UMPHREY'S IN THE ROCKIES : : XXXPLOSIVE

Umphrey's McGee :: 10.01.04 :: Fox Theatre :: Boulder, CO


Umphrey's McGee :: 10.01.04 :: Boulder
By Tony Stack

Six years ago, Umphrey's McGee was playing Phish covers at a filling station in South Bend, Indiana. Today, they are selling out venues across the country, riding high on praises from the Washington Post and Rolling Stone among countless others. Their rise in fame has truly been meteoric. The first time I saw the band was a little over three years ago in a small bar in Omaha, and there were no more than 15 people in attendance. There were times in that performance where I could not believe what was coming off the stage five feet in front of me. I couldn't help but think, "So this is what it was like to see Phish in the '80s."


Ryan Stasik :: 10.01.04
By Tony Stack
The comparisons to the Grateful Dead were inevitable for Phish, and Umphrey's will likely have a similar experience with being tagged as following in the footsteps of the quartet from Vermont. Just because the comparisons are there doesn't necessarily make them accurate. Umphrey's does indeed fall back on a few trademark Phish licks from time to time, but owe just as much to prog-rock bands like Yes and a slew of other acts as well. They quite simply are a product of their influences, and while they started off as a group that many thought would be "the next Phish," they have since begun to assume their own unique identity and musical voice. The process is an ongoing one, but their evolution as a band is taking place under a national microscope and it will be interesting to see where they are in a couple years.

A huge "Sold Out" sign stretched across the box office window of the Fox Theatre in Boulder as ticketless fans tried to scrounge up extras to make it inside. Around 10:30, Umphrey's took the stage and kicked things off with the title track from their latest release Anchor Drops. Solid, but not necessarily spectacular. Indeed, for most of the first set, bassist Ryan Stasik was barely audible, and the low end seemed to suffer as a result. A nice jam came out of "Resolution," which segued into "Kimble."


Brendan Bayliss :: 10.01.04 :: Boulder
By Tony Stack
One of the biggest surprises of the night, and the first highlight, came with a dedication from the band: "This is for everyone that grew up in the Midwest like we did." A huge roar came from the crowd, and the band responded with a shocker, "XXXplosive," a track from the now-classic Dr. Dre album The Chronic: 2001. Even more surprising than the song selection was the fact that the band pulled it off remarkably well--an incredibly smooth, R&B-flavored version of the song that left a smile on a number of faces in the crowd. Good first set.

Between sets we managed to slip out across the street for a slice of pizza, and there were actually still fans trying to get in to see the show. A little after midnight the band came out for the second set, and from the opening couple minutes it was evident they meant business. The set had a much bolder, heavier feel to it with Stasik coming through and solidifying the bottom-end of the sound. The grooves were thicker as a result, and this allowed for some great interplay to develop between guitarist Jake Cinninger and Joel Cummins, one of the more underrated keyboardists today.


Jake Cinninger :: 10.01.04 :: Boulder
By Tony Stack
After a standout version of "City Lights," the band threw down an impressive rendition of "JaJunk," a song that is fast-becoming a showstopper. The band was feeling it, and even tossed in a slight tease of "Stairway to Heaven," which the majority of the crowd missed. Not about to let up, the band brought out keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth of the String Cheese Incident for "Making Flippy Floppy." The jam out of the song was strong and led into a nice snippet of Pink Floyd's classic "Shine on You Crazy Diamond." The madness continued as Jeff Austin from Yonder Mountain String Band busted out the mandolin and joined the band for "Soul Food I" which segued into the set-ending resolution of "Making Flippy Floppy."


Cinninger & Stasik :: 10.01.04
By Tony Stack
As a band, Umphrey's is playing with more confidence than ever before. While they seemed to be late-bloomers with a great deal of talent just a couple years ago, they now seem poised to take things to the next level. Adam Budney is now beginning to step into his role as lighting director for the band as well, resulting in a noticeable improvement in production value of the shows from previous tours. Umphrey's is on the cusp of greatness, and has the requisite talent and enthusiasm to leave their own unique mark on modern music. They are finally beginning to liberate themselves from the shackles of being labeled "another jam band" and forging a unique identity of their own.

Like a bottle of Merlot that's just beginning to hit its prime age, Umphrey's is almost there. As their latest studio release implies by its very name, the anchor has dropped and the band is setting up shop. The music majors that started out playing Phish covers at a gas station in Indiana have finally arrived on the national scene. With a repertoire that is rapidly expanding, the band's live potential is increasing as exponentially as their fan base. The only thing more remarkable than the performance in Boulder is the recognition that the best shows are yet to come. It's quite possible that in ten years people will be referring to new bands as "the next Umphrey's."

For those of you keeping score at home, here's a setlist from Friday night at the Fox, courtesy of UmphreysMcGee.com:

10.01.04 - Fox Theatre, Boulder, Colorado

Set One: Anchor Drops, Prowler > The Crookd One, Resolution > Kimble, XXXplosive, Blue Echo, The Bottom Half, Hurt Bird Bath

Set Two: Bright Lights, JaJunk*, Making Flippy Floppy^ > jam^**, Wife Soup, Padgett's Profile > Hajimemashite > Padgett's Profile, Soul Food I^^ > Making Flippy Floppy^^
Encore: Nopener$, Pay the Snucka

Notes:
Lotus opened
* with Stairway to Heaven tease
^ with Kyle Hollingsworth (String Cheese Incident) on keyboards
** with Shine On You Crazy Diamond jam
^^ with Jeff Austin (Yonder Mountain String Band) on mandolin
$ Kris on vocals; lounge version

Nathan Rodriguez
JamBase | Colorado
Go See Live Music!

http://www.umphreysmcgee.com

[Published on: 10/19/04]

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