Umphrey's McGee 12.30.15
The Fillmore Auditorium
Words & Photos By Brad Yeakel (Opti Mystic Outlooks)
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 > Utopian Fir -> Phil's Farm
Set Two: Robot World > 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