Umphrey's McGee 3.9.12
The Fillmore Auditorium
Words & Photos By J-man
Video By Nicholas Stock
The stage was set for a sold out show at The Fillmore Auditorium, where Denver would welcome rock powerhouse, Umphrey's McGee. The line to get into the venue extended down the block and was the root of a plethora of antics. Inside New York band Jimkata played to a quickly filling room. Unfortunately, due to a ticket mix up, we were forced to miss Jimkata's opening set, as we sorted out the details of our issues. Backstage the hustle and bustle of show preparation was in full effect and was ceased briefly by Brendan Bayliss (Guitar) to assist in the ticket matter. The transfer was made from Bayliss' hand to mine and I found myself out front resolving the matter. Twenty minutes later, our party was inside of the Fillmore just as Umphrey's Mcgee took the stage to a crowd waiting in anticipation!
The photo pit was packed with some of the scene's most prominent photographers as the stage came to life. Some maracas, a drum cadence and a grimy beat welcomed Chicago's own to the stage, where noodling quickly became tense and structured with "Gurgle." The opening of "40's Theme" brought a roar from the crowd and massive peaks from UM early on. Jake Cinninger's guitar screamed as he leaned his head back, holding his abused instrument in the air. The band powered through ridiculous progressions with precision and accuracy leaving one only to reflect on the epicness of UM's output. A powerful twenty two minute "Ocean Billy" triggered excitement from the capacity crowd. The intensity climbed in a masterful fashion, building more and more tension only to resolve to laid back vocals. The back and forth of the tempo and time signature reflected a well-rehearsed and technically advance group of musicians.
The accompaniment of UM's top notch light rig, as controlled by Jefferson Waful, created an incredible sensory experience that tickled minds. It was not uncommon to look around and see fans staring in disbelief as they were completely captivated by the lights and patterns being thrown. Waful is clearly an integral part of the Umphrey's McGee experience. The chemistry of all who are involved in the overall experience are unsurpassed on our scene, elevating UM shows to an all out sensory assault. The musical journey took yet another shift as the music leveled out and Joel Cummins took over on a heavy synth. The jam peaked once more and allowed for Bayliss' closing vocals of the composition, coming to an abrupt end, with a single note sounding out of place.
"Miami Virtue" began with a dedication to the ladies in front. The newer tune built slowly, resolving with some of Umphrey's most poppy vocals to date. The song opened up in the middle and meandered along with percussive fills and chimes from Andy Farag. In the scheme of things, the jam sounded good, but up next to some of UM's more developed works, it reflected a live composition in it's infancy. "Morning Song," a vocally focused track followed with subtle instrumentation. Sweet tones crescendoed with Kris Myers leading the charge on the kit. Following the slower song, Bayliss stepped to the mic to thank the Denver crowd for turning out and supporting the band.
The high point of the first set came with a "In The Kitchen>Glory>In The Kitchen." Fans sang along as they danced with their eyes closed and arms in the air. Umphrey's McGee's production was near perfect, reflecting a level that few bands on the live music scene have been able to achieve. There were no misses, there were no flubs, just musical perfection combined with incredible audio and visual engineering. Midway through the jam sandwich during "Glory," a dance party broke out. Folks in neon tracks suits, colorful afros, sunglasses, costumes and glitter celebrated life with one of their obvious favorite musical acts. UM knew what the crowd wanted and they delivered without hesitation. They resolved to "In The kitchen" to close the incredible first set.
"We are Ryan Stasik & The Rattails, we're taking a very short break. Don't go changin'," Bayliss said into the microphone with a smile.
The lights in The Fillmore rose as folks headed in all directions. The shear magnitude and energy of the crowd was evident within the illuminated venue. Friends assembled in their respective gathering spots to discuss the show thus far and to share in the occasion with good company. An extended set break concluded with UM's return to the stage. They began the second set with "Puppet String," which initially seemed like an odd choice, but quickly began to build with furious duel guitars and heavy bass drops from Ryan Stasik. "Domino Theory" brought a grungy feel to The Fillmore, as well as some funky instrumentation on the back end of the song.
"Both Love" began with some tonal experimentation and harmonics that welcomed Dominic Lalli from Big Gigantic to the stage for some added saxophone. The song eased in with Dom providing some smooth and tasteful licks. One thing about Dom's playing was that it was clean and well developed. The crowd was thrilled with his presence as they got down to some funky ass chops. Following the climactic jam, Dom exited the stage and Umphrey's continued with "August." With raging consistency UM tore through insane progressions, only slowing down for the vocal sections. Towards the end of the song, Jake took over with a strong rock ballad sounding solo. "Linear" came next and unfolded with intense development. Towards the end of the song the music sounded very Pink Floyd-esque with digital effects and resolving with ambiance. "Linear" went into the synth-heavy "Go To Hell." The bending notation oozing off the stage provided a unique vibe that turned heavy quick.
"Ringo" began with duel tones and dropped into a bouncy backbeat triggering the vocal cue. Some funky guitar slaps and bass chops segued into a crowd fueled "We want the Umph!" "Ringo" went into "Voyager" and back into "Ringo" to close the second set.
"See you at Red Rocks September 14th! We'll be doing two sets with Railroad Earth... The best venue in the world..." Jake said as the band exited the stage.
The band returned to encored with " Hajimemashite." Initially many were scratching their heads by the selection. Though it's a fan favorite, it's a slower vocally oriented song. The jam built and built and built leading into some awesome musical parts before transitioning into "Triple Wide." It is more along the lines of what the crowd expected for an encore. The song opened up and the crowd went crazy. Insane guitar work lead to mind-bending synth work. The jam slowly began to change and tease at a universally familiar song, Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." Many in the crowd ate up the selection, while many awaited the jams almost inevitable resolution to "Triple Wide". Oddly enough, that moment never really came and Umphrey's McGee closed the evening with a cover.
It was clear why Umphrey's McGee sold out The Fillmore. They are a band on the top of the scene and constantly getting bigger. Their utilization of social media, their stage production, their lights and audio engineering are unsurpassed on the scene. Add flawless instrumentation and changes at the drop of a dime and you have the complete rock package. Leaving The Fillmore there was a massive buzz for UM's September 14th Red Rocks show. Unlike last year, Umphrey's McGee, along side Railroad Earth, will sell out the famed venue. It's Umphrey's McGee turn to take over...
Umphreys McGee Live at Fillmore Auditorium on March 9, 2012.
Set One: Gurgle > 40's Theme, Ocean Billy, Miami Virtue, Morning Song, In The Kitchen > Glory > In The Kitchen
Set Two: Puppet String, Domino Theory, Booth Love^, August, The Linear > Go To Hell, Ringo* > Voyager > Ringo
Encore: Hajimemashite > The Triple Wide > Billie Jean
^ with Dominic Lalli (Big Gigantic) on saxophone
* with Soul Food II jam
J-man's Photo Gallery