Category: reviews

It’s Not Us Review

It’s Not Us, the most recent release from Umphrey’s McGee, is an extremely diverse and well crafted disc, showcasing some of Umphrey’s best studio work in quite some time. While the band is unquestionably at their best in a live environment, they have occasionally produced groundbreaking studio work, and while it’s unlikely It’s Not Us will be nominated for an Album of the Year at the Grammys, it will more than meet the expectations of thousands Umphreaks nationwide. The recording feigns hints of a more cohesive work, but overall lacks a motif or story to bind it track by track. Instead, this is an album about juxtaposition where contrast is a constant from song to song or even verse to verse, lyrically and musically. There is a lot to discover buried in each layer and fans will find themselves falling further in love on each relisten. The album succeeds to entertain, enlighten and inspire on many levels, forming what is easily Umphrey’s strongest release since Mantis.

The album is energetic from its outset. Leadoff track The Silent Type has morphed considerably from the fan favorite lyrical Jimmy Stewarts formerly known as “Cigarette Cables”. The fuzz distortion has a Miami Virtue theme semi-grubby sound that feels like driving down the Florida shoreline. The distortion on the vocals here is appropriate and works well with Brendan’s voice. The layered guitars add considerable depth to the new arrangement, helping the track escape beyond it’s poppy shell.

As with many tracks on It’s Not Us, Looks sounds best through headphones where all the nuances can be distinctly heard. A lumbering 80s goth industrial sound is alive and well within this song. The rhythm formed by bassist Ryan Stasik’s prominent plucking offers a funk verse vibe that contrasts heavily with the open, airy chorus. The centerpiece of the track is an out of tune King Crimsonesque solo that adds appropriate spice to a cumbersome number.

Whistle Kids sheds off the grimy glam for a laid back rock vibe and some blues licks. The song, written about recovering from a hangover while dealing with children, is wittily composed and the vocals are well harmonized. The simple, stripped down track stands out nicely in comparison to all the layered and heavy on this disc.

Half Delayed bears reflections of The Smashing Pumpkins Drown. Built of shoegazey verses eventually bear way to a distorted crescendo where dual guitars drive and ascend in an energetic fuzz flight that promises to be a improvisation launchpad in the future.

Maybe Someday is the most instrumentally complex song on the album. A frankenstein of many hodgepodge segments glued together, the band pans genres from rock to jazz in this opus. The transitions between sections are fairly smooth and each portion of the song is unique and captivating in its own way. The stratum of sound from percussionist Andy Farag up through Brendan’s vocals is deep and fascinating. Make sure to listen to this track through headphones.

Remaining fairly true to it’s live incarnations, Remind Me embodies the rest of the album as a track perfectly divided between smooth and heavy. The shoulder shuffling, slinky guitar of the first segment accompanies well formed verses. The heavy section is formed by Joel’s haunting mellotron keys, insane finger flicking guitar solos and double bass drum kick pedal mania.

You and You Alone is simply gorgeous. The strongest track on the album lyrically, Brendan recites pure poetry in a love ballad that reflects on marriage and parenthood at once. Soft key chords mix seamlessly with quiet guitar licks, swelling sentiment until listeners are overcome. While there are many songs of sorrow among the Umphrey’s catalog, this dabble into lovesongs is exemplary and will make even the most stoic face shed a tear.

We have heard Forks a couple times live before. The album incarnation is very similar but heavily plays up the 80s elements in the best way. The track is peppered with symphonic sparkles and moves at a brisk, uplifting pace. A sense of exuberance runs throughout some of Brendan’s most cryptic lyrics on the album, music one could run marathons listening to.

Speak Up debuted live in 2015 but didn’t start to become interesting until the band opened it for expansive improvisation.  The studio rendition is playful and sprightly, relying heavily on keyboardist Joel Cummin’s fat organ notes, escorted by special guest saxophonist Joshua Redman.

The album’s low point is near the end. Piranhas has failed to develop into an interesting tune since its debut in 2014. A fairly straightforward cut from live to studio, the song’s linear layout and lack of variance cannot hold a candle to the surrounding tracks. The pop flavor and conventional structure creates a standard song. Previous efforts with a similar sequential build, like The Linear or Conduit, have been far more successful songs of a similar vein.

