Umphrey's McGee | 01.22 & 01.23 | CO

Words by: Adam Cremeans | Images by: Spady Photography & Jason Woodside

Umphrey's McGee :: 01.22.10 :: Belly Up :: Aspen, CO

Jake Cinninger :: 01.22 :: Aspen by Spady
Umphrey's McGee barreled into Colorado, steaming from a short run through the west with stops in Arizona, California, Nevada, Idaho and Utah. These shows were met with high- praise as the band showcased a degree of improvisation and exploration that many Umphreaks felt defined this tour. The band's sound has always been rooted in creative inventiveness, though something about these most-recent shows seemed to lift their energy to a new level.

Expectations were high as night fell on the small town of Aspen. The Belly Up has long been considered one of the more intimate venues in Colorado and with a capacity of just 450, the room feels more like a small jazz club than a rock venue. In addition, the sound system is often regarded as one of the best in the country as the club's smaller dimensions result in supurb acoustics. With a sold out crowd descending into the club, a murmur of excitement flowed through the air as we staked out our respective places and settled in for a night of fun.

The band took the stage and opened with "In the Kitchen," jumping right in with the same free-forming style from previous nights, segued beautifully into "Padgett's Profile." A loud "Rocker (Pt. II)" quickly mellowed out as the opening chords of "Dear Lord" quickly drew smiles from some of the older fans in the audience. If you are unfamiliar with this song please seek it out immediately; it is one of the first UM compositions and it beautifully reflects a side of the band rarely seen.

Ryan Stasik :: 01.22 :: Aspen by Spady
The rest of the set belonged to Joel Cummins (keys) and Brendan Bayliss (guitar/vocals) as both led the band through an exceptional "Uncle Wally" > "Great American" jam. "Syncopated Strangers" was played sharp and fast, striking a metal tone that stayed present throughout the whole show. A short return back in to "Kitchen" closed out the first set. During the break, the crowd milled around as few seemed willing to give up their space in the oversold venue.

A pretty standard start to the second set included a cover of Van Halen's "Runnin' With The Devil" and an aptly placed "Thin Air" to acknowledge the elevation. Things then quickly got interesting in the middle of "Phil's Farm" as the band introduced a new jam technique which has been coined "The Linear" for now. Yet to be fully explained, this is apparently something comparable to the concept of the "Jimmy Stewart", though, according to the band, it will "change each time it's played." Whatever it is, or becomes, remains to be seen but on this night the process was explosive.

A very upbeat version of "The Haunt" kicked the crowd directly in the teeth before Bayliss briefly switched to a mini-synthesizer, dropping the opening notes to the instant dance party of "Cemetery Walk II." This has quickly emerged as one of the more popular Mantis tracks and the effect it has on a high-energy crowd is just plain fun.

For the encore, the band served up a concise version of "Sociable Jimmy," which then gave way to a rocking version of "Hollywood Nights" that had the crowd soaring as Jake Cinninger (guitar/vocals) belted out his best Bob Seger impression. The show ended and the crowd spilled out into the gorgeous Aspen night as talk quickly shifted to Denver and anticipation began to grow for Saturday's doubleheader.

Umphrey's McGee :: 01.22.10 :: Belly Up :: Aspen, CO
Set I: In The Kitchen > Padgett's Profile, Rocker (part II) > Dear Lord > Uncle Wally > Great American, Syncopated Strangers > In The Kitchen
Set II: Professor Wormbog, Runnin' With The Devil, Thin Air, Phil's Farm > The Linear* > Phil's Farm, #5, Mail Package**, The Haunt > Cemetery Walk II
E: Sociable Jimmy > Hollywood Nights

* first time played, original
** with Entrance of the Gladiators teases

Continue reading for the review of Umphrey's McGee at the Fillmore in Denver...

Umphrey's McGee :: 01.23.10 :: Fillmore Auditorium :: Denver, CO

UM S2 Series :: 01.23 :: Denver by Spady
For the hardcores that managed to get from Aspen to Denver by the 4 p.m. showtime, Umphrey's McGee unleashed their fifth installment of their increasingly popular Stew Art Series (S2). For those unfamiliar, the band plays an all-improv set based on the suggestions of the 50 fans in attendance who text their requests. The most original texts are displayed through a projection screen and the band takes their cues from that. The concept is amazingly intimate and highly original. A meet-and-greet with the band and crew follows the show, where food and drinks are served. Some would think the $100 per ticket price tag would turn many away, but for the extreme Umphrey's fan the experience is priceless.

What follows in the setlist below are the texts that appeared on the screen for the band to "play."

