It's always a good idea to do your homework before The Denver Post's Underground Music Showcase. Sure, you can wander South Broadway, catching great bands at nearly every possible venue, gallery, bar, restaurant or storefront, but with more than 400 performances, you might want to approach Thursday through Sunday with at least a broad outline of who to see.
Along with hundreds of local and national acts, the 14th annual UMS will bring big headliners Blonde Redhead, Real Estate and People Under the Stairs. To help you navigate the Rocky Mountain region's largest indie music festival we've provided suggestions of 15 local acts and 15 national acts to catch this week.
Colorado's answer to Bon Iver, Covenhoven's folk music feels stripped down and truly handmade compared to what the popular indie-folk genre has become these days.
Playing: 7 p.m., Friday, South Broadway Christian Church
The electronic music stereotype would include macho whomps, predictable drops or four-to-the-floor beats. But there's a whole subgenre dedicated to experimental electronic with artists like Dirty//Clean's Lemon Future who focuses on complex layers of rhythms and jazz-like chord changes.
Playing: 8 p.m., Friday, Sputnik
In just over a year, Americana act Ark Life has gone from a brand-new project to preparing its debut album on Denver's Greater Than Collective. Frontman Jesse Elliott channels The Band through a modern lens.
Playing: 11 p.m., Saturday, hi-dive
If the wavy, psych-pop track "Highway Screamin' " is any indication of what's to come from the new act Sunboy, it could follow in the footsteps of emerging bands, Tame Impala and Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
Playing: 5:30 p.m., Sunday, Main Stage
Like a work of cubism, Confluence will deconstruct a song and put it back together with an analytical ear. The pieces are complex and delightfully math-rock.
Playing: 7 p.m., Saturday, 3 Kings Tavern
Going over the top isn't just acceptable, it's encouraged in hip-hop. Enter BMMZK, Colorado's most promising party-rap act since 3OH!3.
Playing: 2 p.m., Sunday, Punch Bowl Social
New Denver band Homebody brews experimental rock with a casual wisdom. The pieces are intricate, but on a macro level, the music comes across as approachable and unadorned. It's the best type of musical oxymoron.
Playing: 10 p.m., tonight, hi-dive
Plume Varia gracefully balances the Stevie Nicks-inspired vocals of Cherie Cobbs with the patient and dramatic production of her husband Shon.
Playing: 6 p.m., Saturday, Irish Rover
Prismwaves' projector heavy set at UMS 2013 caught quite a few eyes and ears. The act returns this year for another show of longing, drifting vocals over ambient production.
Playing: 5 p.m., Sunday, hi-dive
Roo & the Howl
Roo & the Howl is a little bit country, a little bit indie-rock, but not completely either one. On her excellent 2014 debut, "Me/We," Roo's Bekah Wagner crafts a hybrid of the two genres for western millennials.
Playing: 10 p.m., Friday, Irish Rover
South of France
South of France knows how to take a pop hook and run it through an Instagram-esque filter to make bubbly and catchy dream-pop. The music is confident, sunny and filled with a healthy dose of reverb.
Playing: 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Main Stage and 1 p.m., Sunday, hi-dive
Somerset Catalog is living up to the high expectations that come with its local indie-rock pedigree. So far the local supergroup has delivered an excellent debut EP this year and has been proving itself with passionate live shows.
Playing: 9 p.m., tonight, Irish Rover
The Other Black
Oh what a sight to behold: Taking cues from Sly and the Family Stone, Denver's man of many bands Wesley Watkins fronts a small army of a dozen musicians on stage for a soul/R&B-tinged spectacle.
Playing: 9 p.m., Friday, Illegal Pete's
Post punk is alive and well in Denver. Male Blonding, with inspiration from Interpol and at times Talking Heads, the Smiths and Joy Division, brings jangling guitar lines and vocal croons.
Playing: 11 p.m., tonight, Brendan's
Kitty Crimes' unwavering confidence gives her the live presence of a superstar. At her UMS performance in 2013, she packed the venue and had the crowd circled 360 degrees around her.
