The 17th year of the Underground Music Showcase came to a close this Sunday after four days and hundreds of performances. The special showcase of talents big and small is one of great pride for our city — so much so even our governor can’t help but to declare it a state holiday. In honor of one of the most special weekends in Denver, we set out to find the best by attending as many shows as humanly possible. And while we still haven’t invented our UMS cloning machine quite yet, we collectively saw more than 100 shows. Read on to see which bands we loved and who you shouldn’t miss the next time they play in the Mile High.

SEE: Photos from The Underground Music Showcase 2017

The Coteries

You may not know of The Cotories because they’re brand new to Denver. The trio moved to Colorado from New Jersey about six months ago — and it seems that they’re in the perfect place for their style of music. They also didn’t seem to miss Jersey much. The Coteries opened with “Run, Run Elmira” which included a fiery harmonica solo from lead vocalist, Emily Parasiliti. Parasiliti’s vocals were not just impressive, they were extraordinary. Along with fellow band members Matt Runciman and Ben Brosh, the Coteries combined an energetic stage presence with some great instrumentation — a mandolin, a harmonica, a melodica, acoustic guitars and more — the banana maraca was also a nice touch. The Coteries had everyone tapping their toes and swaying with their harmonies. Their music transported the small crowd from The Hornet to the most pleasant imaginary fields and hillsides. — Tyler Harvey

Dead Latin

Discovering new music is a huge component of any experience at UMS and this weekend you couldn’t get any newer than Dead Latin. The recently formed band kicked the showcase into high gear with their debut show on Thursday night. Armed only with instruments and an eclectic crop of samples, the band proceeded to churn out a high energy set sans vocals. Steel drums and even a little cowbell in their heavily percussive jam outs were perfect for an extended dance session. The band has clearly taken queues from bands like LCD Soundsystem, but we think James Murphy would be proud.  — Brittany Werges

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It’s hard to describe how much fun of a show Retrofette was — but if it helps at all, they were so good that I went back for seconds the next day. The group combined upbeat drum solos and catchy synths with ’80s pop infused vocals. Extended electronic and percussion-fueled jam sessions got nearly everyone at the venue dancing both times. Curse the bastard who stood still for this one. They opened with “I Don’t Mind” which was the perfect song to hook everyone before they could even consider walking down Broadway to catch another show. Retrofette premiered brand new music and the new tracks seemed as if they’ll satisfy fans as well as propel them even more into the Denver spotlight. — Tyler Harvey

Chimney Choir

The most impressive thing about Chimney Choir’s set was their ability to work together both vocally and instrumentally. From the strings to the percussions, to the harmonies, it was all incredibly well synchronized. The intricate sounds of their complicated alternative folk music translated live better than one would ever expect whether it be just the right volume or the perfect time to pause. Three members had separate opportunities to shine in regards to vocals — and that they did. But it wasn’t just the vocals — everyone in the band had at least one solo. In a memorable moment, the band all dropped down into a squat so their drummer Carl Sorensen could be seen better while he broke it down. Mid-way through the show, Chimney Choir announced that it was their last show ever with bass player Tom Plassmeyer. Regardless of the sad news, every second during the performance I fought the urge to grab an instrument and join in on the glorious fun. Chimney Choir were also awarded the first encore I witnessed at UMS. — Tyler Harvey


It’s a shame RUMOURS FOLLOW were scheduled for such early set at Skylark Lounge on Friday. The band had the daunting task of playing for a slow trickle of UMS attendees who’d recently gotten off work and were just beginning to let the libations flow. However, circumstances be damned, RUMOURS FOLLOW set the dance floor ablaze with their 1985 inspired synth-pop sound complete with wondrous sax solos and all. The highlight of the show was lead singer Nick Sanders’ formidable falsetto which, when put to the test, could quite possibly draw a tear from a dove’s eye. It was the champagne shower to set off Friday night, as careless and carefree as you could imagine, undeniably fun through and through. — Kori Hazel

The Outfit

Amidst spilt beer and the lingering trails of cigarette smoke that’d followed the fanatic crowd into 3 Kings Tavern, The Outfit put on one of the rowdiest shows of UMS on Friday. The crowd was in hysterics practically before the band even hit the stage, erupting into several mosh pits, flinging empty cups and some going so far as to rush the stage as the show got underway. The Outfit were masterful in their no-holds barred approach, content in stirring the pot and continuously watching it boil over without restraint. The effect was infectious, reeling the most casual of on-lookers inside to get a piece of the action. If you didn’t walk out of 3 Kings with your ears-ringing and a potential bruise forming, you were at the wrong show. — Kori Hazel

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Sur Ellz with members of Air Dubai

