UMS? Yes! - RED - Relevant. Essential. Denver.
Band Tyto Alba playing on stage at 2018 UMS

UMS? Yes!

Here’s how this weekend’s Underground Music Showcase reflects the boom in Denver’s creative community.

July 23, 2019

By Cory Phare

Denver’s Underground Music Showcase kicks off Friday for its 19th year of rocking the Rocky Mountains, bringing tens of thousands to South Broadway to hear more than 200 bands across 17 venues.

“The Denver music scene is really happening right now, and there are a ton of talented and hardworking acts spanning all genres,” said Matt Hoffman, faculty member with DIME Denver teaching music theory and composition at the institution partnered with Metropolitan State University of Denver

That view is more than theoretical: Hoffman hits the UMS stage himself not once but three times, twice with his Americana rock band Strange Americans and again with his solo folk project, New Mexican (see sidebar).

The festival’s growth from indie darling to music juggernaut mirrors the growth of the Mile High City’s creative community that’s part of a boom in nonprofit arts and cultural activities to the tune of nearly $2 billion. It’s this kind of environment that made Denver a natural choice for the kind of public-private partnership connecting higher education and the modern music industry.

Denver bands like Tyto Alba (top photo, at Irish Rover) and Bison Bone, here at the Hi-Dive, follow-up these 2018 UMS performances with sets at the 2019 festival as well. Photo by Alyson McClaran
Denver bands like Tyto Alba (top photo, at Irish Rover) and Bison Bone, here at the Hi-Dive, follow-up these 2018 UMS performances with sets at the 2019 festival as well. Photo by Alyson McClaran

Matt Hoffman, DIME instructor

Roadrunners rock UMS

In addition to the behind-the-scenes magic from UMS Event Director and journalism alum Tobias Krause, there are several MSU Denver connections to this year’s festival. Mark your schedules for the following:

• Strange Americans, Hoffman’s (above) rock band
o Knockout Stage @ Punch Bowl Social, Saturday, 6:20-7 p.m.
o Hi-Dive, Sunday, 9-9:40 p.m.

Blake Brown and the American Dust Choir, featuring DIME Denver’s student-recruitment and admissions manager Blake Brown
o Banded Oak Brewing Co., Sunday, 5-5:40 p.m.

• New Mexican, Hoffman’s solo folk project
o South Broadway Christian Church, Sunday, 7-7:40 p.m.

The Guestlist, consisting of current and former MSU Denver students
o 3 Kings Tavern, Monday, midnight-12:40 a.m.


“Our No. 1 item we look for in a city is it being a great live-music center,” said Kevin Nixon, co-founder and president of DIME. “There’s a lot of fantastic live-music venues (here in Denver), which means the biggest acts in the world can come here to play.”

RELATED: Here's what went into making the 2018 Underground Music Showcase

 This year’s UMS features headliners such as Honne, Chicano Batman, Black Mountain, Tuxedo, EarthGang, Still Woozy and Empress Of.

The city has also seen growth in successful music companies with local footholds, such as live-entertainment leviathan AEG Presents and 7S Management, which boasts a roster including John Denver’s estate, alternative legend Dinosaur Jr. and Denver luminaries Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, Hoffman noted.

“It makes sense for a commercial music program (such as DIME) to be located in Denver because of this vitality in the scene,” he added. “There are a lot of opportunities for students to get involved.”

RELATED: DIME Group rocks Billboard's 2019 list of top music business schools

The secret sauce of a space such as DIME is the applied expertise of creative professionals such as Hoffman who live the hustle – and, in turn, inspire the music makers of tomorrow. 

“You’ve got this incredible resource of people with 15, 20 years of experience in the industry; it’s incredibly valuable to be able to pass that information on for the next generation of artists and creators,” Nixon said. “Plus, today’s modern music industry requires more entrepreneurship than ever – the local is as important as the global.”

Edit this Story