Umphrey's McGee in Denver 2.11.11
Words, Photos & Videos By J-man
Umphreys McGee Live at The Fillmore on February 11, 2011. <--- Direct Archive Link
Umphrey's Mcgee is one of the top bands on this scene of ours. That being said, folks were really looking forward to that Friday evening's show in Denver. We would be joined by Particle Saxophonist Pete Wall for the evening. We pre-gamed with a bottle of wine and made our way on foot the few blocks to the Fillmore Theater. We grabbed our credentials and made our way to the line that wrapped around the block. On the way to the back of the line, we passed an open door to the theater and could hear the Kyle Hollingsworth Band performing. The line would have taken us forty five minutes to get through, so we made our way to the front of the line. We explained our predicament to a kind security guard and he opened the gate and slid us thorough.
Inside of the Fillmore people were getting excited. We hit a wall of sound upon entering and we were ready to get down. Carly and Pete grabbed drinks as I made my way to the pit, which was already closed. I was able to convince the security guard to let me into the pit for two minutes to get a few shots. The Kyle Hollingsworth Band sounded pretty good. Kyle's key work was consistent as always, Garrett Sayers absolutely destroyed the bass per usual and Logic scratched tastefully over the jams.
I exited the pit following my two minutes and made my way to the soundboard where I found Carly and Pete with beers in hand. Even from next to the sound board, the sound was not good and there were almost no lights being used. The energy was some what lacking until the last jam or two of the opening set, at which point the guitarist broke out and the band really got into it. The set came to a close and I got my gear situated for Umphrey's McGee. As I situated my cameras, the stage was being shuffled around for UM. I stood and talked with Pete and up walked DJ Logic. He hugged Pete and shook my hand. I inquired about an interview, we took a couple of photos and off Logic went to get paid.
Umphrey's hit the stage with force. The audio mix was perfect, the lights were solid and varied in several colors. It was like night and day compared to the production of the Kyle Hollingsworth Band. Umphrey's meant business. The Fillmore was packed and the energy was insane. People were screaming, throwing their hands up and getting down hard. Denver had turned out to rage...
A pre-recorded audio track of horns playing a recognizable march had the crowd in a frenzy as UM dropped into the reggae-sounding "Higgins". Slowly, the groove took off into an extremely progressive jam. The next song on the setlist came in the form of one of my favorites into one of the best overall jam/segues of the evening "All in Time>Conduit>Jimmy Stewart>Conduit" The crowd lost as did I, and began dancing. This was one of those moments that remind me why I love Umphrey's McGee. The energy was almost unfathomable. The transitions were incredible and tight, leading the crowd on a journey through space.
A short version of "End of the Road" came and went leaving us with "Resolution" back into "All in Time" to finish up the earlier open-ended jam. Following a rip-roaring beginning of the show, the band took the opportunity to throw some banter at the crowd.
"See, this is cool. When you throw shit like this at us, it makes us happy... and rejoiceful." Bayliss said holding up a bra.
"So, it's up to you. You can throw other things..." He went on to say.
"We like green things too... Anything green as well..." Jake interrupted.
Next the band went into a cheesy, 80's sounding version of "Peg" that led into the set break. In my opinion, they would have been better served leaving it at "All in Time" for the set closer. Regardless the crowd was pleased and the mad scramble of set break was on. Folks poured in all directions in search of conversation, friends, good times, and substances. We met up with our buddy Spuckes and spoke with Pete about his thoughts on UM thus far, as it was his first show. He was impressed with the music and production as we all were.
The second set began with the fury that is "JaJunk". It was by far one of the most intense songs of the evening, and for them to transition right into "Bright Lights", a clear crowd favorite, was really solid. Jake Cinninger guitar chops and fills mirrored perfection. Umphrey's does not miss notes. What they do is tastefully and tactfully dismantle minds through strong composition and skill. The combination of Brendan Bayliss' and Jake's duel leads had me clutching my face, holding on for dear life.
"Mantis Ghetts" was synth-heavy and danceable. Joel Cummins had really stepped up his playing from the last few times that I saw UM. He impressed me that night in Denver. I looked around and noticed everyone dancing. It was cool to see that large of a crowd at a UM show. The Fillmore is a large venue, and it was packed and moving. They transitioned to "Gulf Stream" and what sounded like a vocal improv about friends, drinking and being together. Every Umphrey's show has a "bro-out" and that night "Gulf Stream" was indeed the bro-out. On the other hand, the instrumentation was heavy. UM does a great job of going through different vibes, creating tension and release as well as nailing the climax. I was, and continue to be more impressed show by show.
"Gulf Stream" transitioned into a dark "Jimmy Stewart", unlike the earlier version. I put my head down and danced my ass of. At this point in the show we were near the soundboard and the crowd in front of us was raging. I've never seen that many people getting down, with their hands in the air, at an indoor show. It was impressive and enjoyable to say the least.
Kris Myers. Kris fucking Myers. Kris is by far one of the best, most consistent and aggressive/driving drummers on the scene. In my opinion, he was one of the key factors in elevating Umphrey's to the level at which they are currently on. That night in Denver Kris destroyed everything.
"Hows it going Denver!?! I'm feelin' good. How are you feeling? Like you want to rage... right... now? Because I want to rage... right.. now." Ryan Stasik stated in a monotone voice.
Following a five minute "Deeper" they went into one of my favorite UM songs, "Hurt Bird Bath" that clocked in around sixteen minutes. The song raged from the get go. Their timing and transitional approach was flawless and fluid. One really noticeable thing about UM that captivates most listeners is their tone. It's impeccable. I was amazed at the variety of tones and sounds that I heard throughout "HBB". Sometimes it's the subtle aspects that really draw you in. As "Hurt Bird Bath" progressed it got heavier and heavier and I loved every minute of it.
They threw some love out to Denver, Colorado and then it happened...
"Would you guys come out to Red Rocks if we played Red Rocks this summer?" asked Waful, UM's light guy, from the booth.
The crowd went absolutely ape-shit...
"... Last year was pretty fun, fourth of July weekend... What do you think about this year? July 3rd maybe? How does that sound?"
Again, the crowd went nuts...
"We'll see you at Red Rocks, July 3rd."
With that announcement they went into a cover of The Who's "Eminence Front". Joel started on the keys/synth...
"Are you guys fucking ready to rage?" Stasik asked the crowd.
"Eminence Front" was awesome. Umphrey's often does covers better than the original band. Now, I'm not suggesting that they played it better than The Who, but they tore it up. The instrumentation was really interesting, and created a great vibe in the Fillmore and that would be the closer.
Immediately following UM walking off of the stage someone began singing "Let's Give Them Something to Talk About" with the crow joining in. The band again took the stage a announced that they would be doing two sets at Red Rocks, because of that night's sold out show at the Fillmore! They plugged Joel's late night show at Quixote's and went into a hard "Plunger>Glory>Plunger".
The ability, stage presence and production of UM far surpasses that of almost any other band on the scene. That February night in Denver, they sold out the Fillmore. The predictions of many are coming to fruition; Umphrey's McGee is taking over. It's been a long time since I have seen the type of reception that I saw for a band that night in Denver. People love Umphrey's McGee... I am one of those people.
J-man's Photo Gallery From The Show
Higgins, All In Time > Conduit > "Jimmy Stewart" > Conduit, End of the Road, Resolution > All In Time, Peg
JaJunk > Bright Lights, Mantis Ghetts > Gulf Stream > "Jimmy Stewart", Deeper, Hurt Bird Bath, Eminence Front
Plunger > Glory > Plunger