Listen to Dark Brush three times before you come to a conclusion about it. A driving distorted riff and breathy, haunting vocals make this tour de force heavy enough to be the new Wizards Burial Ground, and that will cause a decisive rift among listeners. Nothing this bold within the “jamband” community should be without debate. Dark Brush successfully takes the best elements of predecessors like Hindsight and Little Gift from 2014’s Similar Skin, and combines them with enough adventure and terror to generate nightmare specter scenery for any listener. Muffled, distorted banter and the overwhelming howl of the chorus will have this seance somehow stuck in your head.

On It’s Not Us, the band does an excellent job taking calculated risks while continuously evoking classic Umphrey’s sounds and techniques. Rhythmically the band takes lots of chances with lyrical pacing and more often than not it pays off. The boys have shown a preference to turn towards the heavy on studio albums and, in this scenario, it is a resonating audioscape nicely sprinkled with subtle sonic shimmers. The infrequent stumbles in songs do not detract from the overall audio experience whatsoever. This is not an Umphrey’s Dance Party record, though one can hear obvious on-ramps into future rhythmic Jimmy Stewarts, especially in the segues between diametrically opposed sections. There is lots to uncover here and while not every track will make it into heavy rotation, the majority should become mainstays. Embracing divergence and contrast, It’s Not Us confirms that Umphrey’s occasionally is able to surprise in studio like they often do on stage.

Top Tracks:
Whistle Kids
Maybe Someday
Remind Me
You & You Alone
Dark Brush

More MKE Photography – Night 2 Captured By Tara Gracer!

More stunning shots taken for Umphreak’s Anonymous from photographic mastermind Tara Gracer! Night Two captured in all of its majestic glory!

Don’t forget freaky Halloween costumed folks of Milwaukee:

Be sure to let Tara capture your costume so that we can post it to our online gallery!! We want to see all your Boo-tiful Ragefaces! We’ll post whatever we can as quickly as we can!

Little Sign of “Selling Out” in these Sell Out Shows

By Joshua Colky
Photography by Kristine Condon

The summer sun was beaming stupendously against the majestic desert rocks as Umphreaks began to file into Red Rocks Amphitheater for a full evening of improvisational onslaught. Umphrey’s McGee, in their 10th appearance upon the rocks, brought a small festival’s worth of a lineup and earned their second consecutive sell out. Not an easy feat over a holiday weekend during a year with major national competition (think midwest). In Colorado, the music obsessives become thirsty as the intimate interspersed annual shows become harder to get into (think Aspen and Boulder). With back-to-back sell outs under their belts, we may finally see some multi-night performances upon the Stonehenge in the Sky.

This year’s show was punctuated by a jam heavy, stacked first set and interesting song choices all around. New York City heavy progressive fusion quintet Tauk played an abridged set starting around six thirty in the evening as the venue began to fill in. By the time Papadosio brought out their untzfunk, the pavilion was at capacity, full of smiling, semi-inebriated faces who bumbled along the tiered seating towards their friends. As Umphrey’s took the stage, fireworks began to appear behind the stage from several various out-laying surrounding suburbs. Independence Day at Red Rocks is a unique musical experience that will never get repetitive.

Puppet String is a perfect opener, enjoyed by almost all various Umphreaks, a heavy jRed Rocks 2015 Bo Beanam vehicle that has seen much action throughout recent years. The Puppet contained a nice classic rock guitar solo coming out of the first section. Always an awkward transition, the band found its was into 2nd Self, an enduring Umphrey’s classic that is lighter in tone with a piano that skips hopscotch note to note throughout the tune, interlacing lingering fuzzy guitar leads. Go To Hell is a rugged, dark distorted monster, perfectly picked for the place, flicker finger hammer-on accenting the unchanging, heavy build.

Mulche’s Odyssey follows, standardly played as a launching pad for a giant meaty Higgins-within a-Mulche sandwich. The contained track is a highlight of the show, embodying a jam that initially belays a positive motif before quickly taking a dark turn when the Joel brings in a haunting piano. Extremely energetic, waves of sound work their way around the bass and piano, creating the elaborate, dynamic build that Umphrey’s is known for. The guitarists crescendo into bent notes and shredded spirals which wrap around themselves before landing back into the standard groove and riding it along Myer’s tidal wave drums. Landing back into Mulche’s, the band allows themselves and the audience a moment of calm during a stock sing-along No Diablo.

