The Problem of Leisure: Special UMS 2010 Edition (Part 4)

07/23/2010 06:02 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Denver Post Underground Music Showcase has made it through a decade! We're gearing up for a huge summer festival July 22-25th and there will be more bands than you can shake your SXSWangs at. Donnybrook will help get you up to speed.

Josh Novak

Photo by Brian Carney

If you attend a Joshua Novak performance he will straight-up put his sex all on you. And then he'll spend a few minutes cuddling you before making you breakfast and shooing you out the door. The man sweats sex... playful sex, rough sex, angry sex, makeup sex... and he's got songs that are influenced by each. Watching a Novak performance is like compressing time, witnessing an entire relationship played out over the course of 40 minutes. Stage One: The Courtship. Stage Two: Extreme Like. Stage Three: Monogrammed towels (aka: Love). Stage Four: Whiskey. Lots of Whiskey. Stage Five: Deflation. Stage Six: Wait... there's a Stage Six?!? Clearly this is a man who has experienced each of these stages at his core and come out bruised and battered but breathing.

The new album, four years in the making, Dead Letters, slated for a fall release, features a cast of accomplished players: Kit Peltzel (drums and samples), Gann Matthews (guitar), Giovanni Toninelo (bass) and additional percussion from current bass player John Rasmussen. Joshua Novak's songs are soul-baring works with straight-forward lyrics and smartly crafted pop melodies; they traverse state to state, from supreme confidence to crippling shyness, playful innocence to fiery passion, and Novak's onstage-personality flutters back and forth expertly. The music is human and bare and honest, with superior focus on the way each word should sound when set free. When played with a full band the music is lush and vibrant, but it's a real treat when you get to hear it deconstructed and minimal, acoustic guitars, Casios and floating tenor vocals providing the soundtrack to your next great afternoon romance or six-month long drinking binge.

Sid Pink

Photo by Nina Barry

This will be Sid Pink's fourth year MCing a UMS stage, ushering acts on and off with a world-weary "lovable cad" act that comes easily to those with savage wits and gentle hearts. Everybody has their favorite bit: Mine's when he covers his head with lighter fluid and refuses to introduce the next band until somebody gives him cocaine. And who can forget "Dr. Zasu's Surprise Blood Fountain"? He's a corker.

He's also a rapier sharp writer and video writer/director/actor whose schtick extends way beyond the "host with the most." I've been following Uncle Sid since I discovered his mordant cultural capsules in the pages of the long-defunct Go-Go Magazine. His writing and humor are some of my favorite things about Denver, and sure to be among your favorites at the UMS.

The Swayback

You've heard of them. You've heard them. Right? You'd better have. There's no excuse for not having sweated out some hope and fury with The Swayback at some point. If you haven't, then welcome back from The Arctic Circle and/or please give up your idiotic Command/Resist behavior -- and shuffle down to check my Sway Boys this UMS. Why? You know the fuck why. Please. Right?

I mean, it's The Swayback we're talking about here -- one of the last bastions of hope for sexy, riff-laden, pleading-with-heaviness Actual-For-Real Rock Music here in the Queen City. There is a pervasive rumbling that happens at a Swayback show; heaving beneath the chop and wiggle, carrying Eric's sensual white-boy squall on its shoulders; setting the table for "Mad" Billy Murphy's alternately winding and murderous licking. It makes you sweat rivulets of rock and sex and now; the pulse in your ears entrained with the Martijn's tireless, narrative thumpwhackery; you won't remember who opened for them, poor bastards. David Letterman once quipped "a-turn-the-dump-over-and-go-home-with-the-waitress band" - this applies here, in spades; and although two Swayers are now happy Pappys, Billy "Magic" Murphy is more than capable of doubling-up-to-catch-up in the Groupie Fulfillment department. I should know.