“Every year I look forward to The UMS,” Swallow Hill Music’s Outreach Coordinator Michael John McKee says of The Underground Music Showcase. “It’s one of the best parts of the summer for the Denver music scene.”

When it comes to Swallow Hill and The UMS, Michael occupies a unique space. A percussionist, Michael has played The UMS the last five years and counting, often appearing in multiple bands. He’s also worked at Swallow Hill in several capacities for 8 years.

This Year’s UMS takes place Friday, July 26, through Sunday, July 28, on South Broadway in Denver. The UMS is produced by Two Parts. This year Swallow Hill Music’s Instrument Petting Zoo will be present on Saturday and Sunday.

While it is believed this is the first time Swallow Hill has officially partnered with The UMS, in many ways we’ve had a subtle footprint at the festival over the years, with many of our teachers and staff members appearing as performers. That tradition continues this year.

Swallow Hill Production Assistant Intern Alana Margolis performs in folk/Americana trio Sister Neapolitan who are playing The UMS. This is Alana’s first time at the festival in any capacity.

“Sister Neapolitan was so excited to be contacted to play UMS because we want to broaden our fan base here in Denver and meet new musicians and make new friends!” Alana says. “We’ve only been a band for about a year so being able to expand and showcase our music to new fans and make new connections with people always fulfills our hearts. We are so happy we were given this opportunity and can’t wait!”

Underground Music Showcase 2019

The 2019 Underground Music Showcase takes place Friday, July 26 through Sunday, July 28.

When asked to describe Sister Neapolitan, Alana says people “can expect some tight all-female harmonies as well as a good laugh from our fun behavior onstage.”

“Sister Neapolitan has often been compared to a female version of Crosby, Stills and Nash,” she continues, “and we draw heavy on the story-telling aspect of folk/Americana music so we hope that we touch every person’s heart with at least one song.” That’s a description that should be music to the ears of many folks at Swallow Hill.

Many UMS performers play in multiple bands. Take Michael, for example. He’s playing with Strange Americans, New Mexican, and Paul DeHaven. Strange Americans also features Swallow Hill Instructor Trent Nelson on lead guitar.

Michael isn’t the only staffer making multiple appearances at the festival, either. Instructor Jeff Rady will appear in Patrick Dethlefs’ band, in New Mexican, and in Street Cats Making Love: A Grateful Dead Tribute. School Director Tyler Breuer plays in four bands this year: Don Chicharrón, Grayson County Burn Ban, Dust Heart, and the Ned Garthe Explosion.

Being in multiple bands is a lot of fun, but it also presents some challenges.

“It can feel like juggling,” Michael says of playing multiple sets over the weekend. “The way I approach music is I try to accommodate the style of music and the songs for any given artist. So I play very differently in New Mexican than I do when I play with Paul DeHaven.”

While he acknowledges juggling is the nature of the beast, he says The UMS organizers do a great job at lining up the acts to give musicians a break where they can, but it isn’t always possible.

“So when it’s all of those different bands back to back to back to back it takes a little extra focus and a little extra coffee to make sure I’m staying true to the lane that I’m in.”

For Swallow Hill concert goers and students who have never attended The UMS, the connections between the organizations might appear tenuous at first, but in many ways they occupy a similar philosophical space.

“Swallow Hill and UMS are similar in the way that they want to showcase as much talent as possible and give everybody an equal opportunity,” Alana says when asked to compare the organizations, “which is what I love the most.”

“Both organizations showcase an array of people from a multitude of backgrounds whether that be musically and/or culturally.”

“Very generally speaking the music you hear at Swallow Hill is representative of lots of styles, world traditions and folk traditions, ” Michael says. He points out that Swallow Hill’s concert offerings often draw national and international artists to its stages. He adds, “UMS has a lot of that, but it’s a lot of folks that are doing it in Denver.”

He also feels both The UMS and Swallow Hill are genuine in their efforts to be artist-friendly.

“Recently, when Two Parts took over, I felt like not only were they able to simultaneously brand and create something new, but something uniquely Denver. They were also able to reorient around some of the local musicians, and treat the local talent as equal parts or equal partners in the music festival.”

Michael considers this for a moment and then adds, “Currently, both Swallow Hill and The UMS do a lot to make artists feel valued.”

It’s a great time to check out The UMS, you know Swallow Hill will be there!

The UMS takes place Friday, July 26 through Sunday, July 28, 2019. Complete lineup details and tickets can be found here.

Casey James Prestwood & The Burning Angels includes Summer Camp Instructor Cooper Dickinson
Friday at the Hi-Dive, 9pm

Don Chicharrón includes School Director Tyler Breuer
Saturday at the Showcase Stage @ Goodwill, 4pm

Dust Heart includes Tyler
Sunday at Banded Oak Brewing Co., 6pm

Emma Mayes & The Hip includes Instructor Instructor Theresa Sudyam and Summer Brand Ambassador Elyse Midgyett
Sunday at 3 Kings Tavern, 9pm

Grayson County Burn Ban includes Tyler
Friday at the Hi-Dive, 6pm

Mama Magnolia includes Instructor Thomas Jennings
Friday at the Knockout Stage @ Punch Bowl Social, 3:20pm

Ned Garthe Explosion includes Tyler
Saturday at Moe’s Original BBQ (530 Broadway), 1:45pm, and Monday, July 29 at the Hi-Dive, 1am

New Mexican includes Outreach Coordinator Michael John McKee and Instructor Jeff Rady
Sunday at the South Broadway Christian Church, 7pm

Patrick Dethlefs includes Jeff Rady
Saturday at the South Boradway Christian Church, 7pm

Paul DeHaven includes Michael John McKee
Sunday at the South Broadway Christian Church, 6pm

Sister Neapolitan includes Production Assistant Intern Alana Margolis
Friday at Denver Distillary, 8pm, and Sunday at the South Broadway Christian Church at 5pm

Strange Americans includes Instructor Trent Nelson and Michael John McKee
Saturday at the Knockout Stage @ Punch Bowl Social, and Sunday at the Hi-Dive, 9pm

Street Cats Making Love: A Grateful Dead Tribute includes Jeff Rady
Friday at Banded Oak Brewing Co., 10pm

Associate Marketing Director Barry Osborne performing a solo set
Sunday, July 28 at Baere Brewing, 6pm

If you are a Swallow Hill Instructor or staff member who is performing at The UMS and we missed you in this listing, let us know and we will add you!