Fans were only allowed that brief reprieve before a mint rendition of Pay the Snucka commences, tons of sway causing collective audience hip gyration. One of the few dance grooves of the first set, this funk fest made seamless transition into Rocker 2, improvisation containing a slow, heavy building jam which plays off the original riff before sliding into a ladder climbing, layered jam with a hint of Lawrence of Arabia twisted into the song by Jake. His leads dance on until they stand alone and segue into a pretty, perfectly placed Pequod. Points awarded for the transition from Pequod into Pay the Snucka pt. 3, the band wraps a bow on the fantastic first set with guitars blazing and deafening drums.

Red Rocks 2015 Bo BeanA short set break was broken by Independence Day classic Ringo. This rendition was not as focused, containing sloppy breakdowns after the first and second “greasy animals” portions, where both the Jake and Joel seeming to have trouble finding direction. The space in the jams may have been intentional but did not work for the jam, and after a long meander the boys found their way back to the funk glide “Slim knows the score” section. Sleepily lingering its way out of Ringo was an untraditional, “alternate” rendition of Similar Skin single Cut the Cable. While light years better than the now-played-out original, the “alternate” version is maybe too patient, borderlining on sleepy before reaching a tonal mark where the guitar goes Gilmore and the leads linger alluringly. Joel sets the voice as Jake plays like a person possessed, sauntering confidently into a cover of Pink Floyd’s Shine On You Crazy Diamond. Done with Umphrey’s flair while remaining true to the original sound, the ambience was beautifully amplified by the surrounding venue.

Umphrey’s takes a short pause before diving into one of two true untzparties of the evening: Bad Friday. Bringing out Ali Baba’s Tahini drummer Steve Krojniewski (Krojo) to join Farag in perc-world, the band interweaving hints of Michael Jackson’s  “Wanna Be Starting Somethin’” into the driving dance number. The verse vocals flawlessly executed, the jam is adjourned for an extended drum breakdown. The energy rides high as the instruments glide back into the drums, Stastik’s bass was very funky as it walked across the fretboard while the guitars crescendo. This second set standout overshadows the rest of the tunes pre-encore.

The trailing Divisions, a longtime Umphrey’s classic which causes Umphreaks to instantly reminiscence is the open face of a strange sandwich. Highlighted by a driven, positive, energetic jam coming out of the first section, the first portion of Divisions plays on the songs tonal motifs while remaining on course. This fades as the band lingers into a dark stand alone guitar jam and makes its way to an uninspired Believe the Lie (with the now-standard intro). The turn in the tr Both tracks would have stood stronger as a stand alones and here the break in Divisions does little to add to its reprise. While Bayliss has been vocally immaculate in recent executions of Believe the Lie (4/25 for example), he fell flat on the difficult verses. The segue back into Divisions was beautifully done but the tune had lost
DSC_1205 some power during the transition between the tunes. The standard set ended with the reminder of how significant the communal soul embrace is to the Umphrey’s community. The encore break began with a short video in which Umphrey’s announced a four night New Year’s Eve run in Denver, delighting fans whose appetite was only whetted by the Red Rocks performance.

An encored Triple Wide did much to bounce back the semi-sloppy second set. The sonar sounding, bass led industrial dance jam did a nice job of tying in the many aspects of the evening. Heavy influences traces the tune as the song remained bounce based, Joel’s keys adding several synthy layers over a palm muted guitar. Timing is highlighted as the band gels wonderfully, each member ducking in and out of the song to add detail and depth. The night ends with the final portion of the previously unfinished Puppet.

While Umphrey’s had probed several spacey concepts the night before, the Red Rocks show was a much more schizophrenic: a darker, heavier feel ran throughout interrupted by consuming dance opportunities, the various contrasts within Umphrey’s music pronounced, highlighting guitar work foremost over the other instruments. This lack of flow inhibited the show from being Platinum quality, but the songs themselves are all masterfully executed in their own right. Track selection was scattered but there were few tunes to complain about, many tracks being tenebrous one offs from throughout the band’s tenure – truly a fan’s band with little sign of “selling out” for these sell outs.”