I knew I was in the right place when I walked into Hi-dive and spotted every veteran UMS’er I knew within one scan of the venue. It seemed that the show had garnered some buzz — and for good reason. The 10 p.m. Friday set promised the return of beloved Air Dubai paired with one of Denver’s most talented artist, Sur Ellz. But the partnership between the two wasn’t just that of artist and backing band. The skilled musicians of Air Dubai brought a dynamic energy and depth to Sur Ellz’s silky smooth R&B aesthetic. The group vibed effortlessly, sliding between genres as the crowd happily grooved along. Towards the end of the set, Sur Ellz took the stage solo and even did a few pop song covers. He quickly proved he is just as captivating when it’s just him layering his vocals or riffing on the underlying R&B themes of pop music. However, after seeing the potential of his act with Air Dubai in tow, it was clear he shone brightest with the full power of this talented band behind him. — Brittany Werges  

The Velveteers

There is something tremendously special about this band and, in particular, their frontwoman Demi Demitro. At only 19, the singer and guitarist has more talent and magnetism than any of us mere mortals could hope for. Their Friday night set at Gary Lee’s had her in full force with dual drummers that delivered a tight and thunderous drive. In her element, Demitro tore through her heavy metal riffs while her siren-like voice cut through the crowd like a dagger in the night. Although she may look innocent with her blond curly mop and short stature, she had come to murder — and that she did. — Brittany Werges

All Chiefs

All Chiefs gave us chills once again at this year’s UMS. Fans gathered early Saturday afternoon anticipating the bewitching harmony that makes up All Chiefs. Band members warmed up the show with a playful chant from “Ninja Rap” by Vanilla Ice as lead vocalist Mic Carroll pelvic thrusted life into the crowd. It was one fun and funky hit right after another. Carroll’s crazy vocals ruptured through as the melody pulsated under the floor forcing everyone to move along. The All Chiefs have taken indie rock to a new level that can be enjoyed by all with groovy dance steps and unyielding lyrics that hit home. — Montrece Hill

The Corner Girls

Whether it’s doing the walk of shame at the crack of dawn with a dead cell phone or hating your best friend’s boyfriend, The Corner Girls are here to deliver some serious girl power rock wrapped in a flirty fun package. Although frontwoman and guitarist Breanna Ahlgren shared with the crowd the band’s nervousness with Saturday (it was their first time on the main stage) they still slayed a killer show. Cute but deadly with their instruments, these girls are not to be taken lightly. Fans chanted along to the chorus of their hit song “Weed” and lost it when they started to play “Band Dudes.” Ahlgren is famous for her high pitch shriek and scream, letting the crowd know that this power house band of feminists has a big bite. Their fan base is growing and even declared the band’s genre to be “No Boys Allowed Punk!” as a couple of fans wore shirts with both that slogan and the band name.   — Montrece Hill

The Milk Blossoms

The Milk Blossoms were a perfect break from the common rock, folk and indie music we had seen at UMS thus far. The trio took over a corner of the Ross-Broadway Denver Public Library with a ukulele, looped beat boxing, fun keyboard melodies, poetry and spoken word. The Milk Blossoms harmonized with flawless flows and sang songs that included lyrics about books, appropriately being sung at a library. The acoustics in the library were perfect for the trio  but that’s not to say Milk Blossoms obeyed the rules and kept it quiet. — Tyler Harvey

Zola Jesus

Walking into UMS I had never heard of Zola Jesus, to be completely honest. But being a national headliner, I took a break from binging local music to check them out. That decision paid off. The musical project, led by Nika Roza Danilova, combines a violinist, some bass-heavy backtracks and Danilova’s intense rock voice reminiscent of some great ’90s music meets nuevo R&B Banks. She had a wonderful presence wearing a gown of blacks, grays and silvers. She stormed the stage with fierce hand gestures and crouched, dark movements, all writhing with emotion. Regardless of relying heavily on backtracks, Zola Jesus and her band mates delivered. Her vocal range was broad, and she nailed every single note, sometimes even going acapella. Her eclectic and haunting sounds were an added bonus. — Tyler Harvey

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Shady Elders

So many bubbles. Shady Elders performed their blend of alt, pop and dream-rock to a jam-packed audience at 3 Kings — with a bubble machine spewing spheres the entire time. The group expectedly rocked out with their nostalgic attitude. What was unexpected was how perfected their sound has become. Shady Elders used ambient guitar and vocals to transport the audience into a dreamlike state — when it came time to clap it seemed almost as if you were waking up a little bit. But not in a bad way. It was the kind of live music you want to close your eyes and get mesmerized in the tunes – whether it be by swaying or a little head banging. — Tyler Harvey


