Thursday, January 28, 2016

Everyone Orchestra & Dirtwire 1.15.16


Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom
Denver, CO

Words & Photos By Coleman Schwartz


Improvisation is one of the best parts of music. When musicians communicate with each other onstage and adapt to each other’s playing, styles and genres fuse together into a beautiful, spontaneous creation. Especially in the jam scene, it is not uncommon to see bands spend a large chunk of their performance on improvisation. Everyone Orchestra takes this concept to the next level by playing an entire two-set show, made up of only improvised music. Conductor, Matt Butler, directs a rotating cast of musicians, helping them to make up a cohesive show on-the-fly.
Their lineup is tailored to the location, always featuring plenty of local talent, along with a few out-of-towners. This two-night-run at Denver’s Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom featured a host of talent from Colorado’s vibrant music scene, including Michael Kang and Michael Travis (electric mandolin and drums, String Cheese Incident), Oteil Burbridge (bass guitar, Allman Brothers/Dead and Company), CR Gruver (keyboards, New Orleans Suspects), Jay Starling (slide guitar, Love Cannon), Rob Compa (guitar, Dopapod), Steve Berlin (baritone saxophone, Los Lobos), and Natalie Cressman (trombone/vocals, Trey Anastasio Band).

Also featured were David Satori and Evan Fraser, multi-instrumentalists of back porch electro-blues/Americana duo Dirtwire. In addition to their roles in the orchestra, Dirtwire performed the opening set. The group features diverse, ever-changing instrumentation over world-music rhythm tracks that incorporate abundant percussion. Their music inspired lots of dancing, from subtle head-bobs to full-on, floor-spinning break dancing from the venue’s more excitable patrons. Dirtwire offers an interesting fusion of diverse world music with electronic dance music, in a form easily digestible to anyone wearing dancing shoes.

Satori spent the set playing a mixture of banjo, guitar, electric violin (he called it a “space fiddle”) and drums. I was particularly impressed with his slide-banjo playing, which conjured a feeling of expressive, soaring psychedelia. Fraser spent time singing, playing harmonica, kamale n’goni, jaw harp, melodica, and some type of sampler. His jaw harp work was extremely distinctive, and reminded me of a mini-didgeridoo. The kamale n’goni is a West-African harp that is similar to the cora and the bolon. Together, the duo of musicians made me imagine a late-night desert dance party at a place such as Burning Man. Their use of bass volume is exceptionally tasteful, just enough to get toes tapping but not overpowering or outrageous.

As Everyone Orchestra took the stage for their first set, they encountered a limber crowd that was ready to participate in the action. To begin each jam, Butler would introduce a member of the group and allow them to start things off. He led them through creating basic A and B sections to repeat throughout the song, and then directed song structure with a whiteboard and an iPad. The other musicians quickly adapted to the playing of the first, fleshing out the rhythm parts and harmonies to complement the existing sonic landscape. These roles rotated throughout the evening, so we got a chance to see each player take on a featured role at some point.

My favorite part of having a leader for each jam was basically getting a chance to hear the whole orchestra interpret the music of that leader’s regular band. The Kang-led jam was an instant ticket to the blissed-out peak of a String Cheese Incident show, anchored by Travis’s steady drumming. When Compa got the chance to lead, jaws hung on the floor as the group mimicked Dopapod’s intensity while he plucked away with his distinctly voiced chords.

Gruver’s soulful, heartfelt contributions on keyboards were definitely one of the first things to grab my attention. Not having heard of him before, I was taken aback by not only his playing, but his instantaneous connection with Compa, who got to spend a lot of time playing lead guitar especially during the first set. The two players seemed to duplicate each other’s licks and harmonize effortlessly, seeming like they had spent years jamming together. Impressive musical communication skills are indeed a prerequisite to perform in this orchestra.

Vocal duties were principally handled by Cressman, who wasted no time in showing off her booming, soulful voice. When she wasn’t singing, she used her trombone skills to play the perfect foil to Berlin’s baritone sax work. The harmonies between the two were outstandingly dark and smooth, and Berlin’s facial hair left me thinking of him as an evil wizard more and more as the evening continued.

