The 2016 Underground Music Showcase kicks off tonight, Wednesday, July 27, and runs through four more hectic days at venues on South Broadway. The whole shebang can be a lot to take in, so our writers have weighed in below with a few of their top picks, in order of their appearance at the festival.
Saturday, July 30, 3:30 p.m., Goodwill Main Stage
It will be hot this week, and everyone is going to be rubbing sweaty shoulders with crowds of strangers. There will be chilled beverages going around, but make no mistake: The best way to cool off will be watching Flaural on Saturday afternoon. The band’s psychedelic pop sound is a flowy kind of jam that feels like it could go on for years without anyone growing tired of playing or listening. The four-man Denver group has layers of reverberating guitar, charming synth and vocals echoing from what seems to be at least a hallway away — but Flaural also brings an on-stage energy that will surely prick a few ears just wandering by. I would recommend putting the band's latest EP, Over Imaginary Cigarettes, on a playlist alongside early Tame Impala or Temples, but this week, just show up at the Goodwill Main Stage and have your this-band-is-killing-it text ready in advance. — Ben Wiese
Residual Kid heads back to the hi-dive this Friday.
4. Residual Kid
Saturday, July 30, 5:30 p.m., Goodwill Main Stage
For the past three years, Austin-based Residual Kid has been getting to know Denver as it plays to bar crowds twice the age of its members. But at this year's UMS, the band is planning to give Denver fans something new. Singer Deven Ivy is celebrating his eighteenth birthday, and he and his bandmates (brothers Ben and Max Redman) are planning their set. "We'll be playing all the songs from our SALSA EP plus some new ones," Ivy says. "People in Denver have gotten to know us, so we want to do something special and different. We’re bringing along a friend to play second guitar, because we really want to take our performance to the next level.” This is a must-see act that has become such a staple that the young musicians are almost honorary locals. “We want to remind people of the powerful bond we have with Denver and the UMS," says Ivy. "We are especially excited for this year's edition." - Eddie Barella
Omni plays 3 Kings Tavern at UMS 2016.
Saturday, July 30, 6 p.m., 3 Kings Tavern, 303-777-7352.
Atlanta-based post-punk band Omni came about when Philip Frobos and Billy Mitchell, formerly of garage-rock outfit Carnivores started making some demos with their friend Frankie Broyles, who was then in Deerhunter. The members of the band often deejay, and as they were writing the group's early music together, they were very much into glam rock like David Bowie, Roxy Music and T-Rex, as well as Television and early-'80s Athens, Georgia, bands like Pylon. “We wrote 'Eyes on the Floor,' and it sounded to us like something from that time period, and we thought we should write more songs like that, and that's how we changed gears,” says Frobos. In July 2016, the trio released Deluxe, an album whose wiry melodies and tight yet playful rhythms and textures have an uncommon warmth and immediacy. - Tom Murphy
2. The Velveteers
Sunday, July 31, hi-dive, 303-733-0230
A two-piece hard-rock band can be magnetic in its simplicity. Denver-based group the Velveteers began in 2014 as the brainchild of Demi Demitro, a then-seventeen-year-old with a head of lush blond curls and a twangy approach to the guitar. Demitro is now nineteen, still a teenager, but one with a growing local fan base and increasing body of work, making her a staple within the Denver music scene. The duo’s show at the hi-dive on Sunday marks its second year playing the UMS, and while the musicians are still just a couple of teens citing bands like Queens of the Stone Age as inspiration, they're not quite as green as you might think. Bringing thoughtful lyrics and structured instrumentals, the Velveteers' performance is one to look forward to at this year’s UMS. - Mariah Taylor
Photo courtesy San Fermin Facebook
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1. San Fermin
Sunday, July 31, 7:30 p.m., Goodwill Main Stage
Of all the biggest names atop the UMS poster, San Fermin is perhaps the most popular. It takes eight musicians to create the band’s intricate, layered melodies, each one replete with soaring brass and dreamlike violin. The harmonies are complex, overlapping and twisting to elevate the group's brand of indie pop to new baroque heights. But what else would you expect from a band led by Ellis Ludwig-Leone, the classically trained songwriter-turned-frontman who studied music at Yale under composer Nico Muhly? Ludwig-Leone’s full embrace of the indie-pop world has resulted in critical praise and kickstarted the band's ascent on festival undercards across the country. Plus the band plays a downright magnificent (if totally unexpected and unconventional) cover of “Heart in a Cage,” by the Strokes. Let’s hope the group decides to take it for another spin this week in Baker. - Elle Coxon