The Underground Music Showcase brought San Antonio group Parallelephants to Denver for the first time ever. And we’re glad they did — the group was easily one of the best performances of the weekend. Not only was it impressive, it was a bit indescribable. After much debate on what to call whatever happened at the Irish Rover that Saturday night, we’ve decided “sensual groove affair” is the closest we could come to putting it in words. The set included some of the funkiest synth beats, jumpsuits and glittered faces. The crowd moved to songs like “Icancherishyourassandyourmind,” “Choqlate Boy,” “Reason Don’t Define” and even some unreleased music. The singer’s voice went through auto-tunes that were unique but perfectly coordinated, adding just another impressive element to their performance. It’s safe to say these guys are destined for fame. And with a name like Parallelephants, we don’t doubt it. — Tyler Harvey

Nasty Nachos

If you were looking for somewhere to dance on Saturday night at UMS, Nasty Nachos’ performance at Irish Rover was it. The local noise-pop artist also known as Alex Anderson brought probably the best dance party to UMS — that I caught. Not only was it Nasty Nachos on stage, though. Matt Tanner, drummer of previous Denver band, Rose Quartz, joined him. And together, they threw down. The two created seemingly impromptu tunes, bouncing back and forth and playing off of one another. Heavy bass and catchy synths fueled this electro jam session. It was relentlessly fun considering there were no breaks — just endless and constantly morphing dance music. — Tyler Harvey

Brent Cowles with The Still Tide

Now, you may be reading this article and thinking, “Of course Brent Cowles is on the list” (also see: Esme Patterson), but just wait. One of our favorite things about Denver’s local music scene is the healthy competition and the support the community thrives on from one another. This was one of those many instances from UMS this past weekend — when Brent Cowles decided to bring The Still Tide onto the main stage with him. And he didn’t do it for just one song — Cowles’ entire show was with Denver-located The Still Tide. They performed a Sam Cook cover together in an oh so satisfying rendition, and of course “Cold Times” was included as well. Cowles’ vocals alone are fantastic, but paired with Anna Morsett (of the Still Tide) on backup, his vocals soared even further. It was a wonderful collaboration allowing two local artists to thrive off one another — impressive, lively and even borderline sensual. – Tyler Harvey

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Esmé Patterson

Esmé Patterson’s 8 p.m. main stage show was not your typical set from the 31-year-old singer-songwriter. Aside from swapping out her buzzed haircut for a candy color wig, something was clearly different about the Colorado native. Her unpredictable performance was punctuated by short soliloquies that revealed an inner struggle. From songs about her newly discovered “bad reputation in Denver,” to a rendition of a song for a former bandmate and friend Tyler Despres (who recently passed away), Patterson let it all out on stage. It wasn’t perfect and there were times she was scrambling. But even though Patterson may not have been in the best shape, she proved she could do her set in her sleep (even with a handful of new songs in the mix). Seeing Patterson shed her charming veneer was refreshing, especially since the artist is often sold as a meek and quiet figure. This, coupled with her new songs, may signal a new start for the young musician. But hopefully, we caught a glimpse of the inner workings of creative upheaval, not the beginning of a downfall. — Brittany Werges

Benjamin Booker 

If you missed Benjamin Booker then we feel sorry for you. Soul and rock ‘n’ roll never sounded as sweet as Benjamin Booker and his talented ensemble brought high energy to the main stage Sunday night. Booker wasted no time getting the crowd excited with his smooth boisterous voice and hypnotic dance moves. The band transitioned into each song effortlessly never missing a beat with a psychedelic undertone and a heavy downhome blues rock twist. Fans crowed the guard rail with high two-steps waiting to hear Booker’s classic hits “Witness” and “Believe.” Booker’s performance was nothing short of outstanding.  — Montrece Hill

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Late on Sunday night, after I’d already resigned to go home to rest my weary feet and battered eardrums, I was roped into one final show. Located at the Mountain to Sound house on Bayuad, it wasn’t technically a UMS show due to the unofficial location. But with this being an underground showcase we’re counting it. It was here I found in/PLANES serenading a small crowd under a set of low strung lights. The magical duo of Desirae Garcia and Inaiah Lujan played a soft and sweet indie set with just a hint of doo-wop backed by uptempo drums. The crowd, all of whom seemed to be good friends with the artists, made for a truly euphoric atmosphere as they hugged and danced. At the end of the set, the crowd begged for their return during a rare UMS encore. They obliged by playing “Why Didn’t You,” a heavenly lullaby that drew us to the blissful end of an incredible weekend. — Brittany Werges

Go here to see all of our photos from the UMS 2017

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