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Published: 2005/10/03
by Evan Jacobson

Umphrey’s McGee / Conspirator, Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA- 9/17

The venue filled up early, as all the excited Bisco kids wanted to get their first look at Conspirator in their hometown. Then, when Marc Brownstein, Aron Magner, and DJ Omen took the stage, the crowd went into a frenzy usually reserved for the headliner. The chemistry between the three seemed to be that of a veteran band with Brownstein and Magner layering over the beats put down by Omen. Conspirator is more trance than the Disco Biscuits, but still has the familiar tones and erratic keyboard combinations that are very familiar to the crowd. A few songs into the set, they brought out Umphrey’s McGee drummer Kris Myers to kick it up another notch. Myers contributions allowed Omen to delve deeper into the psychedelic trance rather than focusing on keeping a single beat for the others to improvise. Jake Cinninger, who plays on the forthcoming Conspirator album, came out a bit later to play guitar which proved a highlight of the set, lending much energy to the mix.

Umphrey’s McGee, out to have one last blast before taking a week off at home in Chicago, started off a bit slow. They eventually got into a groove, however, and from that point on, the show was spectacular. The first set was highlighted with a guest appearance by Marc Brownstein on bass, while UM’s Ryan Stasik watched from the side of the stage and soaked in the music like one of the audience members. The jam during “Jimmy Stewart” with Brownstein blossomed into a mix of rock and electronica, which allowed Joel Cummins truly to shine on his keys as the Electric Factory took off into space.

The thing that amazes me every time I see Umphrey’s is their ability to come out in the second set and bring the energy level higher than that of the first. After they ended the first set with “Plunger,” they opened with “Der Bluten Kat,” which was a monster with “Jimmy Stewart” slapped in the middle of the sandwich. This all led up to a transcendental cover of Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.” Cinninger traded off verses with Brendan Bayliss while keeping the song tight, and one of the band’s hallmarks certainly is an ability to cover songs from the Beastie Boys to Metallica to Pink Floyd

Then the madness ensued as Aron Magner was invited on stage, not on keyboards, but rather on keytar, which Joel Cummins picked up as well. The result was an almost 13-minute “Ringo” and a keytar battle between Cummins and Magner, as both showed off a bit of their rock-star sides that can be repressed a bit behind their keyboard rigs. Magner went so far as to smash his keytar in half, throwing the remaining pieces into the audiences.

Cinninger then led the group through the rest of the set, using hand signals to dictate notes and tempo. Communication is important with Umphrey’s, with both Cinninger and Bayliss often leading the group through transitions. As the group emerged for an encore, they announced the birthday of percussionist Andy Farag, and dedicated “Pay The Snucka” to him.

Walking backstage, the band celebrated their successful tour of the northeast and their six-day vacation at home before returning to the road. However, “Pay The Snucka” was not the last song Umphrey’s would sing as they crooned the lyrics to Ozzy Osbourne’s Mama I’m Coming Home, “I don’t care about the sunshine, yeah cause mama, mama I’m coming home!”

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