Live Review: UMS Day Two, Baker District

UMS Day Two

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Baker District, Denver

Better Than: Spending the afternoon regretting not going.

Due to a prior engagement, I only caught a few bands for this second day of the festival and in capsule format once again:

Hunter Dragon & Fridge Magnet, Indy Ink, 4:40 p.m. This duo faced each other for this set, an arrangement that they’ve made work for them since each has a kick drum and side toms to create polyrhythms during particular songs. Anna, aka Fridge Magnet, was wearing an Animal Collective t-shirt, appropriately enough for the organically textured music of the project. It’s tempting to call anyone who has embraced a lo-fi aesthetic “indie pop,” and this band might very well fit within that rubric, but something about Hunter’s poetically brilliant lyrics and the vivid imagery goes beyond what you’d expect from simple pop songs. Hunter Dragon and Fridge Magnet played fun, emotionally stirring, short, catchy songs, some of which may have had a childish premise, but none of the five songs played were trite or saccharine. Hunter may be a cosmic jester of sorts, but listening to his songs was definitely good for the spirit.

Photo: Tom Murphy

Cowboy Curse

Cowboy Curse, Blue Ice, 5 p.m. You’d never know these guys took a good deal of time off with how tightly they played. They opened with one of their best, newer songs, “Negative Space.” In that song, Ben Bergstrand seems to be employing a different type of chord structure than in earlier songs, which seemed to have inspired the rest of the band to be even more aggressive in their playing and songcraft. This was readily apparent after the act played two older songs (“Shoot a Boy” and “In Spite”) and the four new songs that closed out its set. The outfit has always written poignantly poetic and thoughtful songs with impeccable melodies and rhythmic punch, but the members have really outdone themselves with their latest material. “Well Well Look,” “Downhill Sledding,” “Smellin’ Flowers” and “Pass Me My Pills” all took what the band was great at doing before and pushed it into new emotionally-charged territory. Curse had already become a power pop band, instead of merely indie pop, with the addition of Erin Tidwell on drums. Now, the act has raised the bar for that kind of music in a way that we haven’t seen for a long time.

Photo: Tom Murphy

Breezy Porticos

Breezy Porticos, hi-dive, 5:45 p.m. Breezy Porticos played a much tighter set than the last time I saw the band. The band seemed more relaxed, except for maybe Jeff Almond who sat on a huge rubber ball to play the keyboard for “Ramona, Just the Other Day,” which the group launced into after a three-part harmony take of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.” Overall, it was a solid showing for the Breezies. “Vichy Sun” was especially powerful with Almond hitting his great bass line better than I ever remember. Andy Falconetti’s solo for “Crayola Sunset” was tastefully blazing in a way someone can pull off only if they know how to make something that could merely rock into something beautiful. The outfit closed its set with “Starry Eyed,” which made me a little misty eyed, instead of with “Outdoor Miner” by Wire as was indicated on its set list.

-- Tom Murphy

Personal Bias: I picked people I knew I would like for my last three bands of this event.

Random Detail: I ran into Yuzo Nieto right after a solo set on his way to his Pink Hawks set but didn’t get to catch either show much less the Pee Pee show later on.

By the Way: The whole UMS was cool, but I think it got a little overwhelming for some people this year.

This is the twenty-eighth in a series of thirty consecutive shows that Tom Murphy is planning on attending. His whole idea is to prove that there's cool stuff going on any night of the week in Denver, if you bother to make any effort whatsoever to find it. He suggested naming this series, "This Band Could Be Your Life," a fitting designation to be sure. Since there's already a similarly titled book, however, we opted to file these entries under Last Night's Show -- you know, to avoid being sued an all. (Sorry, Tom.)

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