12.31.06 :: Aragon Ballroom :: Chicago, IL
Words by: Pietro Truba :: Images by: Brett Saul
Umphrey's McGee was back in Chicago for their sixth straight New Year's Eve in the windy city. With a three-night run and the help of the North Mississippi All-Stars, Los Lobos, Taj Mahal, and a new, tricked out lighting rig, Umphrey's rang in the New Year in style.
Cinninger & Stasik :: 12.31.06 :: Chicago
As Umphrey's strolled out for their first set, drummer Kris Myers stood perched over his kit, stirring the sea of people that stood in front of him. The first set ran with all Umph originals, opening with a "JaJunk" that had guitarist Jake Cinninger at the forefront on a high energy favorite that pulled everyone in right away and jumpstarted things quickly. "Out Of Order" featured the return of Cinninger's Moog synthesizer, which opened up guitarist Brendan Bayliss for his flowing solos throughout the night.
A jam out of "FF" sent the Aragon into a slow dance funk with a dub bassline from Ryan Stasik that kept the crowd dancing. The segway into the lively "Miss Tinkle's Overture" had almost an orchestral feel as Bayliss and Cinninger bent their strings. "Miss Tinkle's" was heavy on Moog as Cinninger and Stasik went back and forth before Bayliss' solo.
Coffin & Stasik :: 12.31.06 :: Chicago
Saxophone player Jeff Coffin joined them for a jam out of "Bright Lights," which was heavy on Coffin's deep rumbling sax notes. The last half of "JaJunk" had Cinninger throwing his entire wiry frame into his solos, yanking the notes out before he knelt down to end the first set with the sky high energy.
The second set slowed things down a bit with lots of covers. Taj Mahal sat in for two songs, "You'll Need Somebody On Your Bond" and the first "Farther on Down the Road" in five years. A four-piece horn section joined for most of the second set, including "Higgins" and Steely Dan's "My Old School," which closed the second set as the New Year crept closer.
Taj Mahal with UM :: 12.31.06 :: Chicago
Ambient noise oozed from the stage as Umphrey's returned for their third set. Soon enough, the slamming chords of "Bridgeless" sent everyone into the New Year. The chaotic "Bridgeless" ending stretched as the crowd seethed in anticipation for the "Auld Lang Syne." The jam from "Bridgeless" was the best of the night and the crowd responded accordingly, as bodies slammed and leapt through the air. Soon enough a sea of balloons and confetti littered the Aragon's massive dance floor and "Auld Lang Syne" rang in 2007.
After a toast and some banter, "Partyin' Peeps" ushered in 2007. An exploratory "Triple Wide" transformed into a trance-heavy dance explosion with keyboardist Joel Cummins controlling the crowd with his Moog. Taj returned for "She Caught The Katy." Memories of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd came dancing back while Taj belted out the classic tune. "Mail Package" closed the third set, and Coffin was again in the spotlight with a massive saxophone jam.
"Dick In a Box" :: 12.31.06 :: Chicago
For the encore, percussionist Andy Farag came out to join Bayliss, who was already playing lead champagne, for the vocals on "Dick In A Box," a song from a recent Saturday Night Live skit, which made for a very funny, odd sing-a-long. Coffin returned for "Pay The Snucka," which jammed on Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love."
Out of the three nights, the 31st may not have been the best musically, but New Year's Eve shows are supposed to be one giant party, and it definitely was that.
Umphrey's McGee :: 12.31.06 :: The Aragon Ballroom :: Chicago, Il
Set I: JaJunk > Hangover, Out of Order > FF > Miss Tinkle's Overture, Bright Lights^ > JaJunk
Set II: Wife Soup^^, You'll Need Somebody On Your Bond^^*, Farther on Down the Road^^**, Slacker, Syncopated Strangers, Higgins^^, My Old School^^$
Set III: Bridgeless^^ > Auld Lang Syne^^, Partyin' Peeps^^, 2x2 > The Triple Wide@, She Caught the Katy**, The Bottom Half^^, Mail Package^^
E: Dick In a Box$$, Pay the Snucka^%
Taj Mahal & the International Rhythm Band opened
^ with Jeff Coffin on saxophone
^^ with Jeff Coffin on saxophone, Michael "Mad Dog" Mavridoglou on trumpet, Chris Neal on saxophone, and Brent Sanders on trombone
* first time played, Blind Willie Johnson; with Taj Mahal
** with Taj Mahal
$ first time played, Steely Dan
@ with Jake on acoustic
$$ first time played, Saturday Night Live writers
% with Sunshine of Your Love jam