Throughout the performance, the rhythm section demonstrated a level of skill that was frankly petrifying. While Travis kept time and effortlessly syncopated against the other players, Burbridge dazzled us every chance he got. This was one of my first chances to watch him play, and I was amazed at his expressiveness. He is one of those musicians who can bring you to tears by playing a single note. His most impressive moment involved him taking a lengthy jazz solo, which he scatted over. Every musician onstage visibly recoiled, as they looked on in awe.

Midway through the second set, Satori and Fraser from Dirtwire joined the group, requiring Compa to sit-out for a bit to make room onstage. Their jams took on a unique middle-eastern flavor as Fraser switched around instruments and Satori stuck mostly to rhythm guitar. Kang and Travis have both proven their mastery with respect to integrating electronic music into their jams with String Cheese, and on this occasion the band deferred to them to help peak the segments correctly. Something about listening to Kang shred just plasters smiles on audience members’ faces, and the room was collectively in ecstasy.

After Fraser and Satori left the stage, Compa returned and took back over lead duties for an extended final jam. As he began to play, you could sense his relief at being back onstage. He seemed highly motivated to win back the crowd’s affection, and was immediately successful in this pursuit. The jam featured improvised lyrics around the theme of “The River Flows,” which featured an outstandingly soulful duet between him and Cressman. This poignant tune had the house raging until its epic conclusion, following several slow refrains.

This was truly a special Everyone Orchestra performance. It was wonderful to see up-and-comers, such as Compa, sharing the stage with established legends, like Burbridge, Kang and Travis. The lineup was tastefully selected and each player should be commended for living up to the lofty expectations laid out. Denver provided an extremely supportive audience, and Cervantes was an excellent choice of venue that allowed for a high-energy show. I cannot wait to see another of these performances, mostly because I will again have zero idea of what to expect. For improvised music fans everywhere, Everyone Orchestra will always continue to push the limits of what can be done with an exclusively improvising supergroup.

www.everyoneorchestra.com

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

PREVIEW: Kung Fu, The Fabulous Party Boys, n8 & friends (ft. members of Polyrhythmics)


Nectar Lounge
Seattle, WA

Words By Coleman Schwartz


Kung Fu is a New England funk quintet that has gained a reputation for jaw-dropping live sets. Fans know to expect a ridiculous dance-party to follow wherever they may tour, and this upcoming Saturday (January 30) evening in Seattle is certain to be no exception. Fremont’s incomparable Nectar Lounge will play host to this bombastic, extravagant performance.

The band features Tim Palmieri (guitar), Robert Somerville (tenor saxophone), Beau Sasser (keyboards), Chris DeAngelis (bass guitar) and Adrian Tramontano (drums and percussion). While each member is well-schooled in the classics of the funk genre, they are also highly skilled jazz musicians. These influences are fused with modern electronica sensibilities to create a live show that truly has something to offer to fans of all styles.

The band has only performed once before in Seattle, in support of funk-legends Galactic. This will be their first headlining gig here, and it is not one to miss. They can be counted on to bring a high energy performance, so the only other thing they need is for you to attend the show! Come see what all of your Northeastern friends have been talking about!

Additionally, n8 and Friends will be opening up the show. Nathan Spicer, keyboardist of the Polyrhythmics, has assembled a surprise lineup of Seattle musicians to commemorate this special occasion. After seeing enough Polyrhythmics shows, I have full trust in this man’s ability to put something together that will prepare the crowd to get down for Kung Fu!

Purchase Tickets Here: www.nectarlounge.com/event ($12.00 In Advance, $16.00 Day Of Show)

www.kungfumusic.com

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Tower of Power 1.12.16 (Photos)

Monday, January 18, 2016

PREVIEW: MusicMarauders Presents Digital Beat Down & That John Arnold


Park House
Denver, CO


Join us on Friday January 22 at Park House in Denver, CO for MusicMarauders Presents Digital Beat Down & That John Arnold!

