Umphrey's McGee, The Motet & Moon Taxi 7.5.14

Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Morrison, CO

Words By J. Picard
Photos By Kevin Hahn (Split Open & Shoot)

Red Rocks Amphiteatre is one of the countries greatest venues, with a respective capacity of 9,450. That evening in Morrison, CO would not mark the first time that Umphrey's McGee had played the incredible venue. In fact, they have been playing Red Rocks for a handful of years, headlining with a variety of band combinations in an attempt to hit the milestone of a sell out. On July 5th, 2014, the right combination fell into place with the help of Colorado funk superstars, The Motet, and alt rockers, Moon taxi, from Nashville, TN. The formula was complete and that night, with the support of their passionate fans, Umphrey's McGee sold out the fabled venue. Perfect conditions swept over the Front Range and as folks partied hard in Red Rocks' stacked lots, the evening began.

Moon Taxi Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on July 5, 2014.

Setlist: Hypnus, Running Wild, Morroco, Suspicious, Whiskey Sunset > Blinded by the Light, Southern Trance, The Stand, Mercery

First to take the stage was Moon Taxi, who from the get go commanded the attention of the quickly filling amphitheatre. Their combination of dancability, instrumentation and catchy lyrical arrangements made for a great start to the evening. It was clear that their fanbase was well represented as they dove into their repitoir for a variety of genre-crossing compositions. Three songs into the band's set they called attention to one of the guitars on stage that belonged to Jerry Garcia and was played during the infamous Cornell 77' show. Following the intro the band launched into a pop sounding tune, "Morroco," which seemed an odd choice considering the history of the featured instrument. As the first of the evening's three sets progressed, the venue continued to fill towards capacity. Towards the end of the set, Moon Taxi launched into Manfred Mann's Earth Band's "Blinded By The Light" to mix things up a bit. As the set wound down, Moon Taxi laid it all on the table through a barrage of wailing guitar, intense grooves and sweet melodies that captivated the crowd.

As the stagehands and roadies swapped out gear for the evening's next band, Red Rocks was packed! It felt as if the show's headliner was about to take the stage and for many who turned out, the following band was who they came to see. The Motet has been putting in time for a while, building their brand and securing their core group of musicians. Over the last couple of years the band has sold out rooms at an increasing frequency, building up to a massive sell out on 4.20.13 at The Fillmore Auditorium in Denver, CO. Through all of the bands that Umphrey's McGee has tried to fit into the formula of a Red Rocks sellout, no one knew that it would be The Motet that would push them over the top. With the band's entrance to the stage, the capacity crowd erupted before getting served a large portion of Colorado funk!

The Motet Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on July 5, 2014.

Setlist: Introduction, Keep On Don't Stoppin' > Shake Your Bootie, Closed Mouth Don't Get Fed, The Fountain, 123 > Cut The Cake > Nemesis > Extraordinarily High, Like We Own It

Following a short intro from vocalist Jans Ingber, Dave Watts launched the band into "Keep On Don't Stoppin," with heavy grooves from the start. Joey Porter leaned into the keys with quick chops and his signature talkbox to lay out the funk, before the outfit transitioned into "Shake Your Bootie," which featured solos from Garrett Sayers on bass and Ryan Jalbert on guitar. "Closed Mouth Don't Get Fed" paved the way for some great horn section work from Gabe Mervine and Matt Pitts, to which the crowd responded. "The Fountain" slowed things down a touch before a run of songs that included "123" > "Cut The Cake" > "Nemesis" with near seamless transitions. "Extraordinarily High" came next in fitting fashion as cannabis smoke filled the air and further contributed to the Colorado vibe. What's more Colorado than smoking legal marijuana and dancing to The Motet at Red Rocks? The band finished their set with "Like We Own It" and that night in front of 9,000 plus people, The Motet certainly did own it.

