Sunday night at 8 p.m. found the Calvin Theatre’s stage lit blue from the stage lights, anticipating the arrival of Umphrey’s McGee. The band took the stage half an hour later to a brimming, cheering crowd. No opening band, no incredibly long wait for the band to take the stage, just the crowd and Umphrey’s McGee.
The concert felt much more casual than most shows. The jamming atmosphere of the show made it feel much more like the band was just rehearsing inside a concert hall. And that was not very far from the truth.
Almost half of the show was completely improvised, which is normal for Umphrey’s McGee. The band comes up with new material on the spot, jamming out during certain songs, melding other songs into one another. But the band is so synced with one another that it becomes hard to tell what is and isn’t made up on the spot unless one is a diehard fan. The feeling is completely surreal.
As the band followed the beat, their style constantly shifted, never staying the same for more than a few minutes. The entire show was a journey with, moving from an under the sea look and feel, to something resembling country music, to African beat.
One of the greatest moments during the show was when guitarist Jake Cinninger began playing crazier and crazier solos, so crazy in fact that the lights decided to join in. The lights started going everywhere, frantically changing colors as fast as possible, creating rainbows of beams, lighting up the stage.
The lights as a whole were fantastic throughout the show. They whizzed all over the stage, sometimes at speeds so fast they were dizzying, other times lighting the walls with mesmerizing patterns, but always matching the mood of the music perfectly.
The crowd managed to sing along for almost every song as the band continued to jam through the night with their high-energy sets.
The second set was so high-energy, in fact, that one fan decided to do a little crowd surfing. What was supposed to be one man’s fifteen seconds of fun turned into two minutes, with one near fall, as the crowd surfed all around the pit, bumping to the killer swells of the music.
The band was eventually joined on stage during the song “Miss Tinkle’s Overture” by bassist Andy Buch, a good friend of the band and a freelance programmer for the Rock Band Network. The Network is a website where artists can add their music to the Rock Band videogame, but are left to their own devices for getting everything working, so Buch is one freelancer who takes care of that for interested clients. Buch jammed on stage with the band for quite a while before taking his leave.
After Buch left the stage, guitarist and vocalist Brendan Bayliss mentioned that Umphrey’s McGee is adding a few of their songs to the Rock Band Network, including “Miss Tinkle’s Overture,” which Buch programmed for the game. The band then proceeded to exit the stage, but came back after the crowd kept cheering for an encore to play one last song, “Hangover.”
Umphrey’s McGee has been constantly playing shows since 1998, with rarely more than a half-month break between. With almost 1,500 shows under their belts, the band is dedicated to constantly playing for their fans. Clearly, the band is devoted to its music and jamming for its fans.
For anyone who missed the show or who was there and wants to listen to it again, the entire show has been recorded and is posted online at www.umlive.net. The band records all of their shows and releases them immediately after the concert for their fans’ listening pleasure.
The night ended on a positive note as the show ended, leaving the Calvin Theatre aching from the dancing crowd. The show was good, the music was grooving and overall Umphrey’s McGee played one hell of a show.
Tappan Parker can be reached at [email protected]