UMPHREY'S McGEE: KINGS OF COMPOSITION

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Words by Cal Roach :: Images by Chris Monson

Umphrey's McGee :: 11.03.06 :: Barrymore Theatre :: Madison, WI


Umphrey's McGee
The Umphrey's McGee buzz continues to grow steadily as the band makes all the requisite festival stops, jams with the right guests, and plays strange covers, but it's clear from the beginning of Night Two at the Barrymore Theatre that the group's fan base is immersed in its mythology. The crowd cheers excitedly in anticipation and not just in appreciation. It's a testament to the band's growing legend and prowess, and while the scene is currently inundated with talented noodly guitar solos, only the truly unique groups can generate this kind of devotion.

The show began in fairly typical fashion, really hitting stride when the first "Jimmy Stewart" of the night faded into "Walletsworth," which built and peaked nicely. "Intentions Clear" followed, displaying evidence that lead guitarist Brendan Bayliss may have picked up a thing or two from hanging out with guitar-shredder Buckethead. Still, the electric solos stood out from the rest of the instruments, failing to create a true group surge. The highlight of the first set was the acoustic guitar interlude of "End of the Road," "The Girl Is Mine" (featuring Jane's Addiction's "Jane Says" sandwiched inside), and "August," which began with acoustic guitars and finished with some terrific mayhem by the band as a whole. While Bayliss's electric guitar work is often blatantly derivative, his acoustic lead work is all his own, and the interplay between Jake Cinninger's guitar and his own on this night was often breath-taking in its synchronicity. The acoustic jams took on great heights and developed thick tension without relying on drone. Very impressive stuff.


Cinninger & Bayliss
The set closed with "August" bleeding beautifully into "Out of Order," which showcased Joel Cummins's organ work to increasingly proggy effect, almost channeling Rick Wakeman at times. However, UM's true prog inspiration has to be King Crimson; no other band in recent memory rides the line between complex composition and melodic improv so effectively, interspersing elements of jazz and metal into a classically intricate framework. As a whole, the first set had some good, fluid segues, but nothing rhythmically seamless. There were no jams that swirled into outer space; yet there were concise pinnacles without a wasted note. It was economical and intense.

Set II opened with the Rush-esque precision of "All in Time," which alternately bubbled and rocked before settling into a funk groove. It was interesting, but the genre-jumping began to feel a tad over-calculated. Eventually, as the flow swelled, we experienced some truly unique UM energy as "Jimmy Stewart" began with a 'whiteboy reggae' vibe but fulfilled its function as the perfect segue vehicle.


Jake Cinninger
Later on, "Wife Soup" built to a metallic climax as Bayliss finally busted out some truly raging electric guitar. While most jam bands only acknowledge metal in a reactionary sense, as if metal were the yang to their mellow yin, UM actually provides some symbiosis, embracing the art whole-heartedly.

What followed was a singular exercise in proactive group consciousness. No less than five people around me simultaneously started whispering about "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" as "Ringo" melted into ambience, and soon the Pink Floyd classic duly materialized providing room for guest saxophonist Kevin Sinclair to serve as proverbial icing on the cake. The band eased back into "Ringo" to close the fantastic set.

The encores were a blistering display of twin-guitar madness, showcasing the essence of UM's style, owing as much to Thin Lizzy as anything else. The two axemen fiercely picked in perfect harmony and rhythm, not really needing to make anything up. The energy of UM is much less in the improv than most of their peers. These men are composers and ensemble players, and the trick lies in the togetherness, summed up beautifully in the final acoustic encore of Led Zeppelin's "That's The Way." We don't need them to take us out into space; they show us the beauty in coming back down to Earth.

11.03.06 Barrymore Theatre, Madison, WI

Set I: Plunger, Got Your Milk (Right Here) > Jimmy Stewart > Walletsworth, Intentions Clear, End of the Road1, The Girl is Mine1 > Jane Says1 > The Girl is Mine1 > August2 > Out of Order

Set II: All in Time > Jimmy Stewart > Smell the Mitten, Wife Soup, Ringo3 > Shine on You Crazy Diamond3 > Ringo3

Encore: Prowler > Glory > All in Time, That's the Way4

1 Brendan and Jake on Acoustics
2 First Half Acoustic; 'The National Anthem Jam' (Radiohead)
3 Kevin Sinclair (God Johnson) on Tenor Saxophone
4 2nd Encore ; Only Brendan and Jake on Acoustics with Joel on Piano

Set list courtesy of PhantasyTour.com

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[Published on: 12/7/06]

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Comments

ThePhishPhan starstarstarstarstar Thu 12/7/2006 08:18PM
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ThePhishPhan

This show was amazing! High intensity and high energy, the crowd was out of control! The double encore was a very tasty treat! get this show!