Improv I (15:46)
Techno Bluegrass, Rastafarian Snoop Dogg, Sound Engineer's Worst Nightmare, How Ryan Felt About the Steelers Losing, Sweaty Bunk Love, Mile High, Shirt Too Tight, Even For Joel, Wafuled, Myers Farag Duel, Save the Princess Part II, All Guns Blazin'

Improv II (15:12)
Wappy Dingleberry, Conan vs. Leno, Cemetery Walk Part III, Marc Brownstein vs. Jen Hartswick, Coming In the Back Door, Umphrey's 1st Tour Bus, Iron Maiden Does Devo Song For Your Moms, Reaction to Aron Magner Sitting In the Front Row Holidaze Moos, Kris 7 Years With The Band

Improv III (21:17)
Panty Droppin' Pop, Good Poker, Try to Confuse Jaco, NYE All Over Again, Umphrey's McGeeLand Theme Song, Funky Neil Diamond, 1st Song You'll Play When You Headline Red Rocks, Brendan Imitating Jake's Style of Playing, Song For the 11 Chicks Here!, Joelless in Flagstaff Reprise, Twiser Reprise, How You Feel After Eating At Waffle House, Riders On the Snow Storm, Acapella, Summercamp Preview

01.23.10 | Fillmore Auditorium | Main Show

Walking up to the Fillmore on Saturday night it was surprising to see such a large crowd gathered outside, especially considering that Aspen's Belly Up was so intimate. Overnight, Umphrey's McGee had gone from playing the smallest venue of the tour to the largest. The Fillmore's archaic will call area needs improvement and the large, slow line caused many to miss Cornmeal, if not some of the beginning of Umphrey's McGee's opener "Turn and Dub." This song debuted on New Year's Eve and is a reworking of the Mantis tune "Turn and Run" that the band collaborated on with Easy Star All-Stars' Michael G. The new rendition has a fresh, dub-like perspective and it really showcases how much more comfortable the band has gotten with the Mantis material.

Umphrey's McGee :: 01.23 :: Denver by Woodside
The band then followed with a free-for-all "1348" that had bassist Ryan Stasik going deeper, darker and harder through a "Jimmy Stewart" that bounced back and forth between dance beat and metal rock. Transitioning into "Bridgeless" and then back to "1348" set an improv-heavy tone that saw the band going in and out of songs all night long. Cornmeal's Allie Kral came out for the second time this tour, closing the set as she joined the band for an energetic take on The Who's "Baba O'Riley," a song the band has had a lot of fun with over the last few years.

The band returned for a second set that opened with two of the most high-energy songs in the Umphrey's catalogue, "Wizard Burial Ground" > "Wappy Sprayberry." The former took on a sludge rock feel with duel-shredding guitars and frantic double-bass rolls by drummer Kris Meyers, while "Wappy" had Stasik again thumping bass-heavy dance beats. "Tinkles" and "Got Your Milk" kept things rocking and the band again revisited "Nemo's Fat Bottomed Good Times," the Queen/Led Zeppelin mash-up that debuted at this year's Halloween show at Las Tortugas.

As the band returned for the encore, they thanked the audience, citing this was the largest Colorado crowd they had ever played to. The fun loving "Partyin' Peeps" then started up and was followed by a version of Snoop Dogg's "Ain't No Fun" that saw the usually shy Andy Farag (percussion) with a mic in one hand and a liter of Grey Goose in the other. As the crowd sang along with the raunchy lyrics, former lighting director Adam Budney took the stage as DJ Pumpernickel to chime in on the song's final verse.

Walking off, Cinninger picked up a handmade sign that had made its way to the stage - a sign that summed up the weekend in two simple words - and he proudly displayed it to the crowd: "Fuck Yeah!"

Umphrey's McGee :: 01.23.10 :: Fillmore Auditorium :: Denver, CO
Set I: Turn & Dub > 1348 > "Jimmy Stewart"* > Bridgeless > 1348, Anchor Drops, Tribute to the Spinal Shaft > FF > Baba O'Riley^
Set II: Wizard Burial Ground > Wappy Sprayberry > Miss Tinkle's Overture, Got Your Milk (Right Here) > Bridgeless, Hangover > Nemo's Fat Bottomed Good Times > Wizard Burial Ground
E: Partyin' Peeps, Ain't No Fun

* with "All Things Ninja" teases
^ with Allie Kral on violin

Continue reading for more pics of Umphrey's McGee in Colorado...

01.22.10 :: Belly Up :: Aspen, CO by Spady

Continue reading for more pics of Umphrey's McGee in Colorado...

01.23.10 :: Stew Art Series (S2) :: Fillmore Auditorium :: Denver, CO by Spady

Continue reading for more pics of Umphrey's McGee in Colorado...

01.23.10 :: Fillmore Auditorium :: Denver, CO by Woodside

Umphrey's McGee is on tour now; dates available here.

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