Portland, Oregon is a long way from Notre Dame, but it seems we have quite a few alums out this way. So it should be no surprise that even though Umphreys McGee only comes through here twice a year, their Portland shows seem to have an instant classic, hometown feel. Last night was no different.
I brought my friend Jim, an old-school deadhead, for his first UM show, my fifth. We hit the balcony for beers and had our ribcages rattled by Lotus' enormous bass 'n' drum grooves. The floor was not too full compared to previous Portland shows (their last few trips have been on weekends) so we had plenty of room to move. And plenty of reason!
Anchor Drops was a deceptively mellow opener, with a jam extending beyond the ending into a rockin' Stew that eventually picked up steam and launched into Got Your Milk. The energy never let up for the rest of the set. Nothing Too Fancy got the whole floor bouncin' (oh, why won't they play the Crystal anymore?) before stretching out a bit and arriving at a Resolution that seemed to take some of the guys by surprise, especially Brendan. They riffed on Norwegian Wood early, before the first verse, then explored a lot between verses, moreso than most Resolutions I've heard. Brendan started signalling Bridgeless, but they jammed a few more minutes before kicking it off and finishing the set by blowing the roof off. Seriously, I can imagine a view of the outside of the Roseland suddenly bursting into flames and fireworks like in V for Vendetta, it was just that explosive.
Set 2 started with a slow funk groove finding its way to Dump City. The hip-hop medley seemed to come out of nowhere, but they brought it back to Dump City like they knew what they were doing all along. Words was beautiful, a song so heavy that jamming on Pink Floyd in the middle actually lightens the mood a bit. They returned to N2F with a jam that perfectly displays what they can do with one or two simple riffs, repeating them to get them in your head, then twisting, stretching, leaving and returning, stripping down to a sparse beat then intensifying to a huge pinnacle all from those one or two building blocks. Just brilliant.
How do you top that? Maybe that was what Jake was thinking when he started cranking Honky-Tonk Women, but it was just a fake-out before Making Flippy-Floppy. The jam with Brock from P-Groove took a bluesy turn, then back to the original groove to set up a nice bass solo from Pony. For all the high energy this show had, it ended as it began with a mellower take on Push the Pig. Brendan and Jake joined Joel on the keys, then everyone slowly drifted off leaving Joel in the spotlight as the groove settled down to just a few piano chords.
For a fairly small crowd, we made some noise to bring the boys back. Any encore would have been greeted with a sea of smiles, but All in Time was the homerun ball. A great way to win over a new umphreak (Jim will be back) and to build upon Umphrey's legend of classic Portland shows.