Umphrey’s McGee (S2) | 10.03 | WI
Umphrey’s McGee (S2) :: 10.03.09 :: Eagles Ballroom :: Milwaukee, WI
Only 50 tickets were sold for the event, and the mystery and intimacy generated some giddy electricity as fans were treated to snacks and beverages while they waited. Shortly after everyone was settled in, production manager Kevin Browning came in and gave us the lowdown: Fans would be texting ideas to the crew, who would relay them to a large screen onstage that everyone could see. After the intro speech, the band members came in and milled with the small crowd briefly, then led everyone upstairs to the Eagles Ballroom to start the insanity; as guitarist/singer Jake Cinninger put it, “We’re all hamsters and gerbils in a cage.”
The first fan-generated message to appear onscreen was “Afternoon bus ride in Jamaica,” setting the tone for an overall laid-back, dub-heavy show, although another text quickly dictated a more chaotic stretch, capped by “Cantina Band,” which prompted a loose interpolation of the Star Wars ditty. As the concept unfolded, I realized that I’d sort of expected this thing to come off forced or stilted, or at least gimmicky, but the reality was that the texts served more to prevent the band from ever losing focus, probably the most common lame tendency in the jam band world. The musicians’ ability to switch gears quickly, combined with their well-honed onstage intra-band language, made the execution seem surprisingly natural.
The Q&A was a well-intentioned gesture, but most fans didn’t really take it seriously; I think most would’ve preferred it if the music hadn’t stopped at all. The second set was a little more gimmicky and disjointed, with Cinninger offering some rapid-fire scratching (“drive by”), he and guitarist Brendan Bayliss feigning wah-wah orgasms over a disco groove (“sex in the champagne room”), and a percussion and bass solo followed by the two guitarists being inexplicably ordered to their knees, amicable puppets that they were. The second set (each one was 10-15 minutes long) ended with a dizzying whirl of genres that really brought the energy back, ending with a rendition of the Notre Dame Victory March (“FIGHTING IRISH WIIIIIIIINS!”), and then more Q&A.
Eventually, “dub bites the dust” got layered over top of this, and the only actual stall-out came with a demand for “one of Jake’s Avalanche [his former band] country songs,” which proved a treat for die-hards all the same. Then, “jazzy WBG (can u do it boys?)” showed up. After a brief huddle, we got a recognizable, un-metallic “Wizard Burial Ground” set to a hyper-swing beat. If only they’d attempted the whole song this way! It was an impressive stab. This led to “RAWK,” and finally “preview of tonight’s show,” which turned out to be the partial debut of a brand new song. All in all, it was a lot more hit than miss, a dazzling display of musicianship, and a gracious gift to the hardcore fans that dished out the $100 to be there. As they get this experiment fine-tuned, look out.
Continue reading for more images of Umphrey’s McGee’s new Stew Art Series…
|Fans Texting Directions to Band|
|Question and Answer Session|
|Yoda is watching|
|Stew Art Series Guests & Band|
JamBase | Freeballin’
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