 

Umphrey’s Crushes 23rd Boulder Appearance

By Joshua Colky
Photography by Kristine Condon 

This past Thursday, Umphrey’s McGee hosted their 23rd Boulder show, drawing a huge crowd to the famed hippie mecca in the Colorado foothills. While the venue and seasonal hosts have varied, a precedent has been established that Red Rocks runs will include a Boulder date (save for 2010). The Boulder Theater, with so many previous classic performances and high caliber guest appearances, has become an obvious favorite for the fanbase. Tickets sold out instantly. Fans networked anxiously amongst their friends hoping for a spare extra. People offered their souls and first-born in online regional groups for the opportunity to ride the rail. The months of anticipation culminated into a large line along the façade of the venue, vibrancy palpable in the surrounding atmosphere as old and new friends embraced and engaged in animated obsession before the unopened doors. Once inside, Umphreaks sampled Nothing too Fancy Pale Ale awaiting the sextet’s entrance. The venue was surprisingly uncrowded in comparison to previous years making for an extremely enjoyable rageface environment with lots of room to dance no matter where you went. DSC_9785

Goonville, Umphrey’s weirdo freakchild of an intro tune stumbled onto the stage as the band emerged. Unique in its build, the tune goes from sounding delightfully discombobulated to a militaristic plodding unlike any of the other intro tunes. The sound quickly pivoted into rock-untz epic Wappy Sprayberry, which included a dance jam that was bass heavy and stripped down, where echoey drip-drop guitars and fat puddle bass drove a focused build back into the energetic song. Cemetery Walk 1 would follow, Bayliss’ voice sounding pristine as Jake tore into the first solo at the beginning of the tune but took the second one, near the end, a bit sloppier. Giving a shout out to manager extraordinaire Kevin Browning (who just had a son), the band dove into Piranhas, a lyric-heavy tune which debuted this past New Year. The song continues to improve but has yet to find its niche, piling through with little variation of sound or style throughout. The potential is obvious – the lyrics are amazing and the verse itself has a nice groove – but the song sticks to that groove until completion with not enough interesting divergence from the standard path.

1348 featured a dark dirty jam which played on the song’s standard elements before plunging into an organy heavy groove. Spiral staircase guitar licks eventually enveloped around the bass and keys, leading to the meat of the jam. Example 1 was loose in the best sort of way, bluesy guitar solos encapsulated by the gorgeous riddle lyrics. In The Black brought back the dark motif that ran through the set. A new song which Umphrey’s debuted at UMBowl, In The Black is a multiple-personality disorder jam, segments of the song sounding almost unrelated that somehow collapse into place. It is an intriguing and sounds reminiscent of Educated Guess got tipsy, where its intricate run along lyrics in the “if all you need is a little help…if not for me maybe someone else..” section.

A standard but beautiful Morning Song followed, leading towards set closer Cemetery Walk 2. The dance party tune leads to a mellow space groove in the middle where you can hear Andy Farag’s lightning fast percussion behind the deep submarine bass. Jake flicker fingers the final solos which crescendo in energy before the semi-dark set ends.

The second set seemed it would continue this heavy path by opening with Mantis. Left unfinished, the obvious sandwich seemed appropriately placed but the band did not dwell long enough to establish a jam, quickly transitioning into an upbeat and energetic Jajunk. One of the most focused, patient and thoughtful jams of the night, a fast bass joined aerial trapeze guitar flurries, Joel bringing a subtle happy sound to the keys that blended perfectly as the guitars ramp into overdrive. An engaging Women Wine and Song followed with pristine execution, earning praise for the extended rockytonk jam that trailed the final verse.

Educated Guess, the first Similar Skin song of the night, was flawless in the standard verse into chorus content. The song itself was impressively performed, the harmonies perfectly layered and the energy levels riding very high. The encapsulated jam shed some of that energy and became lost along the way. While the intentional looseness was taken maybe a step too far, the transition back into the last part of Educated Guess was fantastic. From here a masterful Blue Echo unfolds, the jam built of concentrated needlepoint guitar work that escalates to a distorted lumbering apex  where the drummers craft thunder before trailing into a Myer’s led Voodoo Lady. Umphrey’s really owns the track by DSC_9864extending and fleshing it out a bit and Kris’ voice is well suited for the song.

