just that straightforward. Their set at Club 404 was fun – filled with hooks and plenty of smart changes and devoid of forced earnestness or cloying preciousness.  
Night Sweats – It’s rare to see a band that pull off Goth-rock convincingly, but Night Sweats from Salt Lake City blew away the small crowd at Club 404. Their sound was massive and militant in its precision. Bauhaus, Suicide and Joy Division references are admittedly lazy comparisons but I can guarantee fans of any of these bands will find a lot to love about Night Sweats.
Legendary River Drifters – Bluegrass played by punks? Metal heads revitalizing Appalachian folk? A front woman who can wail on the mic AND play the saw? Yes to all of the above. Their set at Three Kings was a joyous old time revival and packed with inspiration.
Mark Mallman – For me, the highlight of the festival and a must-see performer. We’ve jokingly coined him the “Modern Day Meatloaf” but there is so much more to The Mall Man. With piano solos that rival Jerry Lee Lewis and an insane amount of energy (he holds the record for the longest song EVER performed which clocked in at 78 hours!) Mark Mallman shows are a religious experience. His set at the Skylark was no exception as he decimated the eager crowd with some choice cuts from his catalog. He even threw in an astounding cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” for good measure.
Paul Custer 

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