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Published: 2012/06/15
by Mike Greenhaus

My First ‘Roo: Umphrey’s McGee, Dawes, Dispatch, Delta Spirit, ALO, Wyllys

In this running feature from the Bonnaroo Beacon, Artists look back on their previous Bonnaroo experiences…

Umphrey’s McGee
Bonnaroo Classes: ’02, ’04, ’05, ’06, ’08, ‘10

Umphrey’s McGee have grown alongside Bonnaroo more than almost any band on this year’s lineup. The Chicago-by-way-of-Indiana band was still relatively unknown outside the Midwest when they played an early afternoon set at the first Bonnaroo in 2002 but made enough of an impression that moe. invited singer/guitarist Brendan Bayliss to sit in. Umphrey’s McGee scored a coveted late night set of their own when they appeared again in 2004 and returned the favor by inviting moe. to sub in during their intermission. Many still consider that marathon two-set show the moment Umphrey’s McGee’s truly arrived on the national stage. They made their third trip to Manchester, TN in 2005 for a spot on the massive Which Stage and became one of the only bands to play Bonnaroo three years in a row when they split a late night barnburner with the Disco Biscuits in 2006. As Umphrey’s McGee have started to headline festivals on their own, they’ve returned for two more Which Stage sets and some members of the band even participated in two spirited masquerade balls a few fuzzy years ago. After a year off, Umphrey’s McGee returns to Bonnaroo with the new, progressive studio album Death by Stereo. Shortly before the festival, guitarist/singer Brendan Bayliss recounted his rise through the Bonnaroo ranks.

What were your expectations prior to your first trip to Bonnaroo?

I had never been to a music fest like Bonnaroo before that first year, so obviously any expectations I had were blown away. I knew it was gonna be special but no one could have prepared me for how massive it was. And how seemingly every friend I’ve ever had was there, too.

Describe your craziest Bonnaroo experience.

Sitting on the side of the stage watching moe. and realizing that Al is motioning for me to grab his guitar mid song. Then realizing two minutes later that I had needed to get his guitar back to him cause I really shouldn’t have been in public at that point.

How does Bonnaroo compare to other festivals you have played?

It’s a whole different animal than the average festival. That caliber of music is unmatched, the attention to detail is insane, and the options for the fans are too numerous to count. And the vibe in the air is unlike any other place.

What was your quintessential Bonnaroo moment from years past?

Having 20,000 people yell “fuck you Joel” to our keyboardist during our first late night set. It still makes me smile to this day.

What band would you most like to collaborate with at Bonnaroo this year?

The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Flea has been a huge influence on me, my fashion sense is directly ripped off from him. I would die my hair pink or green or red if he would play a tune with us. I would even consider wearing a sock.

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