Ticket are only $8.00 (fee free) in advance at www.eventbrite.com!

www.digitalbeatdown.com

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Umphrey’s McGee & The London Souls 1.2.16



Fillmore Auditorium
Denver, CO

Words By Coleman Schwartz
Photos By Kevin Hahn (Split Open & Shoot)


On a cold Saturday evening, thousands of fans gathered at Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium to witness do-it-all jam aficionados Umphrey’s McGee get down for the final show of four consecutive nights at the venue. Guitarist Brendan Bayliss and drummer Kris Myers were fresh off their ridiculous encore sit-in with the String Cheese Incident the previous night, which helped to rocket expectations into the stratosphere. The band enlisted NYC-rockers The London Souls for support. This was my first time seeing the London Souls, and I was really impressed with the duo.

Their stripped-down instrumentation features Tash Neal (guitar/vocals) and Chris St. Hilaire (drums/vocals). As soon as they took the stage, I was reminded of the White Stripes because of this. As they began to play, this comparison gained legitimacy. Their sound was gigantic for a duo, mainly due to the thick, fuzzy guitar tone from Neal. The vocals were a balanced mix of bluesy and psychedelic, with even contributions from both members. They warmed the crowd perfectly so that Umphrey’s could come out and get right into it.

The band took the stage for their first set and launched straight into dual-lead rocker “Miss Tinkles Overture.” The main riff to this song sounds like the final boss battle of a video game; this choice of opener made it clear that the band was not messing around on the final night of the run. The jam section saw peaks getting bigger just when it seemed impossible, until the song exploded into its epic conclusion.

After a lengthy, intense opening song, the band took a step back with reggae-influenced original “FF.” This song has become relatively rare for the band to perform in recent years, and I was stoked to see it for my first time in my 53rd UM show. A short, exploratory jam featuring great synthesizer work from keyboardist Joel Cummins gave way to him teasing their epic, jazzy original “The Fussy Dutchman.” As the remainder of the band joined in, the energy in the venue went through the ceiling. Everyone in attendance was powerless but to stare on, slack-jawed, for the duration of the song, which features death-defying triple leads from Cummins and guitarists Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger.

As the band paused, the crowd went wild. The band took this chance to play “Domino Theory,” from 2012’s Death by Stereo. This odd track features abrasive, confusing vocals from Bayliss over soaring, metal-inspired guitar riffs. I’ve heard from many fans, both new and old, that they just don’t get or enjoy this song, but one thing nobody will deny is that the track gets top-notch improv treatment every single time it’s played. This time was no exception, with a jazzy groove giving way to a four-on-the floor dance party to Cinninger’s octave-pedal guitar part.

The next section, “Nemo” > “Sweetness” > “Nemo,” yielded a cool jam based on “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Led Zeppelin, which added depth to an otherwise standard setlist pairing. Prior to the next song, the band replaced Bayliss with fourteen-year-old Colorado legend, Jaden Carlson. The new outfit ran through one of the band’s funkiest tracks, “Soul Food I.” This tune features tons of space for nasty funk guitar battles, and Carlson delivered admirably. Keeping up with Cinninger is no easy task, but the young girl seemed to have no trouble. The two guitarists took turns pushing each other to play faster and more creatively, with the crowd eating it up. After the battle concluded, Bayliss switched back in for Carlson as the band continued playing. They jammed into “Ocean Billy,” which perfectly closed out a great first set with an epic peak.

The second set opened with heavy-hitter “Plunger.” This classic original delves into jazz, metal and rock influences, and definitely stands out as one of the most complete tunes in the band’s catalog. Bayliss sounded great as he tackled the lead vocals, which deal with indecision about the band’s future back when late drummer Mike Mirro left the band in 2002. After crushing the second composed section of the song, bassist Ryan Stasik propelled them into a dark, groovy jam.

Their confidence level was through the roof as the jam took on a jazzy, Latin flavor. Eventually this developed into “No Comment,” an original that I saw debuted at Summer Camp Music Festival back in 2011. The crowd began salsa dancing as Cummins came to the front of the mix for a wonderful keyboard solo. Stasik’s perfect pocket playing led the band into NYE-run staple “Slacker,” a massive original number that reminds you that you have yet to witness the band’s best. This quintessential UM song saw tasteful improvisation with great organ work from Cummins, more standout playing from Stasik, and Cinninger effortlessly channeling Eric Clapton on his solo.

