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Published: 2012/08/10
by Isaac Slone

Recap: Umphrey’s McGee sUMmer School Day 4

Photo via the Umphrey’s McGee Blog

Umphrey’s McGee closed out the activities of their sUMmer school program on Thursday, proudly announcing that the event would return in 2013. This news came as no surprise, as it was apparent to both the hosts and the attendees that the week had been one of great success. Nearly one-hundred campers met, jammed, and chatted with each other and the members of Umphrey’s McGee over the course of the four action-packed days.

Thursday’s proceedings ran much like the previous two days. Starting early on in the day, Umphrey’s McGee took the stage to give the fans a look at their S2 Art Series. The “S2” (or “Stew) entails a completely improvised set of Umphrey’s McGee conducted by the audience. Students wrote down prompts for the band entailing the direction the improvisation would take. While some of the prompts directed distinct styles, anything could be picked. The ideas, once on paper, were shuffled in a hat and read aloud to the band. The group moved through prompts gracefully, stopping only to explain the thought process behind what was happening. Students were then invited to come up and try to emulate the experience. Most did quite well and got a chance to reflect upon their playing with the band afterwards.

The day continued with master classes in each band member’s specific instrument. Guitar virtuoso Stanley Jordan joined in on the action as well, providing two separate classes on musician’s mentality and guitar theory, respectively. Students sat around the Umphrey’s members and talked all things gear, technique and improvisation. The instructors were happy to break down Umphrey’s originals as well as some of their favorite songs. Musical integrity and practicing habits were unanimously enforced. One of the more unique afternoon classes featured drummer Kris Myers lecturing on the history of the music industry.

Visitors were welcomed to the camp for dinner, the show, and camping for a small fee. This made for a noticeable difference of 30 or so newcomers whom were mostly friends and family of other students. The added attendance made for a highly energetic crowd, which was clearly felt by the band. Opening with “Prowler”, the band had regained its energy from the first two nights. This became more and more apparent as the unit delivered tight improvisation to “Intentions Clear”. Stanley Jordan took the stage for “Liquid” as he has in the past, and his unique two-hand tapping technique fit right in with the progressive side of Umphrey’s McGee. The “Liquid” jam led to an extended solo by Jordan in which he demonstrated this style further. The sit-in closed out with a beautiful and appropriate rendition of Pat Metheny Group’s “Last Train Home,” which showcased not only Jordan but Umphrey’s guitarists Jake Cinninger and Brendan Bayliss as well. Umphrey’s seemed rather jolted by the sit-in, resulting in an outstanding execution of “Tribute to the Spinal Shaft,” which featured a slower intro that developed a patient build. The band left the stage to fans shouting for another set. Though said request was unfulfilled, Stanley Jordan joined the band once more for the Talking Heads’ “Making Flippy Floppy,” the first encore of the week and truly one of the highlights.

sUMmer school students and late arrivals jammed through the night for a final time and shared goodbyes with each other and the band. Attendees made a point of thanking the staff at the Full Moon Resort for their hospitality throughout the event, particularly delivering on the catering side of things. On an instructional and musical level, Umphrey’s delivered beyond any anticipation. Students continued to be dumbfounded at the level of intimacy and thought put into the event. When the band and crew mentioned how honored they felt to have such a loyal fan base, we truly believed them.

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