All Loving Liberal White Guy starstarstarstarstar Thu 12/7/2006 08:37PM
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All Loving Liberal White Guy

fuckin a. umphreys still rule!!! props to them. while some of their counterparts have all drifted into sounding like carbon copies, they still got their own thing goin down that nobody can fuck with. ida know about seein them at a large place like madison square garden. the best umprheys vibes as far as large crowd setting goes, is when they play outdoors in the summer but they still rule.

ebbietets starstarstarstar Fri 12/8/2006 12:38AM
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This is the exact type of show I wonder why I sit in the lobby, and bullshit with my kids. Sick ass show, S.O.Y.C.D. came through prefect. Tight show all around, see yall in March!

ebbietets Fri 12/8/2006 12:42AM
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Oh yeah, Cinniger reminded my why I started playing geetar. He puts every oucne of energy, into EVERY note.

Badass mother snucka...

thanks Jake

jackiesoup starstarstarstarstar Fri 12/8/2006 06:57AM
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Great article. I believe every word(s).
I wish i could have been there.
If I were 20 today I'd be following these cats around any chance I had.
Come to Toronto already boys.

nfenne starstarstarstar Fri 12/8/2006 07:23AM
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nfenne

It always seems that Brendan Bayliss gets more credit as a lead guitarist however I think that Jake's leads are more impressive. I think it's weird to consider either of them a lead guitarist.

nfenne starstarstarstar Fri 12/8/2006 07:23AM
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nfenne

It always seems that Brendan Bayliss gets more credit as a lead guitarist however I think that Jake's leads are more impressive. I think it's weird to consider either of them a lead guitarist... more rather, they are both lead guitarists.

multibeast starstarstarstar Fri 12/8/2006 07:26AM
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multibeast

Great article and very well written!! I look forward to reading more reviews from this author. I'm also going to hunt this show down immediately. Rock on Umph...

NickBoeka Fri 12/8/2006 09:01AM
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NickBoeka

This show sounds really really tasty. Listened to it a week or two ago when it hit the llama. take a listen:
http://www.archive.org/details/um2006-11-03.flacf
and enjoy....

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstar Fri 12/8/2006 09:54AM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

great musicians. they go thru alot of modes... I cant seem to grab their schizophrenic sound as something that brings my soul to the surface. last time I saw them a V playhouse in atlanta, I didnt even stand up. peace ya;ll....

b5statfield starstarstarstarstar Fri 12/8/2006 10:21AM
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Umphreys please start to tour more in Indy.. I am from indy and have been seeing umphreys since they first started out in South Bend and at a local bar in bloomington, The Blue Bird. Please start to come home and play for your biggest fans, the Hoosiers

sleewell starstarstarstarstar Fri 12/8/2006 11:16AM
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sleewell

"ida know about seein them at a large place like madison square garden"


whoa there Ciffy, they are not quite at madison square garden yet. they played in Madison, WI!!!

I used to see these guys in tiny ass little venues, barns, bars, etc. they truly rock and love what they are doing. sounds like a great show, wish i coulda been there.

spaceface7 starstarstarstarstar Fri 12/8/2006 11:19AM
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I think the last time I saw these guys, Jake's hand caught fire!!

spaceface7 starstarstarstarstar Fri 12/8/2006 11:23AM
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And Kris lost hold of one of his drum sticks and it flew into the high heavens never to come down again.
This band is the best out right now

Joshtafari starstarstarstar Fri 12/8/2006 11:58AM
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Joshtafari

We wan't the Umph! Gotta have that Umph!

articgtp starstarstarstarstar Sat 12/9/2006 02:31PM
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articgtp

its very refreshing to hear an honest and not so one sided review, he was quick to point out some downpoints but not so much as to bash them. i think this type of criticism is just what a review should be. most umph reviews are just by some superfan and not a decerning ear should be.

Hotchkiss starstarstarstarstar Sat 12/9/2006 06:10PM
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Hotchkiss

definetly true, i hate the superfan reviews.

these guys are by far the best improvisational rock band touring.

joolzen1 Sun 12/10/2006 09:10AM
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joolzen1

in UMPH we trust see ya at new years

jimmystewart starstarstarstarstar Sun 12/10/2006 10:51AM
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"While the scene is currently inundated with talented noodly guitar solos, only the truly unique groups can generate this kind of devotion." Great article and great statement.

