Word by: Jonathan Juliano
Umphrey's McGee :: 10.07.06 :: Electric Factory :: Philadelphia, PA
The devil-horned hand signal is a giant mystery in the metal genre. Its origins are a part of many rumors that date back to not only what band started doing it first but centuries beyond that. What is known is that since the 1980s, index fingers and pinkies have been shooting up into the air for bands such as Metallica, Judas Priest, and most recently The Deftones. Knowing this, I was bewildered to see fans at the Umphrey's McGee concert not only putting up said hand sign, but they seemed to have "too much rock for one hand" as they put both hands in the air to form a super satanic devil horn.
Ryan Stasik - UM by Dave Vann
As Umphrey's played through their first set at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia, the super devil horns just seemed to fit. While watching the band under the pink and blue cotton candy lights, I realized that Umphrey's McGee is heavier than the security guards frisking the long-haired kids at the door. Umphrey's is the edgiest and heaviest band in the scene. As the guitar solos wailed, I could hear the band's outside (meaning non-jam) influences intertwined with the music being played, which according to Wikipedia are bands such as Yes, Dream Theater, and Iron Maiden. This makes sense then as to why Lucifer possessed not only one but two hands of many of the fans, and why the band is so different than any other in the genre but still seem to be the new sharks of a jam band ocean no longer inhabited by Phish.
Armies of tie-dyed troops showed up to the gig uniformed in the most obscure jam band shirts they could find. Before the concert these soldiers were sitting in circles, talking, doing yoga, and waiting loyally for the six band members to take the stage while a screen showed them the upcoming Electric Factory concerts. Electric Factory must have a jam band quota to fill because in addition to a weekend including Yonder Mountain String Band one night and Umphrey's the next, they were also featuring a weekend of Medeski, Martin, and Wood with John Scofield on one night, and Michael Franti and Spearhead the very next.
Jake Cinninger - UM by Susan J. Weiand
The vibe in the Electric Factory that Yonder Mountain had left on Friday was picked up again after fans got up and immediately started dancing to the first song Umphrey's played, "Smell the Mitten," followed by "Plunger." "Plunger" is one of their heaviest guitar-driven songs, and if I didn't look at the crowd or know anything about the group, I would have sworn they were a new progressive rock band on their way to stardom. The combination of Ryan Stasik's intricate bass lines, and the depth of drummer Kris Myers is a large part of what gives the band their unique sound; but it's really the technically-proficient breakdowns and guitar solos that allow the Umph to rise above the majority of the bands on tour.
Following a number of remarkable exchanges, the band jumped into "Jimmy Stewart." For non Umphrey's connoisseurs, this is when the band just starts jamming on stage. I'm assuming other bands do this too, but it's quite possible that Umphrey's McGee do it best. The band is so close knit that the "song" sounded great. After years of relentless touring it should come as little surprise that the band is able to communicate at such a high level, yet every face in the crowd was clearly still surprised as fans were eating up every note and screaming for more.
Umphrey's McGee by Susan J. Weiand
The fans threw up the one-handed, and even two-handed heavy metal gestures as they danced to every song of the first set. However, Umphrey's isn't all hard; Joel Cummins' keyboard gives them an element of funk. The second set was more or less typical jam band fair, played well, but somewhat predictable. The set was all linked together and included "Wife Soup" into "E.T.I." back into "Jimmy Stewart." The hard "Jimmy Stewart" sounded excellent mixed in with the jazz overtones and funk-esque keyboard.
Coming back for the encore, Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger appeared with acoustic guitars in hand, performing "The Triple Wide" into "Can't Find My Way Home."
Although the jam ocean is no longer an environment for Phish, fans are getting by just fine with the explosion of bands that have followed. One of the bands at the forefront of this scene is Umphrey's McGee.
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