If the evening ended at that point, fans would have gotten their money's worth, however it did not. Umphrey's McGee took the stage to the excitement of the sold out crowd! The energy and anticipation was extremely elevated as the band began with a brief "Lucid State" that went into "Conduit." A short but intense "Cut The Cable" came and went with guitarist Brendan Bayliss exclaiming "Red Rocks, we love you so much, thank you guys so much for coming out! This is one of the most magical places we've ever played. You know, we get to play here I don't know how many times and every time it feels like the first time. Thank you so much!"

Umphreys McGee Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on July 5, 2014.

Set One: Lucid State[1] > Conduit > Cut the Cable, JaJunk > Ocean Billy > Gents[2] > Ocean Billy, All In Time, End of the Road, Educated Guess[1], Hollywood Nights

Set Two: Little Gift, Bridgeless > Bad Friday[3], Dump City, Slacker, Wappy Sprayberry > JaJunk

Encore: Ophelia[4], Hajimemashite > Bridgeless

[1] debut, original
[2] partial
[3] with Dominic Lalli on saxophone
[4] with Gabe Mervine on trumpet, Matt Pitts on saxophone, and Jans Ingber on vocals

"JaJunk" came next with the raging fury that Umphrey's puts out through most compositions. The mid-section of the jam opened up and created an airy space of improvisation. Heavy ripping between Jake Cinninger and Bayliss lead to the transition into "Ocean's Billy," leaving "JaJunk" unfinished as Kris Myers on drums and Andy Farag on percussion drove the music to epic heights as Ryan Stasik threw punches on bass as each note of the composition was hit with precision through all sixteen minutes. Fan favorite "All In Time" came next eluding to another lengthy segment of soaring jams! The band did not disapoint as the Colorado crowd went absolutely nuts through the majority of the seventeen minute song. "End of The Road" featured the piano work of Joel Cummins and Jake on Jerry Garcia's 1977 guitar. The song was short but sweet, as was the "Educated Guess" that followed with sparactic shredding. Bob Seager's "Hollywood Nights" closed the first set.

The lights came up and the crowd came to life, as if apart of some weird psychedelic game show. People danced, celebrated, did stand up comedy among their peers and dashed in every direction while Denver's city lights sparkled in the distance. The second set began with a short but rowdy "Little Gift" that went into "Bridgeless" with riffing power. The jam expanded and collapsed as the band segued into "Bad Friday," leaving "Bridgeless" unfinished and with UM welcoming Dominic Lalli of Big Gigantic to the stage for some added sax. "Dump City" came next with heavy bass and chops from the rhythm section throughout the jam. Following "Dump City," Bayliss got on the mic for the following gem.

"So, uh... when I was a sophmore in college, I went up to the music department and said that I want to be a music major and the head of the music department told me that since I had no formal training and I couldn't read music, that me trying to persue a career in music was like him trying out for the Cincinatti Reds. Yeah, right... I got two words for him, 'Red Rocks'. That being said, I was kind of lost for a minute and I had a couple of classes with a professor who kind of reinspired me and turned me onto some good writers and good performance artists like Lori Anderson. He inspired me to follow my inner-voice and disregard what people say. I think he's out there tonight. Professor Fredman, if you are out there, thank you for inspiring me to come back to this place."

"Slacker" dropped in with Bayliss at the vocal helm before a descending section that further reflected the tightness of UM. "Wappy Sprayberry" kicked off eluding to the impending conclusion of the second set. Heavy synthesizer from Joel pushed the jam over the top as it neared the end of the composition. "Wappy Sprayberry" turned into the earlier unfinished "JaJunk" to close the second set. A short five minutes later, UM returned to the stage with The Motet's horn section in tow for The Band's "Ophelia." Gabe and Matt added a fantastic layer to the mix for the duration of the easy going jam. "Hajimemashite" seemed the perfect close to an incredible night of musical fantasy and the achieving of dreams for a bunch of hardworking folks. With one last transition, UM went into the unfinished "Bridgeless" for one last auditory assualt! What started out as a mission to sell out Red Rocks, ended in glory for one of the live music scene's true greats! Congratulations to Umphrey's McGee, The Motet and Moon Taxi and thanks for one of the best evenings on the Rocks in some time!

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