Umphrey’s McGee Sheik Out On This Date In 2003

Our look at past Halloween performances continues with coverage of Umphrey’s McGee’s show from October 31, 2003 posted by JamBase just days after the Egyptian-themed concert.

Words by: Andrew Kaplan
Images by: Vince Iwinski

Umphreaks from all over the Midwest converged at the “Crossroads of America” known as Indianapolis for an Egyptian Halloween treat courtesy of Umphrey’s McGee last Friday night. The Murat Egyptian Room, a spacious ballroom decorated in ancient Egyptian style, hosted the event, which drew over 1100 fans, many of whom traveled long distances to catch a much anticipated holiday show.

The weather outside was more like late summer than late fall, a welcome treat for those who came from destinations farther north. The costumed faithful slowly leaked into the venue and took their places eagerly awaiting the appearance of the band.

At around 9:30 the lights went down and a vision in white appeared on the stage with a keytar slung over his shoulder. This of course was Joel Cummins, Moses for the evening, who proceeded to play “Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor” by J.S. Bach, the eeriest and most Halloweenesque classical composition ever created. As the composition ended the band trickled on to the stage and Jake Cinninger, dressed as a Pharaoh began belting out the opening chords to “Soul Food 1,” a rocking instrumental original. This melted into a new Umphrey’s song that sounded like it could have been an old Police tune.

“Prowler” brought out the night creature in the crowd and segued directly into “The Haunt.” They have just recently brought this tune back into the rotation and it fit in perfectly with the night’s festivities. The improv at the end built to an evil hard rock crescendo and dove straight into “Get In the Van,” a powerfully multifaceted composition with hints of Al Dimeola and Return to Forever. This one was for all of the headbangers in the crowd. “In the Kitchen” followed reminding us all that we are on the cusp of winter, which can be especially cruel in Chicago. “Utopian Fir” was played for all of the people dressed like hippies for the evening, there were a lot. There was a real hard metal edge to a lot of the improv jams throughout the evening but they always seemed to make it fit in with the current tune. “Utopian Fir” is one of those songs that seem to cover a lot of musical genres, which is why it appeals to me so much.

The reggae ending of “Utopian” melted away and was replaced by an early 80s r&b/techno rock segment. I kind of got the feel of that tune, “Somebody’s Watching Me,” before they did a fast build into “Hurt Bird Bath” another hard edged prog rock Umph original. Like “Utopian,” “Hurt Bird” explores several different genres, which defines the original Umphrey’s composition. People go to see live music for different reasons; I go to see music performed to perfection. Umph is tight, on time and high energy, three things that give me great pleasure to witness in a live setting. The set closed with the Huey Lewis and the News tune “Heart and Soul” featuring Joel back on the keytar. A fantastic new cover to end the set, Umphrey’s left us wondering what surprises lay in store for the rest of the night.

The crowd filtered outside for smokes at set break and I headed backstage to see the band’s costumes up close and personal. Stasik (bass), was dressed up like a Princess, Farag (percussion), like a peasant woman. Both pulled off the female persona excellently. Bayliss was wrapped in white cloth and made up like a mummy and Myers was costumed as an Egyptian prince. They were all pumped to get back out there and shred some more.

As the lights fell Joel Cummins was again center stage with the keytar this time floating out some funeral like notes. Bayliss began the preaching lines to the intro of Prince’s “Lets Go Crazy” which got my wife up and attentive, she loves Prince. Just as they were about to break into the rocking portion of that song they switched over to the opening chords of “And Justice For All” by Metallica. Umphrey’s is famous for their fake outs and this one got me good. Another debut, “The Package,” came next, a bluesy rock tune then “Mullet (over),” a taste of bluegrass. My brother had a sick white trash mullet theme going on so I told him to flip that shit and get crazy. Then came the centerpiece of the set “Jajunk.” This funky disjointed song sounds like a locomotive just getting underway in the beginning. Myers was jerking the backbeat all over the place and you could tell they were having fun with this one. At this point I moved up into the center of the crowd to get the full effect of Adam Budney’s lights display and Kevin Browning’s sound caressing. I could not have picked a better time as they dove into a deep dark improv and slowly melted into “Its About That Time,” then back into “Jajunk.”

It was 22 minutes of sickness I will never forget. Vince Iwinski, Billy Idol for the night, then entered the fray with a platinum blonde 80s spike adorned in leather pants and sleeveless T. The familiar notes of Idol’s “White Wedding” were struck and Vince nailed the lyrics like he was on stage every night with the band. The UM standard “Professor Wormbog” was next and segued into fan favorite “All In Time.” The show closed with “Pay The Snucka” mixing some 70s funk with 80s metal. In the middle of the song Bayliss and Cinninger ran to the soundboard and jammed with the band from the middle of the crowd for some extra excitement. The encore saw the revival of my favorite shelved tune, “Much Obliged.” Just to make sure the crowd left with absolutely no energy they finished the encore with “Nothing Too Fancy,” 13 minutes of technofunk.

It is clear that Kris Myers has gelled with the band, as he seems to be taking more risks and making them pay off. He has only been with the band for ten months and he is already having a huge impact on their music. I am already looking forward to my next show in Chicago for New Years Eve.

Soundboard Matrix Audio (Shared by Kevin Browning/TALL)

Setlist (via All Things Umphreys)

Set One: Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor[1], Soul Food I > Ocean Billy[2], Prowler > The Haunt > Get In The Van, In The Kitchen, Utopian Fir[3] > Hurt Bird Bath, Heart and Soul[4]

Set Two: …And Justice for All[5], Mail Package[2], Mullet (Over), JaJunk[6] > It’s About That Time > JaJunk, White Wedding[7], Professor Wormbog > All In Time[8], Pay the Snucka[1]

Encore: Halloween theme[9], Much Obliged > Nothing Too Fancy[10]

  • [1] Joel on keytar
  • [2] debut, original
  • [3] with Top Gun Anthem (Harold Faltermeyer) intro as well as a Ministry jam
  • [4] debut, Huey Lewis and the News; Joel on keytar
  • [5] debut, Metallica; with Let’s Go Crazy (Prince) intro
  • [6] with White Wedding (Billy Idol) and No Quarter (Led Zeppelin) teases
  • [7] debut, Billy Idol; with Vince on vocals dressed as Billy Idol; with Rebel Yell (Billy Idol) ending
  • [8] with Are You Gonna Go My Way (Lenny Kravitz) teases
  • [9] debut, John Carpenter; Joel only
  • [10] with Merrily We Roll Along (Tobias/Mencher/Cantor) tease

Notes: the band had an Egyptian theme: Brendan was a mummy, Jake was a pharaoh, Joel was Moses, Kris was an Egyptian prince, Ryan was Cleopatra, and Andy was a female Egyptian peasant

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