I would consider Jake the lead guitar even though Bayliss can bring the heat as well.

harryPHISHhood starstarstarstar Sun 12/10/2006 02:55PM
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harryPHISHhood

UMPHREYS IS THE BEST AND OUT AT THIS TIME AND WE ALL KNOW SOME INSANITY IS COMING ON NYE! ROCK ON!

harryhood8 starstarstarstarstar Sun 12/10/2006 04:38PM
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harryhood8

What a well written article. Makes me proud to see the boys making an impact. There is no band that continues to impress me like umph does. Live on forevaaa umph babbyyy

Rebacreates starstarstarstarstar Sun 12/10/2006 06:02PM
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Two days after this show, Umph played at the EAagles Ballroom in Miluwakee. Sickest show ever! The setlist from that night makes this one look like a fart stain.

Oomega Moos last Friday was amazing! "Turn it on" was the fucking jam!

origen starstarstar Mon 12/11/2006 09:29AM
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origen

Composition is the right word because these guys do not really jam. So what's wrong with a noodling guitar solo? if anything they need more of that...Their music is almost too tightly composed and there is no room for the guitarist to shred for more than about 30 seconds. They need to relax and jam more. And stop using the word "noodling" - people who use this word do not understand the concept of the guitar solo and jam in general Stop trying to kill the jam scene by accusing great guitarists of noodling. A real guitar solo is something you obviously do not understand. Let jam bands jam and let alt. rock bands like UM do their "compositions."

ambrosiajam Tue 12/12/2006 01:52AM
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umphreys comes off as 'not that much of a jamband' or whatever, but whatever, after the rave that saturday in milwaukee, i consider them just as much of a jamband as phish. yes, thats right, there was like 5 jimmy stewarts that night! AND they honored my request, which happened to be the triple wide and pay the snucka...which they played snucka> triple wide > snucka.... with stewart sandwich in every side... now coincidence?? i will never know... but they never cease to impress me and i cant wait for 10K hope they have the MAIN STAGE ~!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!(at night)

SaveTheRobots Tue 12/12/2006 09:19AM
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SaveTheRobots

Great article! This gets me sooo excited for NEW YEARS! WOOHOOO! All three nights of UM baby!

kaiserbun starstarstarstarstar Tue 12/12/2006 10:59AM
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for everyone who doesn't think these guys jam much, you just need to listen to then more. sure most of the songs are based around detailed composition, but most of the time they extend many of these songs well over 15 to 20 minutes. check out the 2nd set of the recent atlanta show, its one of the best sets of music i've ever heard. they do like to play their guitars a little too much sometimes though.

umphrees starstarstarstarstar Tue 12/12/2006 02:58PM
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umphrees

Yo, Bayliss way to come out at moe and throw down. I cant belive i finally met you and got to shake your hand. Keep rocking in the free world brother man!

SeeBliss starstarstarstarstar Tue 12/12/2006 03:59PM
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SeeBliss

I like to dream that buckethead would collaborate with them! Sounds like both guitars have taken lessons from bucket.
Keep up the insanity UM! Can't wait to see a live show in Florida, hopefully Tampa or maybe some Langerado, hope to see ya'll there.

calicheezer Tue 12/12/2006 10:30PM
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calicheezer

The Dudes are bad . . . I must admit. Sometimes too hardcore for me. I am sure Hotchkiss loves them. He always has something to say about everything.

jimcard Thu 12/14/2006 11:22AM
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origen-

I am with you on the "noodling" issue. The word gets thrown around, a lot. And generally, not by people who actually know how to play a guitar.

If noodling is so useless, and EASY, then any dope like me should be able to take the stage and get girls. Hasn't happened yet.

Long live the noodle, and masturbatory jam. If you don't like, don't listen. Does it get easier than that?

ChrisBace starstarstarstar Fri 12/15/2006 07:02AM
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ChrisBace

Hey cbliss1! See the UM NYE run from '04... bucket opened for them and came out and played a little w/ them! Good shit man!

This weekedn was amazing energy! Some of the best shows in a while! The next night in Milwaukee was even hotter!!!

Hey Pony! How about steppin' it up a little more?!

Samzo starstarstarstar Wed 12/20/2006 12:17AM
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Samzo

This is a wicked review. Almost feel like I was there... better save up some more cash...

UIndianaM starstarstarstar Sun 1/14/2007 03:01PM
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UIndianaM

What up all, I being a Indiana University Student have been hearing rumors of UM coming top bloomington on 4/20 to play a show. Has anyone heard of such a thing if so, let me know. I hope there is truth behind all these rumors, UM in Indiana on 4/20, im there 4 sure. Peace to all.