Tag: review

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.