Umphrey’s McGee & Railroad Earth 9.14.12

Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Morrison, CO

Written By Nicholas Stock
Photos By Nicholas Stock & Justin Picard

After a lazy night with Railroad Earth at The Boulder Theater it was time for the main event with both RRE and Umphrey’s McGee showcasing their skills at Red Rocks. Opting out of throwing their third Red, Rocks, & Blue show around the 4th of July, UM instead, created a late summer run that included both bands playing in Boulder. Traffic was murder as all the Coloradoans sped down the road for one more summer adventure before the leaves turned. We arrived at the box office, which was swamped with all manner of wooks, hippie chicks, and lot regulars. It was like working my way through the Cantina on Mos Eisley in Star Wars complete with alien life forms and shitty oboe jams. After procuring my pass we headed to the top and parked in Upper North. The lot was full as randoms milled about waiting to head inside. Our time was short, but we managed to see a few friends and have a beer before finding a spot inside.

The show was GA again meaning that all of Red Rocks was wide open. Fans squeezed to the front as the middle quickly filled in. Railroad Earth took the stage with a massive “Seven Story Mountain” to start their almost two-hour set.

Set One: Seven Story Mountain, Happy Song, Gold Rush, Mighty River, Saddle Of The Sun, The Old Man and the Land, Elko, Mourning Flies, Lone Croft Farewell, Hunting Song, Long Way To Go, Spring-Heeled Jack, Colorado

Overall the Railroad set had more energy than the previous night in Boulder. They were playing to the crowd with long meandering jams and even playing in a borderline psychedelic style towards the end of their set. Railroad Earth is a great band that continues to grow and evolve. Every year that they come to Colorado they bring newsongs and a stylistic shift that broadens their appeal and furthers their ability to excite audiences. In just the last three years they have come so far, I can honestly say when they bring the energy they are a tough band to beat live. Last year RRE played Red Rocks with Yonder Mountain String Band, but making a shift and hoping to open up their sound to new fans, they decided to play with Umphrey’s McGee. I for one think it was a bold move on their part and an excellent way to get exposure in Colorado. Most YMSB fans would know RRE, but that is not necessarily true of UM fans. Not to mention that this set was a solid introduction for anyone who was new to seeing them live. Highlights of the show included a strong “Elko” and a stunning “Spring Heeled-Jack.” They ended the opening set appropriately enough with “Colorado.”

Umphrey’s was up next and at this point there was still plenty of room at the top of the venue. I’m not sure why UM has such a hard time selling out Red Rocks. It seems that they did everything to promote the show properly including ticket giveaways, announcing they would be filming a DVD, creating social media buzz, and more. They seem to be cursed at The Edge; they just hit a wall around 8,000 attendees every year, never really breaking that barrier. The members of Umphrey’s have been having fun with some mock political ads featuring Joel Cummins and Andy Farag for president. Both sets began with an attack ad from both sides.

After the ad they opened with a fun but quick “There’s No Crying In Mexico.”

Set One: There’s No Crying In Mexico> All In Time> ‘Jimmy Stewart’*> All In Time, Puppet String> 2x2, Miami Virtue> The Linear> Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, The Floor

Set Two: Ocean Billy, Nothing Too Fancy> Mulche’s Odyssey, End of the Road, Conduit> Nothing Too Fancy, Plunger> Puppet String

Encore: Kashmir^

Second Encore: JaJunk

*with Lyrics
^with Railroad Earth

This was a classic Umphrey’s show, featuring some solid back and forth jamming as well as amazingly tight delivery, which has been their hallmark for the better part of a decade now. The “All In Time” “Jimmy Stewart” sandwich stretched on to the 20-minute mark showing the band’s readiness to go off the deep end right from the onset. After the band caught their breath they went into another long version of “Puppet String” which was left unfinished. The “2x2” was a chance for the band to stretch out under Bayliss’s singing. “Miami Virtue” was a welcomed tune as it has been slowly developing as a crowd favorite since its release on Death By Stereo. Bayliss again took the vocals with the progressive-tinged “The Linear.” Umphrey’s surprised the crowd with the Radiohead cover “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi,” which was done quite well. They ended the first set with a foreboding “The Floor,” leaving many fans chomping at the bit for set two. This was a solid first set offering from UM. They established that they were ready to jam, and that they were definitely still playing at the top of their game.

The second set began another enormous jam this time on “Ocean Billy.” The “Nothing Too Fancy” built very nicely as the band layered their instrumentation quite well, before it erupted into crunchy “Mulche’s Odyssey.”

They came back down to planet earth with a tasty “End of the Road.” Umphrey’s blasted off with a dark take on “Conduit” which felt like the pivot point of the entire set. Kris Myers and Andy Farag brought the heat here before the band made their way back into the close of “Nothing Too Fancy.” They ended the second set with an incredible “Plunger” back into “Puppet String.” The second set was a beautiful display of how well these guys play together as a group. They listen to each other and they know what the other members of the band are thinking. Every time I see Umphrey’s live it’s like looking at a perfectly timed engine with all the components completely in synch. It is because they are so tight that they continue to attract new fans and push the limits of their musical potential.

The first encore may have been the highlight of the entire show with Railroad Earth sitting in with UM on Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” RRE did get lost in the mix a bit, but it was definitely a fun experiment. I honestly thought that UM would entertain some more acoustic playing given the fact that they have performed several stripped down shows as of late. This was not the case, rather RRE played up to a heavier sound, which is definitely apparent in this encore. Umphrey’s came back for a second encore solo and played a nice “JaJunk” to close the show. It was a pleasant way to close out Red Rocks for the summer and an enjoyable show all around. The combination of RRE and UM made for an interesting dynamic. I look forward to the day when UM will become fully embraced in Colorado and finally sell out Red Rocks. They certainly deserve it.


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