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Published: 2006/06/29
by Randy Ray

moe./Umphreys McGee/Mason Jennings, Red Rocks, Morrison, CO 6/3

RR: Any favorite BIG Summer Classic venues?

Joel: Definitely Red Rocks. That was my first time and I was absolutely spellbound.

Brendan: There were bigger venues, technically, but [Red Rocks] was definitely on my Top 10 of things to do before I died. The second night we were on stage and it was sold out and I think I might have even said something to crowd like “do you guys have any idea how cool this is for me?” (laughter) Not like selfishly but matter of factly.

- Wrapped Around the World with Umphrey’s McGee, Part I,, 11/05

Doesn’t get much better than this. Perfect breezy (non-rainy) weather. Perfect locale. Perfect trio of artists that stylistically veered from folk to prog rock to huge jam slam. Must we delay the proceedings? I think not.

Mason Jennings

Mason Jennings is a new musician that hasn’t been featured on our site too much but that’ll probably change in the near future. Jennings fronts a solid quartet from Minnesota that is equal parts The Band, New Morning-era Sir Bob, Harvest Young and original charisma. The venue nestled in the cradle of two massive red rock structures in Colorado was only half full (not half empty) at this juncture but ye lads and lasses were attentive and appreciative of his mellow rock with subtly hip and socially conscious lyrics.

Jennings and Noah Georgesonno stranger to eccentric genius, produced his new album, Boneclouds as he has also helmed platters from Joanna Newsom and the joyfully freaky and ethereal hepcat from an alternate universe 1968, Devendra Banhart. His studio songs translated quite well to the stage featuring Chris Morrissey on bass, Peter Leggett on drums and Bradford Swanson on piano and guitar. In between slow acoustic numbers, he laid down some old homespun electric funk with numbers sailing into the big sky before evaporating back into the ether on the stage. Jennings was plugged in; effortlessly direct and comfortable in his frontman status while beguiling the crowd.

Umphrey’s McGee

Seen the men from Chicago quite a few times over the last eight years but I hadn’t had the pleasure of checking out their inaugural run at Red Rocks last year on the BIG Summer Classic tour. All in due time, I suppose.

The Rocks was about three-quarters full at this point as the late afternoon sun continued its journey towards the west while the band tore through a set of rip-roaring arena rawk. I kind of liked the two-hour, one set format and after offering this as a 2006 New Year’s Resolution for jambands, it was ironic that I would see a band that ordinarily does quite well stretching out over two sets play such a solid lone keeper. “Plunger” led into “Partyin’ Peeps” as the Brothers McGee didn’t leave anything to chance and shot a hole through the mammoth sky that surrounds with a weighty duo before moving into the esoteric jazz fusion realm of “Nothing Too Fancy.”

“Blue Echo>Sociable Jimmy” would get the dual guitar army of Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger past 11 on volume and their fingers progressively flying on the latter as the band locked down two more old staples with a smooth gentle breeze of the former. Confused? Listen to the music and it’ll ALL make sense. In between these twin nuggets was “Passing,” a Bayliss favorite off the new album Safety in Numbers. The circular riddle, indeedplayed with delicate nuance by the guitarist along with Cinninger in a complicated passage of nocturnal daydream poetry. “Words”also from the latest studio slabhas blossomed of late and allows the band to slow down after a heady jam i.e. “JaJunk” and its colossal teeth-shattering riff based around keyboardist Joel Cummins ramming down the same keys lifting the entire crowd into that self-assured X-factor zone. Once again, during “Words” the band pulled the crowd back to a more confined central point after the party atmosphere strut of “JaJunk” before exploding with the utterly sublime lyrical passage that closes the song with Bayliss, Cinninger, keyboardist Joel Cummins, bassist Ryan Stasik, drummer Kris Myers and Andy Farag playing as one intricate labyrinth of sound. (Long sentences are good for your mental health, dig.)

“Miss Tinkle’s Overture” brought the welcome crazy and euphoric revelry from Anchor Drops; consequently, the band landed into “Push the Pig” after a moment’s rest and drove the set into overdrive before an absolutely flawless and surprisingly solid version of Derek and the Dominoes “Layla”with Cummins, Cinninger and Bayliss again pushing the envelope. If your hair wasn’t standing on end during this song, you were either bald or dead. The crowd went off for a breather as our collective weight had dropped around 500 pounds after that set. More? Yes and no. Not more but


Al Schnier and Co. had a large task as they were following a very hot band playing a two-hour set that had won over a sturdy crowd of young and old heads. The men from the Right Coast were up to the task as they’ve been many times in the past.

The first set included its usual mixture of loonnnnng ass jams with the stadium rocker “Crab Eyes” from 2003’s Wormwood an early standout which proceeded a Black Crowes breakout of “Wiser Time” before the band tore through a set-closing trio that spanned “Moth>The Pit>Tailspin.” Things weren’t quite as efficient and euphoric as they had been during Umphrey’s long 120-minute set. Now I’m someone that has a rather sinister and bloodthirsty passion for Black Metal because of its heavy guitar/vampire thrashery and the reason I like it so much is the exotic trance buzz is included within the overall sound and not on the periphery via individual wizardry. moe. has a tendency to play solos that last a bit long for my taste but, that might just be my aging ears. In the end, this theoretical claptrap thought process was irrelevant anyway since moe. appeared to be warming up quite a bit before the jackhammer assault that would ensue in the closing set.

Bumper Sticker: Did I say they solo a lot? (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

IndeedyMistah Ear Bleedy

The second set was gloriously jamalicious with a sandwich dipped in “Californ IA” (obviously, played in honor of my home state, dig) and “Rebubula” and moe. snaked around these two numbers by also inserting note perfect readings of “Brent Black” and “Four”the latter number, actually, inverting the occasional “Four>Rebubula” tandem in a sweet little suite changeup. At that point, my only complaint about the entire moe. show was that I was hoping for a collaboration between Bayliss (or Cinninger) and the aforementioned “Reb”an early UM coverwhich faded with nary a guest.

Such is the life of a band and its encores. Cinninger came out and helped the band on guitar for a steaming version of “St. Augustine,” before the entire Umphrey’s McGee lineup ambled out on stage in full heavy metal thunder on the Blue Oyster Cult masterpiece, “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” Fuck more cowbell. Give me two salt-of-the-earth jambands, please, and everything’ll be alright. And on that notemy advice is to echo Franklin Delano Roosevelt during these sometimes trying timesthe only thing to fear is fear, itself so pack a mean punch, fight the corrupt, catch a show or four this summer and respect the natural beauty of heavenly places like Red Rocks.

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