The final two songs in the set, Wife Soup and Hindsight  are bothl placed and wonderfully performed even without any improvisation or extended jamming. Hindsight’s fifth performance to date is great. Jake concentrates the inner rage the conjure the vocal demons required for this song and does so marvelously. An encore of the always fun finger fancy Fussy Dutchman, where guitars and pianos collide for a fireworks show in their own right, leads into the second half of Mantis, closing out the night.

There is no doubt that both the song selection and high quality jams made this an exemplary Boulder performance. The musical Mantis and heavy motif that ran through the jams in both sets was well broken up by the occasional dance heavy tune. Umphreaks left the Boulder Bubble with their appetites whetted for the day to come.

Celebrations and Front Porch Mania Rock Peoria

By Tara Gracer
Photos by Sabrina Palmer

UM6-28-23

You know it’s going to be a good show when Kris Myers runs out on stage waving a foot-long sandwich and trying to hand it out to the crowd while the band goes into the famous rare sing-a-long, Front Porch, as an opener.

But where to even begin? This show was fully packed to the brim with requests and tributes, wrapped up like a present with a bow, gracefully handed to the audience by the band to unravel joyfully. After the first verse of Front Porch, the band quickly moved to Resolution, which contained a Cinninger crescendo lead with heavy Stasik riffs and a tease of Back In Black by ACDC with no lyrics. The band went back intoUM Britches Birthday 2015 Front Porch, which featured birthday celebrant Steve Britz, a long time member of UM’s crew, on percussion with Farag, before Cummins took a lead on the synths. A rendition of Happy Birthday was sung for Steve alongside a birthday cake delivered on stage, which everyone jokingly stuffed their faces with. Cummins jumped into his southern hoedown, Root Beer Rag (last played 2003-11-29). The band went back into Front Porch to segue into a Led Zeppelin cover, Hey Hey What Can I Do, a request for pinja extraordinaire, Sam Sutton, for his 200th show just to go back into Front Porch again and finish it off. We still were not done with the first set. The music continued into a 2×2 with a fancy dance jam, a straight-through Little Gift, a soft and tender The Pequod, and then an intense metal Mulche’s Odyssey to end the first  set.

UM6-28-30The second set was clearly about getting down to some improvisations, such as the opener’s Dump City “pong style” trance jam. A spacey The Linear followed with a rough metal build up that perfectly, precisely transitioned into The Bottom Half, which had an uplifting melancholy jam. FF was dedicated to the father who celebrated his 100th show and brought his 7-year old daughter for her 1st show. She proudly held those rock hands up in the front row while sitting on her father’s shoulders throughout the song, which also contained teases of Fool In the Rain by Led Zeppelin since it was pouring outside. A solid Out of Order followed by what is generally an “opener”, Le Blitz, which transitioned into a crowd shouting Domino Theory. Roundabout was played as a tribute to a fallen musical member of Yes!, Chris Squire. Although the second set seemed shorter compared to the first, the band teased the crowd by playing Front Porch one last time and sealed the show with an unusual encore choice, Thin Air, which contained a verse from Rainbow Country by Bob Marley. To the devoted Umphreaks, the only tiny tidbit the show might have been missing was a lyrical stew to completely seal off the package as the best show of 2015. But plenty of others that attended the show will say the combination of the ridiculous Front Porch madness of the first set and the tribute driven, jam heavy second set is every Umphreak’s dream. This show was definitely one for the memory books because of the enthusiasm and clowning of the crowd and the band as well as the birthdays and milestones of the Umphrey’s McGee community.

Come Together and Read Another London Sessions Review

By Jason Turngren

When Umphrey’s McGee announced that they had a new album coming out only ten months after their most recent studio release, Similar Skin, naturally fans grew anxious and excited for it’s release. Learning that the album was recorded in one day at Abbey Road Studios was the icing on the proverbial cake.To top that off, the track listing is absolutely mind blowing, the perfect selection of tunes for the task.

The London Sessions kicks off with ‘Bad Friday,’ a track which made it’s debut on New Years Eve 2013 at the Fillmore in Denver, CO and has quickly became a crowd favorite. With stunning guitar work intertwining the mesmerizing vocal harmonies this track seemed perfect for Abbey Road Studios.

“Rocker Part 2” has been in Umphrey’s McGee’s live rotation since New Years Eve of 2007 at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, but this is the first time their live classic has received any studio treatment. The heavy prog-rock feel at the front end of the song is sure to bring memories flooding back from live performances attended over the years. Listening to “Rocker Part 2” alone in the comfort of your own home, it’s tempting to throw your arms in the air after Jake’s sensational guitar solo leading into Chris’ drum break down mid track.

