Umphrey's McGee 12.30.13
Words By J-man
Photos By Kevin Hahn (Split open & Shoot)
We wandered around getting lost in nostalgic throwbacks. Ball after ball dropped into play and was sent bouncing around the confines of the flashing and glowing machines. I witnessed grown men turn back into children, completely sucked into 8-bit video games. As if that didn't make the evening alone, we looked up to realize that we had yet to venture into the main concert venue. We ran into Abby Radbill (Umphrey's Mondays), Matthew Stewart (The gentleman in the tiny hat who hands out stickers across the front range), Kevin Hahn and several other friends and Umphrey's fanatics. The fun part about running into everyone was the element of surprise, as no one had any clue that we would be attending. Our attention turned to the open bar and with an Umphrey's Mcgee koozie in one hand and a MusicMarauders koozie in the other, I ordered my first two Dale's Pale Ales of the evening. A short time later, I nearly collided with bassist, Ryan Stasik, on his way to the stage. Just before the show began I ran into multiple folks who drove from as far as Michigan, Florida and Massachusetts, to see their favorite band in Denver, CO. I knew the evening was nothing to take lightly, so I dove into the intoxicants and hung on for the ride.
After some humorous banter about the only other time the band had played an arcade, they kicked off "Night Nurse." The music meandered along with some staccato picking lathered in effects. With Joel Cummins touching on a somber vibe on the keys, things became intense and UM transitioned into "Padgett's Profile." The energy leveled out as Stasik dug in with some heavy bass slaps. The jam cooled and the band caught the capacity crowd off guard going into a song that they had only played one other time, Elton John's "Benny and the Jets." My jaw dropped as Bayliss attempted the ridiculous high notes, successfully I might add. The 1up went ape shit as Joel played some tasteful key licks. As if I wasn't already disoriented by the free beer and the band's choice of cover, they transition back into "All In Time" to close out the grande sandwich. My head almost exploded, but I was able to keep it together for the nearly seven minute resolve of a song they started the show with some sixty minutes prior. It was beautiful. It was glorious. It was just the beginning.
"This next one was a surprising high top vote getter so... We hope you like this one, because you picked it," Bayliss said as the band debuted Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget About Me)."
The discussion had been had at a few points already that weekend, that UM does covers possibly better than any other band. It was perfect and before we knew it, we were back in the 80's yet again. It felt good and people were getting down! Bayliss gave a short speech about how we are all in it together before dropping into the final stretch of the song and the set with everyone singing along.
"We're Kris Myers and The Bubble Baths. We're taking a very short break, we'll see you in a few minutes," Bayliss said as the band exited the stage.
An extended synth hold from Joel yielded "Nothing Too Fancy," and some interesting electronic drum clicks. The tempo picked up and it was off to the races with wailing guitar work and well timed cues. Hands were in the air as folks jumped up and down uncontrollably in what felt like an all out celebration. Following each song, I found myself saying "wow," and looking around at my friends to find them with a similar expression of fright on their faces. "FF" came next with Bayliss and the capacity crowd taking over on vocals, before the band started to tease and eventually head into "Legalize It," in celebration of Colorado selling marijuana in stores just a couple of days to follow. The song was wacky, well timed and entertaining as hell, from a Colorado marijuana smoker's point of view. "Legalize It" went into "Blue Echo" and featured some interesting breakbeats and spacey effects, again reflecting a fantastically diverse range and incredible musical insight.
UM dropped "Q*Bert" on the loyal crowd, with a well-timed "whew" from the audience on cue. Joel again stepped to the front of the composition with Kris chopping along on the kit before the guitars and bass reentered the picture in a jammed out fashion. Another category from the ballot "New cover, band choice," triggered "Glide," courtesy of Stasik.
"Are you guys wearing dancing pants?" Bayliss asked the crowd before suggesting "You're going to need them."
"The Fussy Dutchman" came next to close the second set. Per usual, every member of the band contributed an essential layer to what amounted to epic musical output. The guitar ascended and descended back and forth, bending huge notes before falling into sweeping arpeggios. The jam mellowed out again creating some wide open space for some video game sounding instrumentation. Through approximately seventeen minutes of extreme peaks the band bounced as much rage as possible off of the foreheads of their adoring fans, sealing the deal on another mind-blowing set of music.
The 1up started in with the "We want the Umph" chant.
"One of the reasons we wanted to do this tonight was for the Colorado Mondays people who have been promoting our music and coming out and having a good time and making a Monday every month something special. So, cheers to you guys!" Jake declared.
The evening was a constant reminder of the overall musical and business dominance of Umphrey's McGee. The perfection of every single song the band undertook, alongside fantastic stage presence and musical intuition, instantly made the expensive ticket for the intimate experience worthwhile. Kudos to The 1up for being able to dream big and perfectly execute a show of this nature in such a new and untested space. Building the venue for UM down, will ensure a high level of output from what I consider a game changer for the Denver, CO music venues. The combination of two powerhouse entities made that evening one of the greatest concert experiences of my life and for that I will always be grateful. The realization that we still had three sets the following night on New Years Eve set in so we headed home to rest and repeat. That night approximately 400 people witnessed greatness. I've said it before and I'll say it again, if you ask me who my favorite band is, chances are I will respond with "Umphrey's McGee"...
Kevin's Photo Gallery
Set One: All In Time -> 2x2 > Night Nurse > Padgett's Profile > Bennie and the Jets > All In Time, Search 4 > Orfeo, Don't You (Forget About Me)
Set Two: Nothing Too Fancy, FF > Legalize It -> Blue Echo, Q*Bert, Glide, Muff II: The Revenge, The Girl Is Mine > Jane Says > The Girl Is Mine -> Pork Chop Pie, The Fussy Dutchman
Encore: In The Puppet Kitchen
 with Auld Lang Syne jam
 debut, Simple Minds
 with Legalize It (Peter Tosh) tease
 debut, Pleasure
 "Jimmy Stewart" with lyrics