It would be easy to drift off into a dream world listening to Hollow Talk at low volume, but that's not really an issue. The Denver-based shoegaze/psych band features members of Endpoint, Guilt and Good Riddance, bands known less for their subtlety and nuance than for their bombast and message. Hollow Talk melds the two styles seamlessly, at once relaxing and impossible to ignore. --Oakland L. Childers
Jux County seemed better on Thursday night than it was in the early 2000s. Andy Monley unleashed the back-and-forth head gestures while he wailed on the guitar and looked like a teenager unself-consciously getting into his own music. --Tom Murphy
Homebody started out as a noteworthy band with interesting guitar textures and spare melodies. But on Thursday night, Homebody proved capable of seeing math-y emo to its logical conclusion. With intricate guitar work, emotionally stirring melodies and layers of rhythm, Homebody is no longer merely a good band, but a great one. TM
Friday I made my way to South Broadway on Friday evening in time to catch the first of three StaG performances and am so glad I did. The CU students turned L.A. residents have been playing UMS for a few years now; last year, I accidentally came upon their set at one of the temporary indoor stages and was blown away. They're even better now, and the five-piece tore down the hi-dive with its 8 p.m. slot. The band was a little less Animal Collective-ish than I remember, but that was an improvement. The group has mastered mixing elements of noise with more traditional rock-and-roll structure, and the result is an energy that translates well. --Bree Davies
Muscle Beach impressed by finding a way to make hardcore a little weird without blunting its crushing impact and relentless momentum. TM
Spires turned in a fine final show and treated us to a new song, to boot. There were technical difficulties with amps and the like, but with its usual aplomb, the band carved its delicate melodies and luminous atmospheres through the stumbling blocks by sheer force of will. TM Saturday
If the hi-dive is the cool kids' lunch table, this year Eslinger Gallery is where the cigarette smokers and weirdos hung out. On Saturday night, I caught Bass to Mouth and Echo Beds there, and both ruled. BD
The Echo Beds set kicked off with a lot of disparate noise, samples and general disarray. And then things got weird. More a performance group than a traditional band, Echo Beds' Industrial art rock has to be seen to be understood completely, but keep in mind that one guy will be beating on a huge sheet of metal. OC
There are a couple of ways to go about navigating a music fest like this: strategically plan out every set, or wander around and see whatever you find. I try to do a little of both, because while it's great to see every band that every one of my friends is in, walking into a venue and discovering an act you didn't know existed is equally satisfying.
The A-OKs were the band I found by chance this year. Drawn to Brendan's (though I will forever and always call it Club 404) by the sound of a horn section, I stepped into the venue just after 8 p.m. on Saturday to a pit of polite skankers, elbows and knees flying through the air. The A-OKs were tight and brought great energy; frontman Mark Swan rolled out jokes between songs that had the crowd laughing as much as they were dancing. Ska lives! BD
The UMS seems to be a great place to see good bands right before they disappear forever. Such was the case with dust:orbiter, a two-piece math-rock outfit with an affinity for Louisville-style post-punk. To top off a great performance, they insisted that those in attendance take all their remaining merch free of charge. How punk is that? OC
Not part of the official UMS festivities, Extra Kool's hip-hop performance during Mile High Parley at Mutiny Information Cafe was nonetheless a highlight. The rapper laid solid rhymes laid upon the ultra-complex digital styling of DJ Spacebar. The latter's job? Push the space bar on the laptop when the song starts, then hit it again when the mic drops. Music has finally reached its inevitable precipice. Dissolve your own bands immediately. OC Sunday Chase Ambler balanced perfectly on the ledge between the tender and the feisty, playing punk-pop songs fueled by bursts of youthful enthusiasm. TM
Blonde Redhead actually sounded powerful and clear in an outdoor setting, and that isn't easy to pull off. Often an outdoor sound can be a bit muted. The band's new album isn't out yet, but we got to hear some stuff from it tonight alongside some of the popular songs from its post-2000 catalogue. If you were far back enough, the talking and the blazing of the local wares didn't distract from the band's gorgeous and brightly emotive music. TM
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