The band took a brief pause to let the crowd recover from that insane set-opening segment. The next track was a debut cover of Mark Ronson’s “Daffodils.” This was a song I had not heard before, but it was a heavy funk tune with great falsetto vocals from Myers. While watching, I thought that the vocals were some of the more psychedelic in the band’s catalog. As it turns out, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker sings them on the original version, which explains that perfectly. The softness of Myers’ vocals reminded me a bit of My Morning Jacket’s Jim James as well. This cover debut was exceptionally polished and made for a diverse addition to their repertoire. I can’t wait to see the band grow more comfortable improvising with this one.

After another pause, Bayliss announced that they would be playing a song that had not been performed by the band in Colorado in thirteen years. The crowd was ecstatic as the band began “Front Porch,” an out-of-rotation original about trying to change your life by moving to a new place, only to fall back into your old ways and meet similar people. This song was the uncontested highlight of the show, featuring three distinct improvised sections and topping out just over twenty minutes. Each section featured the same type of confident, dark, evil-sounding playing that has made the band famous. This type of stuff is the reason why you can’t play Umphrey’s for your grandmother, or even some of your parents. The music was simultaneously disruptive and terrifying, and shows off the band’s ability to elicit a vast array of different emotional responses in their listeners. The third section contained a tease of the band’s “There’s No Crying in Mexico” introduction from Cinninger.

The set closed out with a great rendition of their most metal-influenced song “Wizard Burial Ground.” This odyssey was the perfect way to end a set full of intense heavy hitters without lowering the energy level. The crowd was straight-up raging as the improvised section saw more delay work from Cummins, as well as a crunchy, Pink Floyd-influenced section towards the end. Top to bottom, the second set of this performance was my favorite set I have seen the band play in over a year. The band did exactly what they do best, which is put on the hardest-hitting rock show in the business.

Prior to the encore, they announced their first-ever two night run at Colorado’s esteemed Red Rocks Amphitheatre, scheduled for July 2nd and 3rd, 2016. The band then busted out rarity “Uncommon” for some fans they sat next to on the flight out. This transitioned perfectly into “The Floor,” which featured more metal-inspired thrashing and helped to end the show in appropriate fashion.

After seeing the last four consecutive UM New Year’s runs, I have to say this run was one of my favorites. This was the first of these runs where I have seen the band really save their absolute best for the final performance, something that helped the flow of the run tremendously. Each run I have been lucky enough to see has been a great one, but this one stands out as special to me. The band did an awesome job of rewarding those who chose to spend their holiday with them, especially in an uber-competitive Denver market.

Set One: Miss Tinkle's Overture, FF > The Fussy Dutchman, Domino Theory, Nemo > Sweetness[1] > Nemo, Soul Food I[2] > Ocean Billy

Set Two: Plunger -> No Comment > Slacker, Daffodils[3], Front Porch[4], Wizard Burial Ground

Encore: Uncommon > The Floor

[1] with Over the Hills and Far Away (Led Zeppelin) tease
[2] with Jaden Carlson on guitar
[3] debut, Mark Ronson
[4] with There’s No Crying in Mexico tease

Kevin's Photo Galley

www.umphreys.com

Friday, January 8, 2016

Umphrey's McGee 12.31.15


Fillmore Auditorium
Denver, CO

Words By Coleman Schwartz
Photos By Ben Wilson (Eye And Eye Photography)


There is only one rule when you are seeing Umphrey’s McGee, which is to expect the unexpected. At no time of year is this more important than when you attend their three-set New Year’s Eve show. To ring in 2016, the band delivered one of their best NYE performances to date, loaded with debuts and high energy improvisation. 2015 had been a great year for the band, and they made sure to close it out with an all-out rager in one of their strongest markets.

Devout fans arrived early to the sold-out celebration at the Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium and helped to pack out the dancefloor well before the band took the stage. Although conditions inside of the venue were cramped, the spirit and positivity of 3700 music-lovers gathered in one space was quite impressive to behold. The band took the stage and took hold of the room’s vast energy, getting things going with an epic opening segment of “Bathing Digits” > “Wappy Sprayberry” > “Puppet String” > “Mad Love.”

