Over the weekend: UMS Festival

Categories: Last Night
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Julie Davis of Bela Karoli (A.H. Goldstein)


Last night, the four-day UMS festival wrapped, and most of our crew made it out for at least part of the fest. And while we rarely agree on anything, we're all pretty much in agreement that Danielle Ate the Sandwich absolutely stole the show with one of the breakout performances of the fest. Other highlights included Boba Fett and the Americans guerilla style marching band performances outside the Skylark and hi-dive on a drizzly Saturday night, which were bookended by a slew of other memorable performances from some of Denver's best and brightest. Check out our team coverage after the jump.

THURSDAY, JULY 23, 2009

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Dan Kaufman Superstar Eruption (Tom Murphy)
Dan Kaufman Superstar Eruption, 6:15 p.m. Thursday, hi-dive
What it was like:
Space rock, avant garde noise rock and punk rock colliding together.

Being a brilliant eccentric has its advantages in the world of music and creative work in general and that characteristic was very much on display for this performance. This three -piece created boiling, abrasive, soaring, hypnotic and driving sounds, that is if ocean waves and rivers of lava can be considered "driving." During a particular song, Dan Kaufman himself addressed an unseen tormentor and commanded that individual to "Turn off that light," seemingly pointing at the source of the video projection that served as a backdrop to the band's set. Drifting cyclones of feedback swirled around almost every song and the rhythm section flexed serious sonic muscles in every song. For a song I will call "Tripping the Light Dantastic," Dan and bassist Brandon Brinkley did a call and response section that sounded like dialogue in a Godard film.

Just over halfway through the set, Brinkley and Kaufman laid down their respective instruments, grabbed tambourines and leapt off the stage to run around the crowd while drummer Lucas Rouge kept up the pounding beat and the guitars streamed distorted drones. When the two guys got back up on stage they didn't miss a beat and went right back into the song proper. Brinkley later told me he'd done nothing like that before in any of his other musical projects, it was just another of Kaufman's ideas to shake up an audience that was a little too comfortable with the barrier between performer and audience. But Dan wasn't done there. He took off his shirt and performed the last third of the set or so bare-chested. During the second to last song, Kaufman took the mic and rubbed it gently in his armpit and said, "Cowboy Curse, look at this, this is for you!" Kaufman and Ben Bergstrand know each other but that didn't prevent it from being a surreal and transgressive moment in the set.

Verdict: Spectacle aside, this group and its ringleader are performing some of the most interesting and sonically powerful music coming out of Denver at the moment. -- Tom Murphy

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Cowboy Curse (Tom Murphy)


Cowboy Curse, 7 p.m. Thursday, Hi-Dive
What it was like:
Seeing a great power pop band showing you how it's done right.

Guitarist/singer Ben Bergstrand and bassist Tyler Campo wore a headband and a headkerchief respectively and narrowly escaped looking like they were goofing on Loverboy. Bergstrand seemed to be in high spirits and he moved about and otherwise rocked out throughout the set, throwing himself into every song. Some fundamental but often overlooked wisdom and observations coursed through the lyrics, not unusual for a band that has something poignant to say no matter its chosen topic. One line that struck me was, "You bomb someone, they'll never look at you the same way again." Within the context of a truly upbeat, bubbly pop song just made the lyrics seem all that more powerful. The Curse is no stranger to this sort of thing and it performed one of its classics, "Shoot A Boy," roughly halfway through its set.

Campos bell tone bass line for the opening of "Flowers" was unexpectedly lovely and melancholy at the same time while Bergstrand unleashed the closest thing to noise this band ever employs. The set closed with the excellent "Bought & Sold." Fiery and smooth at once, that song embodied much of the band's new direction in its songwriting. Erin Tidwell and Tyler Campo have always laid down the rhythms with flair and intensity but this time I think Bergstrand played freer than he ever has before.

Verdict: A solid show from one of Denver's most reliably tight and dynamic bands. -- Murphy


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