The first day of the UMS festival, a Thursday, was what you might expect in terms of attendees -- mostly other people in bands or those who are clued into the fact that there is plenty of great music coming from Colorado. But it's rare to see so many of these people in one place, and that may have weirded some people out, but for me, it was pleasant running into friends and colleagues.
The first show I caught was at 3 Kings Tavern, and it was an "alternate version" of Hot White, as bassist Tiana Bernard was out of town. A lot of people seemed to be excited to see the band play outside of a DIY venue because they'd heard great things about the outfit.
I can only imagine their surprise, though, when they were treated to Darren Kulback on a Casio keyboard and Kevin Wesley on the mike, pretty much making up this hilariously awful hip-hop on the spot. A lot of people thought it was dumb and really bad, but it was a joke, and it wasn't lost on some of us why it was funny.
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There's probably some reason why Moe's Barbecue near 6th and Broadway was picked as a venue, but it was a bit of a walk from 60 South Broadway to get to the place in time to catch Popwreck. In fact, Aaron Hobbs joked about how the rest of the festival was ten blocks away. He also had a string break, and that slowed the set down temporarily, but after the replacement, Hobbs and the band went right back into the remainder of its set with enthusiasm.
The name of the band is apt enough, as it sounded like Hüsker Dü gone even more pop -- dissonant melodies, intensely passionate vocals and driving rhythms. A lot of people probably never got to see Acrobat Down, much less Small Dog Frenzy, but Popwreck is worthy of either of those prior projects of Mr. Hobbs, and more relevant to today.
The walk back to the Baker District didn't seem so long, and I made it in plenty of time to catch Hearts in Space at the Irish Rover. It was the band's debut but the line-up included Johnny Lundock of Houses and Blue Million Miles, Jordan Huebner who used to play in Pacific Pride and one of the true scene enthusiasts, Ezra-David Darnell.
Darnell and Huebner played guitar and sang, with each trading off the role of lead and rhythm guitar from song to song (or even within a song). Musically, it reminded me of the sort of psychedelia embodied in the music of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, but desert-y, like the guys were creating a kind of Southwestern garage psych.
Somewhere in the mix, I heard the Byrds, especially when the fifth member of the band brought out the twelve-string acoustic during the second song. Despite it being the band's first show, the act displayed great confidence and poise. Turns out Huebner and Darnell are excellent singers who harmonize well. The act's next show is on August 22 at the Larimer Lounge.
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Walking around, you couldn't help but stumble into some friends and spend time talking about not just the festival, and that sort of thing derailed some show-going plans. Part of the point of the whole thing, though, is to bring people together who may not have an excuse most of the rest of the year to see each other as often as they'd like. However, I did happen to be at the right place at the right time to catch a rare show from The Omens.
Something happened to The Omens during the last two years. In 2009, the band put out an excellent album, regardless of genre, in Send Black Flowers. The level of compositional maturity and variety of tone on that album is remarkable for a garage rock band, and that growth was present at this show. Matt Hunt is back in the band, and there was a new drummer and keyboard player.
In some years past, it always seemed like The Omens played this music as a means of exorcising psychic pain. But now, it seems to be done almost entirely out of a sense of joy for the material. Michael Daboll has always been a good singer but even he showed an impressive degree of nuance in his delivery, without losing the raw wildness of his most energetic moments.
People you might not expect to be into The Omens were at this show, and the band responded to the enthusiasm shown them with one of its best performances in recent memory.