After  being released on their most recent studio album ‘Similar Skin,’ it was  interesting to see how they would alter ‘No Diablo’ for ‘The London Sessions.’ Listening to both versions of ‘No Diablo’ back to back it’s safe to say they “took it a little easy” in Abbey Road Studios. The new version has more of an acoustic vibe that softens the instrumentation and really magnifies the lyrics to help bring out the vocal harmonies that ‘Similar Skin’ didn’t capture as strongly.

‘Cut The Cable’ is another song that was featured on the previous Umphrey’s studio album which Umphrey’s took a little slower this time around. Having originally been a semi-bluegrassy tune, it was a bit jarring to hear the prog-rock version ‘Similar Skin’ had brought us. Abbey Road seems to of had been the perfect place to slow it down a bit and bring us back to the familiar acoustic version we were introduced to years ago with 30db.

To call “Glory” a crowd favorite would be a massive understatement. Having been played over 250 times since 2002, it’s only release has been off of the now out of print ‘Local Band Does OKlahoma’ live release from 2003. Joel’s piano intro is guaranteed to send shivers down your spine as excitement fills your eyes. Abbey Road set the space necessary for this song to breathe. It’s hard to think of any other studio doing ‘Glory’ justice the way Abbey Road has.

“Plunger” is a track you might have to throw a good pair of headphones on in order to find a difference between this release and it’s debut on Umphrey’s McGee’s third studio album ‘Anchor Drops.’ Besides having a brighter sound and clearer direction, the addition of “Plunger” is an amazing throwback to their earlier studio release

After making its live debut in 2012, “Comma Later” found a nice fit on ‘The London Sessions.’ With a Steely Dan like jazz feel to it, this track flows with the same intensity as it does in the live setting. Good headphones are highly recommended for enjoying this song to it’s fullest extent, with eyes closed it feels as though each instrument and vocal track is happening all around the room.

“Eat” was introduced into Umphrey’s live rotation in 2006 and was placed on their 2007 ‘Live At The Murat’ album. The heavy metal beginning gets you groovin’ and going, with Jake professing his love for eating something sweet, it is in fact such a treat. What has generally been known as purely an instrumental track these lyrics seem to be improvised. Whether they were or not, it was a welcome surprise to those not expecting to hear Jakes metal voice.

A trip to Abbey Road Studios wouldn’t be complete without peppering in a Beatles Cover. ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ is one of the Fab Four’s heavier songs that fit in well with the vibe of the album. It is also a song Umphrey’s has managed to master performing live over the last nine years. Sounding exactly like the way the Beatles intended it, Umphrey’s McGee found a way to make it their own without sacrificing the integrity of the original recording.

With old and new tracks, new renditions of previously recorded tunes, along with a cover, ‘The London Sessions’ is an album that covers a wide variety of what Umphrey’s McGee is. Forever changing, altering and bringing something new to their fans. This might be Umphrey’s most diverse album yet in that respect. Coming off almost as a live set of music this album shows us many variations of old and new favorites along with a cover, what more could us Umphreak’s ask for? ‘The London Sessions’ truly is a masterpiece and to have an albums worth of songs in one recording session proves these guys are a powerhouse capable of just about anything.

In Review: Umphrey’s Aspen 2015

By Joshua Colky

Aspen is a strange bird. A luxury resort sitting forty minutes off I-70 near the Western Slope of the Rockies, where the local dispensaries find themselves neighbors to Prada and Dolce and Gabbana. Even Colorado natives who have made it up the pass to Vail repeatedly throughout their lives still experience a small bit of culture shock when they finally make their way to Aspen. While the weather was not perfect for skiing as the snow was turning to slush, the near 70 degree temperatures were perfect for outdoor raging and the streets were immediately infiltrated by day drinking hot tubing Umphreaks.

The Belly Up Aspen venue itself holds historical significance because it has been the venue Umphrey’s has come to on the Western side of CO since it was called The Double Diamond back in 2003 (though to be fair they have played Grand Junction before, semi recently – weird). Some amazing shows have taken place there (3/7/2013, 2/9-10/2011) and musically, this year’s shows were no exception.

