Each summer in Denver, South Broadway (between about E 4th Ave and E Cedar Ave) turns into a 3-day playground for live music-loving adults. UMS runs from Friday through Sunday on a weekend in July or August, features 2 or 3 outdoor stages, as well as a wide variety of indoor and indoor/outdoor venues. There are big name acts (but not *too* big) on the bill, some local names you might recognize, and many acts you've never heard of. It's an accessible, affordable music festival for locals, by locals. And with everything that's wrong in the world these days, it's one really good thing that, at least for a weekend, makes everything feel alright.
1. It's outside! This is number one for a reason, as I can't emphasize this enough: the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 is airborne. Meaning that indoor spaces with lots of people, especially when maskless and breathing heavily (such as dancing or bopping around to live music), are one of the the highest risk situations for contracting the virus, besides indoor dining and gyms. For those of us who are higher-risk of covid complications, can't afford to get sick for two weeks, and/or just don't want to chance getting Long Covid (long-lasting effects from virus that affect about 1 in 5 of all people who get Covid-19), indoor music venues have been pretty much off limits since we lost the mask mandates this year. Having three outdoor stages is a blessing that I appreciate beyond words, as it means I got to safely see lots of live music this summer with tons of fresh air all around me, and I'm hoping many others in the same situation were able to take advantage of this opportunity as well.
2. It allows freedom to roam around, in and out of the festival. UMS is unique in that it has separate stage areas along South Broadway, which for better or worse, you have to wait in security lines to get into each time you change stages. But the weekend-long wristband you wear allows a person to not just mill around and stretch one's legs within the large stage areas, but between them, giving them a break from the crowds, pricey drinks and to meet up with non-festival goers at nearby local businesses. Or go home, take a nap, and come back! The vibe is very choose-your-own-adventure, and I love it so much.
3. It has a sober bar and free water. The sober bar was heavily advertised this year, and it had quite a few good options. Basically, we're getting older and we should take care of each other as we make our own choices as to what we drink! Plus, free water stations allow you to fill up a water bottle and not pay a cent to stay hydrated.
4. It's affordable. If you buy the weekend pass in advance, it's $75. If you miss that deadline, it's $100 per person. You can also buy the 4-pack for a slight discount. If you decide you want to go closer to the event, single-day tickets are $50 for Friday and Sunday, and $65 for Saturday. Kids under 10 are free. Of course, it used to be cheaper—when I went in 2019, it was $50 for an advance weekend pass. But $25 per day is still an amazing deal for seeing potentially 12 hours of music each day! And, you can go home and sleep in your own bed each night. Rideshare, scooter, etc. not included.
6. The weather is usually hot and sunny, but good. It was downright perfect this year. It's still never rained since 2019 (fingers crossed)!
7. UMS is sponsored by local radio station Indie 102.3 and allows you to discover a ton of new music. They even create a playlist (see above, top of the article) to listen to ahead of the festival, so you can plan your schedule around bands you've recently discovered. Then you can hear them on the radio and go find them play locally after UMS as well!
It's also up to the venues and festival code, but they didn't step up this year. Instead, 2022 UMS Covid-19 safety measures and requirements included "encouragements" for vaccines and masks, and a "fan health pledge," but no requirements. This is a big change from last year, when they required a vaccine and/or negative test ahead of the event to receive a wristband. While yes, I'm glad they post these nice fancy words on their website, I doubt anyone besides myself and a couple other curious fans read any of them before attending UMS this year. This is exactly why I didn't venture indoors except to use the restroom, and masked up when doing so. So far, I've not yet had covid in the past 2.5 years (I rapid and PCR test regularly) and I plan to keep it that way.