“Wappy” spurred a massive dance party inside of the venue, and gave lighting designer, Jefferson Waful, his first of many opportunities to showcase his gigantic new light rig. “Puppet” allowed the band to get a bit more serious, both lyrically and instrumentally, with the evenings’ first significant jam. A patient, Ryan Stasik-led effort eventually saw the band segue into the intense newer original, “Mad Love.” The fluid, dual-lead guitar parts helped the song to ascend into the stratosphere as drummer, Kris Myers, held things down with rock-solid double-bass pedal work.

Later in the set, the band brought out Mad Dog and His Filthy Little Secret horn section. Guitarist, Brendan Bayliss, announced that this was the tenth consecutive year that the band had rung in with the trio. The first song they performed was original “Women, Wine and Song.” This country-inspired song was perfectly augmented by the horns and turned out to be one of the better versions of the song I have heard. They finished out the set by debuting a new original, “Speak Up,” with the horn section. Debuting a song with horns during an NYE show says a lot about the band’s confidence in the tune, and after hearing it, I can see why they like it so much. This song clings to Umphrey’s quintessential style while delving into alternative rock influences, such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Bayliss sounded great as he exercised his falsetto to hit the harmony vocals, which reminded me of “Miami Virtue.”

Set Two saw the band open up with groovy original “Bad Friday,” a fitting choice as the song was debuted at the Fillmore on 12.31.13 (the last NYE show in Denver). The horns then returned for jammed-out takes on three originals of varying ages. The eldest, “Wife Soup” featured a slow, patient build to the chorus that had audience members singing, “You wouldn’t even believe your eyes, it’s all your circus now,” well before the band finally obliged and played the chorus in earnest. “Red Tape,” a prog-rocker from 2009’s Mantis came up next, which was a big surprise to see as the song has long-since been removed from rotation. This song normally features an interesting synthesizer solo from keyboardist, Joel Cummins, but mixing issues made it nearly impossible to hear this part live. The jam section helped to redeem this unfortunate mistake, with Cinninger facing the horn section as they flawlessly doubled his notes, followed by a great solo from Bayliss.

“Make It Right” was performed for only the 8th time ever, after seeing its debut at 2015’s UMBowl event as a “Raw Stewage” track. This means that the song was developed to its current version from improvised live material that was selected by the fans. This was my first time hearing the track live, and I really enjoyed its explosiveness.

After the horns departed the stage, we were treated to a stellar version of “Ringo.” The jam section saw Bayliss, Cinninger and Stasik all tapping simultaneously at its intense peak, before winding down into a stunningly beautiful full band tease of the Beatles “Blackbird.” Although Cinninger ran through several verses of the song’s guitar part, the vocals never materialized to complete the cover. Instead, Cummins pushed to the front of the mix with some spacey tape-delay effects before the band found their way into “Educated Guess.”

The conclusion to the set saw the horns return for takes on jazzy original “Example 1,” as well as the evening’s first cover, “Tempted,” by 1980’s Brit-rockers, Squeeze. Most of the crowd seemed to be familiar with the song and sang along, although it was the first time it had been played by Umphrey’s. The cover was well executed, with Bayliss capably handling the lead vocal part and the horn players executing to perfection.

As the eager crowd waited for the band to make their usual 11:50 pm return for the third set, a fierce debate sparked regarding which song the band might choose to jam into the New Year. I heard everything suggested, from “Miami Virtue” to “Slacker,” but the band surprised us by starting up “Bright Lights, Big City” as they took the stage (with the horns). This song’s lyrics discuss partying all night and getting into trouble in a big city, a remarkably apt description of the occasion at hand. A few minutes before the clock struck midnight, Bayliss pushed the band into an instrumental jam centered on the theme to Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Something.” This took us right into the New Year’s countdown before transitioning to “Auld Lang Syne,” right as the clock struck midnight. As thousands of balloons rained from the ceiling and confetti fell over the crowd, the atmosphere was positively electric. Hugs were exchanged all around with friends new and old, and eventually, balloons had to be popped to allow room to move around freely.

