Umphrey's McGee/U-Melt | 04.10 | NYC

Words by: Alex Borsody | Images by: Robert Chapman

Umphrey's McGee :: 04.10.09 :: Nokia Theatre :: New York, NY

U-Melt :: 04.10.09 :: B.B. King Blues Club :: New York, NY

Umphrey's McGee :: 04.10.09 :: NYC
The weekend of April 10-11, Umphrey's McGee, one of America's top touring bands, had a two night stint at the Nokia Theatre Times Square. They were playing in support of their new album Mantis, yet another quality record with their distinct, technically-proficient rock. I took home some new favorite songs from this night and my first look at the Nokia Theatre. The Nokia is a relatively new venue to New York City, yet many great performances have already taken place there. The layout has a futuristic look and cool blue lighting; it was designed by an award winning architect and feels expensive. Walking around the theatre made me question my beliefs on corporate sponsorship and consumerism. It seems that our culture is already in too deep, so we might as well embrace and refine capitalism. I really don't care if it's called Citi Field, Nokia Theatre or Playtex Stadium. In this modern world, capitalism is inescapable. Unlike Citi Field, the Nokia is a venue made for the fans, the VIP area is nothing too fancy and the luxury of the venue is in the common areas, and the sound and lights are great and security is respectful. I was surprised to see the amount of kids at the show, college age and younger. Umphrey's has been around for ten years and it is good to see that jam bands are still catching on despite the constant onslaught of whatever mass produced, band of the week the blogger fashionistas point their finger to.

I'm not an "Umphreak" and don't claim to know all the ins-and-outs of the band, but one thing I love about their live performances is that they do not get lazy; they put their all into every solo and every note. I don't hold it against musicians who like to relax and zone out on some ambient music, but this is not UM. The first set was mainly older tunes, including an extended version of "Wappy Sprayberry" as well as one of their more popular tunes "Wife Soup," sans any intro.

Cinninger & Stasik :: 04.10.09 :: NYC
The second set was almost entirely taken off their new album, including "Made To Measure," which had a really great dual guitar solo in the intro. "Cemetery Walk" and "Cemetery Walk II" are two consecutive tracks off Mantis that were played back to back with a beautiful solo by guitarist Brendan Bayliss at the end. My favorite song off their new album, "1348," closed the evening and also opened the show the next day. Fast and hard guitar lines are Jake Cinninger's signature style, his staccato fills during the chorus are really catchy and had me going home and playing the song over and over. The encore was Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb," where a level of playing really started coming together that foreshadowed what would come the following night. The Pink Floyd cover was one of those beautiful moments where the human condition and what binds us became apparent. Each fan seemed to connect to those familiar, soothing, escapist lyrics.

Once the concert ended there was a varied selection of after shows to go to. I had plans to attend U-Melt and the North Indiana All Stars at B.B. King Blues Club, but there was also Strange Design at Sullivan Hall and Papadosio at the Bowery Poetry Club.

The North Indiana All Stars are actually Jake Cinninger (UM, guitar), Kris Myers (UM, drums), Joel Cummins (UM, keyboards), Willie Waldman (Banyan, trumpet) and Greg Koerner (Uncle Buzz, bass). This super group status was a fact not widely publicized. They were playing the small room at Lucille's, the restaurant attached to B.B. King's. U-Melt was in the main venue, while next door, the lead guitarist from Umphrey's was playing on a tiny stage. U-Melt is one of the few bands in New York that plays live electronica and does so well. I remember seeing them play three years ago when they came to my college town of St. Petersburg, Florida and I had not heard of them, but they put on a great show I will always remember. Southeastern cities often have a close knit group of live music lovers. Fewer shows come through town, so the community is more passionate and dedicated to bringing in good music.

U-Melt :: 04.10.09 :: NYC
U-Melt plays a mixture of progressive rock and jazz. They meld live electronica with structured rock & roll. One of the high points of the show was when they brought a rapper on stage by the name of Wyllys, a drum & bass DJ who used to play at the legendary Concrete Jungle. I give them credit for making this brave and creative decision; experimenting with a rap vocalist is rare in rock music (and it's even rarer when it works). The keyboard player had a big smile on his face practically the whole night that reminded me of Stevie Wonder. U-Melt put 110-percent into this show, and continued to earn their place in the pantheon of today's important jam bands.

Umphrey's played fast and hard the whole night, without ever once getting lazy or self indulgent - the mark of a good performance. These virtues held by long, hard touring, road warriors like Umphrey's and relative newcomers like U-Melt, can serve as a lesson to the many hipster musicians today who only experience fleeting success and short-lived interest.

Umphrey's McGee :: 04.10.09 :: Nokia Theatre :: New York, NY
Set I: Wappy Sprayberry > Last Man Swerving > Wife Soup, Prowler > 2nd Self, Much Obliged > Miss Tinkle's Overture
Set II: Jazz Odyssey* > Made to Measure > Preamble > Mantis, Cemetery Walk, Cemetery Walk II, Turn & Run > "Jimmy Stewart" > Turn & Run > Spires, Prophecy Now > Red Tape > 1348
Encore: Comfortably Numb
* - Umphrey's took the stage performing along with a composition played over the PA

Umphrey's McGee tour dates available here.

Continue reading for more pics of UM and U-Melt in NYC...


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