As summertime buds in the Bay Area, there’s a lot of anxiety buzzing around for change as
2001 has marked its halfway point. Bay Area music fans were enlightened by the incredible
sounds of Umphrey's
McGee on Monday, July 2 at the Fourth Street Tavern in San Rafael, CA and on Tuesday, July 3, for a
JamBase Presents show at the Tongue & Groove in San Francisco. Umphrey’s has been ripping up
stages with their dark and heavy funk fusion rock while the same time laying down the
softest most melodic rhythms that the Midwest has produced in a while. The problem is, if
you're not in the Midwest, you don't get to see Umphrey's McGee.
Originally from South Bend, IN, Umphrey’s McGee spends their full time living and playing in
Chicago, IL. However, the band decided to show the west coast how to “bring out the booty
wax” and get down with da umph. On Monday night, the 4th St Tavern was packed with
about 50 people, only about 15 of them understanding what they were about to witness. The
band opened with "Last Man Swerving" and seamlessly segued into the beautiful and
emotional “Divisions,” without question one of Umphrey’s most classic tunes, yet rarely
played these days. The first set continued with a smooth mix of heavy syncopated guitar
riffs, flowing drums, swirling keyboards, and thundering bass sounds that got the San Rafael
locals asking themselves, "Who are these guys, they rip!" They included a lovely rendition of
Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” as well as perhaps the most epic Umphreys song, “2x2,” to
the huge delight of SuperDeeLove. The second set opened up with one of the bands most
intense songs, “All Things Ninja” in which everyone on the dance floor in transformed into a
Ninja practically because of the heavy grooves that are thrown down. Guitarists Brendan
Bayliss and Jake Cinninger trade off soaring jams that take you down to the middle of the
earth amongst a much of heavy and grimy mud, but then release you into thin air in with
incredibly elating climaxes.
Drummer Mike Mirro and percussionist Andy Farag were graced with the
opportunity to play with local drumming sensation, Alan Hertz, who joined the band
for "Hangover >> Sweetness >> DRUMS >> Sweetness >> Hangover" in which the audience
was moved to about 15 different driving, bouncing, floating, sucking and stomping sections
before this 25 minute session was complete. After a lovely "2nd Self" and two more songs to
close the show, the band was done. However, the vibe around the venue was that of a
special night. All of a sudden, 50 west coast music heads were transformed by Umphrey's McGee and
thrown into a different musical land for 2 hours. There were brought back to the “armpit of
America,” as Brendan Bayliss likes to say, and shown what incredibly tight and talented
musicians are all about.
On Tuesday night, Umphrey’s reached the pinnacle of their West Coast Tour, selling out the
Tongue and Groove in San Francisco and being able to play three sets of music at the
JamBase Presents evening of Midwest funk-rock. As the band ripped into “Der Bluten Kat”
to open the show, band manager Vince Iwinski turned to me and said, “this is the best part of
the night, because you know that you’re about to get three sets of Umphrey’s McGee.”
Surely enough, the band ripped from soft and rhythmic songs to dark, slow, and mind-
blowing moments of energy that at times has the intensity of a Disco Biscuits show, but in a
much more developed and tighter sound. Umphrey’s likes to walk the listener from one
carefully written out section to another, keeping the ear guessing for what will come next.
One long time fan of the band put it correctly when he said, “the moment isn’t created
from what section they’re playing now, but from what section they were just playing.”
The band continued to impress SF kids throughout the night but reached their highlight it the
second set with “Andy’s Last Beer,” without question the highest energy point in the night.
The rest of the show included cover songs like Men At Work’s “Down Under,” and Warren
G’s “Regulate” (da umph got some soul to them), as well as originals like the acoustic “Uncle
Wally,” the rocking and rolling classic “All in Time,” and the syncopated and jazzy “Nothing
According to keyboardist Joel Cummins, he has been extremely joyous with the turnout of
people, the shows, and the reception they’ve received down the coast and considers them
very lucky to be able to play at such an incredible place and have such an incredible time.
I’d like to wish the best of luck to the band members, Brendan Bayliss, Ryan “Pony” Stasik,
Mike Mirro, Joel Cummins, Andy Farag, and Jake Cinninger as well as manager, Vince
Iwinksi, sound engineer Kevin Browning and light director Adam Budney. This band has
been working extremely hard since their first gig in South Bend, IN at the
late Bridget McGuire’s under the name “Fat Tony.” Umphrey’s now prepares for a big
weekend at High Sierra Music Festival and another week on the west coast. If you haven’t
seen these guys or heard any of their music, you’re missing out. They’re doing something
very special and I highly recommend listening to one of the most full sounds I’ve heard from
any band in a long time. Whether they’re covering Paul Simon, Lionel Richie, or throwing
intense original sounds your way, this band will not fail to impress.
"8 arms play for one goal"
JamBase Correspondent with Umph!
Go See Live Music!
Photos by SuperDee
This review was written before Umphrey's McGee rocked out two HUGE performances at
the High Sierra Music Festival this past weekend. Congratulations to all the musicians and
crew for an incredibly successful first trip to California!