Stirring up a packed floor with Flamethrower, a perfectly executed Hourglass brought the power into the first set which never let up. Smell The Mitten, When the World Is Running Down, Higgins make up the heavy hitting jams in the first set, with World and Higgins being particularly memorable. Intentions Clear had a weird funk jam which lacked direction, Bayliss kept looking like he was shaking his head as if maybe trying to hone in on the groove. Regardless, the disjoints in Intentions can be easily overlooked for the Police cover which followed, Joel helping to bring around the climax of the jam which played well off the original motif. Miami Virtue, Blue Echo, Turn and Dub (for the homie Matthew) and Tribute to Spinal Shaft make up the large jams in the second set, the Echo goes from rock to jazzy jam, some meandering around as Joel and Jake interplay snakes around each other in fine fashion, a small build developing perfectly. More could have been done to capitalize on the Go to Hell, and this reviewer would have been happy with one cover over two (preference on the Zepplin), however, song choices aside, this show is very very solid, the Higgins or Blue Echo quite possibly being Hall of Fame material.

Another immaculate day followed and by that evening, Umphreaks converged on the town square for a free Umphrey’s show which drew in a large but not overwhelming crowd. The band thrilled fans with a set of heavy hitters, Bad FridayNemo, All In Time being highlights with a rockin’ Power of Soul Hendrix cover as a tasty treat.

Lining up for the second night outside of the Belly Up, you could tell this was going to be a different beast. Because everyone had just been down the street at the block party, the line stretched on around the corner and down the block. When passing by the band’s bus, an old security guard from the venue shoved several individuals in front of us, militantly asking them to “keep away from the bus” when they had simply been in transit. There was no room on the floor to maneuver, it was jammed to the point of fire safety regulation violation, but that did not prevent the boys from bringing the fire. Bright Lights Big City features an insane uptown funk dance party, where paced play meet with Stasik masterfully crafting a jam around the familiar bass line. High quality Much Obliged, White Mans Moccasins and Yoga Pants all are nothing “special” but are excellent in their own right. Mood setters for the Utopian Fir to follow, which never disappoints but, with its almost Daft Punk dance party drums, 80s Superhero Synth from Joel and bass jumpy jam that trends into a dolphinesque bliss, Utopian might be the highlight of the weekend. Wappy Sprayberry has a legacy of quality in the Mile High state, and this set two opener is the other contender for jam of the weekend. Dance party over rock show, this is a leveled, deep Wappy with tons of smooth curves. Umphreaks want to be sick of Puppet Strings, but the jams are just to good. You’ve “seen it 400 times” and you’re sick of it.  By the end of this heavenly jam at the end of Puppet, you will once again happily be singing the lyrics “are you prepare for what comes next” and would happily hear it again. Robot World is amazing in its own right and trails its way into a restful, standard but perfectly placed Dear Prudence.

The musicianship being absolutely top notch, we here at Umphreak’s Anonymous will take the unpopular opinion that the Belly Up Aspen, as a venue, is sometimes difficult to manage. If you are with a large crew or are near the front of the venue, the sheer closeness of the band is overwhelming and the floor feels like a giant dance party with all of your friends. If you are a singular person trying to find a sightlight near the back of the venue, your options become limited. Terribly oversold, the ability to maneuver around the tiered flooring, tables and pillars becomes very limited and for a venue of less than four hundred, the sound near bar is piss poor. The security is militant and give you an unfriendly feeling immediately. The drinks are expensive. Tradition is deeply seeded in the Umphrey’s community, and it is near sacrilige to suggest that another venue in town might be worth looking into (we had thought Wheeler Opera House, but it is mostly seated. That said, it could get more Umphreaks into the Aspen experience?)  – so we won’t. That being said, if you can get a spot to feel comfortable, or if you are on the floor itself and have found a way to not feel crowded, nothing beats the Belly Up for quality of playing or proximity to the band.

Umphrey’s in Aspen is an experience that is an annual privilige for Colorado, the holdover until Red Rocks, and as always – Umphrey’s does more to increase that thirst than satiate that hunger.

HighlightsUtopian Fir, Wappy Sprayberry, When the World is Running Down, Blue Echo, Puppet Strings, Robot World, Higgins

“We are”: Godboner and Ryan Stasik and the Dukes of Nukem