Words by: Pat Knibbs :: Images by Brett Saul
Bayliss and Cinninger's Annual Holiday Acoustic Show
12.15.06 :: Vic Theatre :: Chicago, IL
Beaming with holiday spirit, Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger, both from Umphrey's McGee, returned to Chicago for their Annual Holiday Acoustic Show. With the proceeds from the event benefiting the USTORM Foundation, - an organization partly founded by Bayliss - the two six-string monsters played an extended set that featured numerous covers, holiday songs, and a handful of special guests.
Cinninger & Bayliss :: 12.15
With Umphrey's rise to fame over the last several years, many have seen what these two can do when armed with electric guitars. Here, their virtuosic skills were toned down a bit. The material didn't rely on the flashy solos or complex rhythmic structures associated with Umphrey's, but instead focused on the rich melodic textures of their acoustic instruments.
From the comfort of a big brown couch brought from backstage, Bayliss and Cinninger looked relaxed, and from the gear onstage it was evident that they were expecting some friends. A piano, congas, and a full drum kit were set up. The two explained the couch, saying, "Since we practiced on it, might as well play on it." They then opened with "In the Kitchen." After the song's infamous Chicago reference, a giant cheer emerged from the local audience, who remained surprisingly tame throughout the night. Evolving from "In the Kitchen" was the beautiful Bayliss/Jeff Austin (YMSB) song "Oh Susanna." Cinninger's accompanying guitar work complemented Bayliss' vocal melody perfectly as the tune flowed back to "In the Kitchen."
Cinninger & Bayliss :: 12.15
Once that extended jam concluded, the duo welcomed out the first of many special guests, fellow Umphrey's mates Andy Farag (percussion) and Kris Myers (drums), for a lively rendition of "Greensleeves." Near the end of the piece Joel Cummins (keyboards - UM) joined the quartet mid-jam and hung around for "Resolution" into "Memories of Home." With the addition of more instruments, Bayliss and Cinninger were able to explore quite a bit with their guitars, using the expanded landscapes as vehicles for concise, roughly structured improvisation.
Cinninger, Bayliss, Farag, Myers :: 12.15
As the revolving door of musical friends kept moving, the two appeared to be enjoying themselves. After welcoming Barry Brown, a USTORM co-founder and keyboardist for Grateful Dead tribute band Jack Straw, out for a rollicking version of the Dead's "Sugaree," Bayliss moved to the piano for a solo version of Billy Joel's "I've Loved These Days." Cinninger and vocalist Michelle Hallman came out afterwards for "Bullhead City," one of the night's clear highlights. The tune from Anchor Drops was performed amazingly well. Hallman's pure, siren voice was heavenly, especially in conjunction with Cinninger's vocals and guitar.
Cummins, Cinninger, Bayliss, Farag, Myers :: 12.15
Several more covers, a stellar version of "Great American," another special guest [Paris Delane], and happy birthday wishes for Cinninger wrapped up the special evening. Their five-song encore was just an added bonus. As a duo, Bayliss and Cinninger were very professional. Their musical kinship was apparent, but it was when they were accompanied by their fellow Umphrey's bandmates that something truly special emerged. It gave the unique Umphrey's McGee sound more depth and new perspective similar to the Grateful Dead's Reckoning or Nirvana's Unplugged in New York sets. More acoustic settings like this one in the future would be an interesting, appealing twist for the band.
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