After taking a pause to say "Happy New Year" to their families, the band got back to work. Cinninger began the next tune in half-time, slowly picking out the onomatopoeic main riff to UM mainstay “JaJunk.” As the rest of the band locked in and picked up the tempo, the room filled with jubilant vibrations. The easy groove of this song allowed everyone to get dancing, as each band member smiled brightly. This has always been of my favorite parts of watching Umphrey’s play; despite all of their success you can always see their genuine appreciation on their faces as they rock out.

The “JaJunk” jam made its way into slower original “Hajimemashite,” in what appeared to be an attempt to reign things back in. After Bayliss sang one verse, however, Cinninger began interlacing the riff to the Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony.” Eventually, this riff was played under the “Haji” vocals, and the “Haji” riff was played under the vocals to “Bittersweet Symphony.” This mashup, called “Bittersweet Haji,” was debuted in St. Louis, MO during the 2010 Halloween show. This show was only its fourth ever performance. Instead of things calming down, the audience went wild for this unexpected treat.

After transitioning back to complete part two of “JaJunk,” the band invited the horns back to the stage. “Push the Pig” was taken to the next level with an extended horn solo section in the middle of its jam. The end of the song seemed briefly uncertain before Cummins ushered the band into “Space Funk Booty.” The expanded instrumentation only added to the supreme dance-ability of this track, and the raging third set only kept building here.

The band paused, and Bayliss told the audience they were about to do a song that they “had always dreamed of playing.” What followed was perhaps the most surprising and genius cover debut I have ever seen from the band, in the form of R. Kelly’s “Ignition.” As Bayliss smoothly handled the vocals, he danced around the stage and made lots of hand gestures. Although his childhood dreams of being a rapper may not have come to fruition, he still seems quite comfortable in the role. The cover was well-rehearsed and an instant crowd favorite, prompting a massive singalong. I hope to see this song in rotation in 2016, it gives the band a great alternative to mix-in with their spot-on cover of Warren G and Nate Dogg’s “Regulate.”

A hard-charging “40’s Theme” closed out the set, complete with “Regulate” teases, which made me feel as if the band was reading my mind. For the encore, the band performed a great version of funky original “Much Obliged.” This song has one of the most infectious funk breakdowns of any Umphrey’s song there is, and I always enjoy having it stuck in my head for several hours after I hear it. This jam wound up with the band predictably concluding “Bridgeless” from earlier in the show, an ending that was so big that nobody could have complained if it wrapped up the show.

It was New Year’s after all, however, and the band had one last bombshell up their sleeves. Percussionist Andy Farag began by shaking his bells rhythmically, inspiring several audience members to shout “Jingle Bells!” As it turns out, they weren’t far off, as the band debuted a cover of Run-DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis.” This was the perfect song to keep the weary crowd engaged for a few more minutes. Laughter echoed throughout the venue as the night ended on a great note.

As someone who has seen the last four consecutive Umphrey’s New Year’s runs, I was really impressed with this performance. I thought this was the most complete show I had seen them play on NYE. The cover debuts were strong and enjoyable, the improvisation was top-notch, the horn section integrated flawlessly, and the energy was easily high enough to get you through a three-set show. They pushed past their already high standard, which is exactly what I have come to expect.


Set One:
Bathing Digits > Wappy Sprayberry > Puppet String > Mad Love, No Diablo, Bridgeless > Puppet String, Women Wine and Song[1], Speak Up[1][2]

Set Two:
Bad Friday, Wife Soup[1], Red Tape[1], Make It Right[1], Ringo[3] > Educated Guess, Example 1, Tempted[1][4]

Set Three: Bright Lights, Big City[1][5] > Auld Lang Syne[1], JaJunk > Bitter Sweet Haji > JaJunk, Push the Pig[1] > Space Funk Booty[1], Ignition[1][6], 40's Theme[7]

Encore:
Much Obliged > Bridgeless, Christmas In Hollis[1][8]

[1] with Mad Dog and His Filthy Little Secret horns
[2] debut, original
[3] with Blackbird (The Beatles) jam
[4] debut, Squeeze
[5] with Wanna Be Startin’ Something (Michael Jackson) jam
[6] debut, R. Kelly
[7] with Regulate (Warren G & Nate Dogg) jam
[8] debut, Run-D.M.C.

