Right at the end of Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats’ set, the power went out. But instead of letting out sighs or boos, the hundreds of people in Nate and Patrick Meese’s back yard — packed together, sitting on each other’s shoulders, standing on tree limbs or on the roof — kept singing the refrain from “S.O.B.,” the song the band had been playing. “Whoa-oh-oh, whoa-oh-oh” echoed out from the enraptured crowd. The chant continued as the power came back on, as the Night Sweats finished the song and the set, and even after they had walked off the stage. No one was ready for the house show to end, because this July 24 bash was the last Friday-night Underground Music Showcase backyard party that the Meese brothers would throw at their Baker home.
The Centennial Day party, as the unofficial show is known, has existed for five years. Nate and Patrick Meese, both professional musicians from various bands, started throwing the bash as a fun accompaniment to the UMS. Over the years, they added a stage that was hand-built by Rateliff; sponsorships from Denver Beer Co., Sputnik and the Denver Film Society; and some insanity, like the now-iconic photo of the Night Sweats playing on the roof. But even parties whose lineup includes Paper Bird and the Blue Rider and whose guest list boasts a who’s who of Denver musicians must come to an end.
“It’s kind of how everything shook out,” Nate Meese says. “It wasn’t like we had something happen.”
Indeed, the ending is a bit anticlimatic. The lease was up, and the brothers decided it was time to say goodbye to the yellow house at First and Acoma. Patrick and his wife are moving into a place of their own, and Nate moved into the Cheesman Park neighborhood.
“It’s a testament to the commitment of Denver and its musicians that this ever happened,” Nate says. “We’re lucky to have such cool and talented friends.”
The Meese brothers, who have had an enormous impact on the local music scene with their various projects, do have seriously talented friends. Past acts at the annual party have included Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, Ark Life, Land Lines, Tennis and others. Even the attendees were impressive. Friday night’s show was so packed that it was almost impossible to move, but an arduous trip back to the kegs resulted in a dozen hugs and greetings from friends, plus sightings of Stelth Ulvang, Patrick Dethlefs, Natalie Tate and others all enjoying the music and company.
While the UMS is growing at a rapid pace, incorporating more out-of-town acts, its soul is still a celebration of Denver music. It’s a homecoming in the middle of summer for musicians and fans, a chance for everyone to reconnect and see their friends and their friends’ bands. For most of those bands, careers were launched in living rooms and back yards not unlike the Meeses’.
Unofficial parties like this highlight the roots of Denver music and help make the UMS what it is, Nate says: “It goes a long way and helps legitimize UMS as a festival. It’s the natural progression of UMS.”
The final party was the calm in the center of the storm, held in the midst of the chaos and spectacle that the UMS can sometimes be. It felt both surreal and natural to be standing among Denver’s most talented musicians, watching a local band try out new songs. There was no sadness or sense of ending in the air, just pure celebration — and an unspoken understanding that when one house show ends, another usually pops up. So if this was going to be the last party the Meese brothers threw, it was going to be the best one ever.
“We want to continue doing something with the UMS in some capacity,” Nate says — though no one knows what that might be. Patrick left the morning after the party, headed for the Newport Folk Festival with the Night Sweats; Nate had already moved out. Never again will people mill about in front and in back of the little yellow house, using a wooden sign nailed to a tree to guide them to free beer, free food and music in the back.
To start the evening, Patrick had grabbed a mike. “Hey, everyone,” he said to the crowd. “Welcome to my house.” The crowd responded to his greeting with shouts of “Thank you!” He introduced the band, thanked the sponsors, paused, then asked the following question:
“If we do this somewhere else next year, will you all come?”
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