On This Day in Umphrey’s HistoryContinue Reading
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 Friday, Nemo, 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.
Highlights: Utopian 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
03.13.2015 “Aspen Snowmass CORE Party” Galena Street & Cooper Avenue – Aspen, CO
free, outdoor “block” party
Support: DJ Naka G
03.13.2015 Belly Up Aspen – Aspen, CO
Encore: Pay the Snucka
 with Uptown Funk (Mark Ronson) teases
 with Jake on keys
 with Close Encounters of the Third Kind theme (John Williams) tease
Aspen can be a strange place for most people – an infamous, posh ski resort located on the Western slope where the cost of everything can be double what it is on the front range. However, if you know how to tackle this beast correctly, Aspen is an Umphreak’s paradise – and we’ve got you covered as far as suggestions! Compiled from reviews by the Colorado Umphreaks regional group, we bring you the low down on Aspen for Umphreaks:
- History – Umphrey’s and Aspen
- Umphrey’s McGee has been playing in Aspen for a damn long time, dating back to 2003 at the Double Diamond, which would later become the Belly Up Aspen. Since then they have played the Belly Up 9 times! The only other time Umphreys has played Aspen outside of the Belly Up too place in September, 2009 at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival, a day after their legendary 2009 Mishawaka appearance in Fort Collins.
- When it comes to skiing in Aspen, we suggest Snowmass. With the largest skiable area and runs that will accommodate all of your friend’s skill levels, Snowmass is but a free bus ride away from main bus stops in Aspen, every 15 minutes between 6:15 am and 7:30 pm. Snowmass probably has the best scenic views out of all the mountains and is perfect if you’re looking for the type of casual riding we’d expect betwix a two night show. That said, if you’re looking to go extremely intense, you could head to the Aspen Highlands for tons of double-black diamonds.
- About the Belly Up
- The Belly-Up is as fine as they come for small venues – sightlines are abundant and the tiered sections make it easy to see the band – however, it can get easily crowded. Remember not to shove or be a dickbag about how tiny this place is, the privilege that we get to rage Umphrey’s at such a intimate place means we also have to be mindful of each other and the limited room therein. We would venture that this venue is far too small to enjoy any special “Colorado Recreation Activities” within, and they will kick you out if they catch you – get blazed before/afterwards. The venue has re-entry to access the smoking sections, you can leave and return any time as long as you have your hand stamped, a wrist band and a ticket.
- Poppycock’s Cafe is a favorite for delicious Aspen breakfasts. Located in the heart of downtown, well known for their amazing buttermilk pancakes (Oatmeal is apparently amazing). The benedicts (veggie and Salmon) alongside their smoothies also get many positive reviews. Expect a medium-sized wait.
- Main Street Bakery & Cafe is the breakfast joint I suggest to people staying at the amazing Aspen lodging institution The Tyrolean. They frown on cell phone usage, so don’t come expecting to get digital with your breakfast, their large open rooms and communal seating inspire a more “homely” vibe than one might be used to in Aspen. Their food is excellent, biscuits and gravy come highly recommended. They just aren’t the fastest moving wait staff in the planet, if you know what we mean.
- Peaches Corner Cafe looks absolutely to die for, and while we haven’t be there personally, it comes highly recommended. A “healthy” alternative, Peaches corner cafe is described as “crowded chic” by one reviewer. The Open Face appears to favored.
- We love to stop by the Grateful Deli any time we’re in good olde Aspen-town. Big sammies with Grateful Dead themed names? Yes please! Every run, we stop be here. It is small, definitely a grab-and-go place, but it beats the pants out of other joints in town. The Terrapin and Darkstar suggested for meat eaters, while the Magic Mushroom, Eddy Out and Cassidy work best for vegetarians. You can call ahead to make the wait time faster for your order (they’re slow moving wookies): 970-925-6647. Menu here.
- Inside of a small, weird house that seems out of place in Aspen, Little Annie’s is an institution which serves moderately priced food and has a “Shots and Pitcher” deal which will get you all worked up pre-show. The menu reads almost like a Chicago “Cheese Fry Joint’-gone-Western, with burgers (veggie avail), Gyros, Chicken Sandwiches, BBQ Beef, etc. Close to the venue as well.
- New York Pizza is a late night delight – and while it is not the most delicious pizza in the planet, it will feel that way when you’re completely sloshed at 1:30am standing outside the Belly Up starving in the cold.
- Justice Snow’s made it onto the “drinking” menu due to its amazing happy hour and specialty drink selection. Described by one reviewer as “hipster western”, they do have a menu that caters to carnivores with little for vegetarians on the menu. However, it does look like they take a delicious (though expensive) approach to steaks and other western classics, we just would consider them “over budget” for our tastes on a run like this.
- Hops Culture is a modernesque bar with a nice lunch menu and a focus on craft breweries. While not brewers themselves, the restaurant features 200+ uniquely crafted brews for you to sample. There are happy hour specials and the food is not bad either, our friend claiming that the “burger is one of the best I’ve ever had”.
- When in Colorado, feel free to enjoy unprecedented freedom by getting high legally, however, remember that they’ve made it difficult for tourists to chief by making it illegal to toke outdoors. Everything is more expensive in the mountains and you have far more variety in Denver/on the Front Range if you’re flying in or driving from the Eastern states. Regardless, if you’re looking for a suggested place to go in Aspen, we would point to Alternative Medical Solutions, though they haven’t updated their Weedmaps menu in 2+ years.