Ben's Photo Gallery

www.umphreys.com


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Umphrey's McGee 12.30.15


The Fillmore Auditorium
Denver, CO

Words & Photos By Brad Yeakel (Opti Mystic Outlooks)


When it comes to music, New Year's Runs have long been considered some of the best nights of the year to see shows. Embarking on 4 nights of music with Umphrey's McGee at Denver's Fillmore, I felt a deep appreciation for my surroundings. The bitter Denver December air iced the rear of the auditorium as I reconnected with concentric circles of far-flung friends.

As McGee hit the stage, a rowdy and ready crowd greeted them with "rawk" hands and prepared for the face- melting to commence. With an ambient start, they quickly assImilated into a sleek killing machine and ripped into their first set. The cogs of the machine were lubricated, and synchronized under a dazzling tapestry of saturated light. Jefferson Waful stood on a platform in the middle of the floor looking like a conductor as he blended and swirled colors with masterful strokes.

As first set unfolded, I watched the band's on-stage communication shape the set. Signals denoting key changes, rhythmic variations, and themes were regularly tossed around the stage like backyard football. At times I felt they were almost too comfortable in their effortless jamming, and it felt phoned-in, but Umphrey's McGee's "phoned-in" is still precise and ambitious. I was really excited to hear "Utopian Fir" and they nodded in Lemmy Kilmister's direction by playing "Silver Machine," before returning to "Fir." The "Phil's Farm" which highlighted the set was a common topic at set break discussions.

Second set was an expertly-crafted onslaught of progressive intensity. Diving in with "Robot World," they seemed to have a clearer vision for the whole of the set, which was confirmed as they moved into "Resolution." From there they landed "In the Kitchen," to the crowd's delight. "Tribute to the Spinal Shaft," regained the momentum from a small lull during "Upward." As "The Fuzz" materialized, we took a collective deep breath... "Slow down." "Fuzz" climbed into "Glory" before returning to resolve "In the Kitchen." The set closed with a song I had never heard... "Den." The theme and groove were consistent with my favorite of UM's stylistic offerings, and added a new song for me to chase.

The encore of "All in Time" was the icing on the cake. From the compositional excellence to the improvisational prowess, the song has never disappointed me. The tandem guitars, aggressive rhythms, poignant lyrics, relentless energy, and intricate melodies were immaculate, razor sharp examples of the possibilities of music.

Professionalism comes in varying degrees, and Umphrey's McGee has long prided themselves on their innovation, business savvy, and general commitment to excellence in all areas. Their media accessibility, production value, quality merchandising, and fan relations have curated one of the most committed and enthusiastic fan bases in the industry.

As we ventured out into the crisp late night air, the circles separated and we wandered into the Colfax hustle. A lively Wednesday night to warm things up for the biggest party day of the year was just the right way to welcome the freaks to town.

Set One: Andy's Last Beer, Attachments, #5, Piranhas > Utopian Fir > Silver Machine[1] > Utopian Fir -> Phil's Farm

Set Two: Robot World[2] > Resolution > In The Kitchen > Upward, Tribute to the Spinal Shaft > The Fuzz > Glory > In The Kitchen, Den

Encore: All In Time

Brad's Photo Gallery

www.Umphreys.com

Monday, January 4, 2016

PREVIEW: Three Nights of Joe Marcinek Band Feat. Members of The Motet, Turbo Suit & More!


Fort Collins & Denver
Colorado


Join us for three nights of Joe Marcinek Band feat. Nicholas Gerlach (Turbo Suit) Joey Porter (The Motet, Juno What), Garrett Sayers (The Motet) & Gabe Mervine (The Motet) in Colorado!

-Thursday January 7 at Hodi's Half Note in Fort Collins, CO: Purchase Tickets Here

-Friday January 8 at Quixote's True Blue in Denver, CO: Purchase Tickets Here


-Saturday January 9 at Quixote's True Blue in Denver, CO: Purchase Tickets Here


www.joemarcinekband.com