Playing: 8 p.m., Sunday, hi-dive
Roadkill Ghost Choir
With its sophomore album release less than a month away, folk-rock act Roadkill Ghost Choir is on the cusp of breaking. Reminiscent of the Decemberists, the band can rip through guitar and banjo riffs alike on beautifully constructed songs.
Playing: 11:59 p.m., tonight, 3 Kings Tavern and 11 p.m., Friday and 6 p.m., Saturday, hi-dive
No one would expect a trio of teenagers to rock this hard. Sometimes barely tall enough to be seen over the moshing crowd, these Austin kids bring the distortion to new levels, and they're just getting started.
Playing: 8 p.m., Friday, 3 Kings Tavern and 4:30 p.m., Sunday, Main Stage
Another act to catch before it's hitting Top 40 radio, the Griswolds is a bubbly indie-pop four-piece from Sydney, Australia. The guys never take themselves too seriously, while delivering endlessly catchy sing-along pop.
Playing: 8 p.m., Saturday, 3 Kings Tavern
With its latest release on LA Weekly's list of best indie albums of 2014 so far, things have been going well for StaG since the band relocated from Denver to LA. The band's atmospheric rock is vast, dynamic and known to fill entire venues with soaring guitar lines, harmonies and unexpected shifts.
Playing: 4 p.m., Saturday, hi-dive and 4 p.m. Sunday, hi-dive
Brooklyn electronic duo Tanlines has taken it easy since their 2012 album "Mixed Emotions" landed on Billboard's album charts. But even though they've released a handful of tracks since, the addictive "All of Me" hook hasn't been far from anyone's mind.
Playing: 8 p.m., Friday, Main Stage
With an ear for melody, chillwave producer and musician Brothertiger has found himself a fair amount of internet fame. Not familiar with the term chillwave? Take a listen to "Lovers" for a laid-back and textbook example.
Playing: 5 p.m., Saturday, hi-dive
Blonde Redhead is the most seasoned act on The UMS lineup. Prepping its ninth studio album, the band has spent the better part of two decades crafting sonically adventurous and arcane art-rock.
Playing: 8:30 p.m., Sunday, Main Stage
Gardens and Villa
Coming off the release of its well-received sophomore album, "Dunes," Gardens & Villa will return to Colorado with its surprisingly flexible indie-rock. What really sets the band apart, though, is lead singer Chris Lynch's voice, which can hit notes that are only rivaled by his flute playing.
Playing: 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Main Stage
Many critics considered Baths' "Obsidian" one of the best albums of 2013. The electronic musician tucks celestial hooks under heavy and chaotic beats. His music takes dedication and multiple listens to understand, but once you do, it's endlessly rewarding.
Playing: 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Main Stage
Originally a harder rock band, the Men has embraced its softer side in recent years, without completely abandoning the tough attitude that fans loved. The band can follow a thrasher up with a ballad and no one will bat an eye.
Playing: 6:30 p.m., Sunday, Main Stage
Indie-rock's most mellow band, Real Estate is quietly enjoying the great success of 2014's "Atlas." The band is patient, playing soft rock tunes as consistent as clockwork.
Playing: 8:30 p.m., Saturday, Main Stage
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
With Lennon-esque, shimmering vocals, Unknown Mortal Orchestra puts a modern twist on nostalgic psych rock.
Playing: 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Main Stage
With a wide scope, Equals plays sweeping atmospheric rock reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky. Changing and cinematic, fans won't miss vocals in the instrumental act's music.
Playing: 8 p.m., Friday, Illegal Pete's
If you're going to end The UMS with any act, try to make it for Gems at the hi-dive on Sunday. The pop duo thinks big production-wise, but Lindsay Pitts' vocals are as intimate as a whisper in the ear.
Playing: 10 p.m., Sunday, hi-dive
SoCal duo TV Girl is as bright and laid back as a day at the beach. With synths as fleeting as a breeze, the music is light and refreshing.
Playing: 3 p.m., Saturday, hi-dive