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Published: 2012/09/24
by Kevin Long

Umphrey’s McGee, Minglewood Hall, Memphis, TN – 9/20

Photo by Ellis Jones IV

Umphrey’s McGee continued their seemingly endless tour in Memphis firing on all cylinders; as they have been devouring every venue they have played this fall. This night would be no exception. The fireworks commenced at the friendly confines of the intimate Minglewood Hall, which has become their domicile over the past couple of years in the blues city. The atmosphere was galvanized before the show, as the double-bill with Conspirator was icing on a Thursday night escape.

The celebrated opening act wasted little time initiating the musical marathon at eight sharp and dove into their dance-friendly instrumental fusion. Over the course of the next forty-five minutes, they achieved their goal of warming up the crowd with one hypnotic composition after another. The Disco Biscuits’ side project had no trouble arriving into interesting territory, but had difficulty delivering the knockout punch. More often than not, the music would become stagnant and dissipate. The talent was undeniable and with more escapades, they will surely become a welcome addition on the scene.

Umphrey’s McGee seized the stage and properly opened with the treasured, “Partyin’ Peeps.” From the first note, they displayed a swagger with the ability to improvise that few acts reveal and can only be accomplished from spending ample time on the road creating music. They played for nearly four hours, gaining steam with each number – owning the crowd from the start, and never relinquishing it. The first set was brilliant. Brendan Bayliss mindfully picked his spots, being the foundation, while allowing Jake Cinninger’s A.D.D.-inspired picking to take the comfortably crowded dance floor on countless jaunts. This was especially apparent during, “Tribute to the Spinal Shaft” as they traded off solos, pushing the music to domains few bands achieve. The opening half ended with a mystifying, “Booth Love” into a soulful, “JaJunk.” Joel Cummings, behind his modest keyboards, proved he is the anchor that keeps this musical boat grounded. When the members veer into uncharted water, he always reels them back with his impeccable timing. Every bit as the initial set was remarkable; the boys would achieve real musical genius with the second stanza of the evening.

After a short intermission, UM returned to the stage and an animated, “The Floor” bled into the complicated gem, “Bright Lights, Big City.” Jeff Waful’s kaleidoscopic lights leaped with the notes while the masses draped around the music. As the boys took a breath, Mr. Bayliss took the time to acknowledge many fans in attendance who were celebrating milestone shows. It was obvious that the loyalty of their fan base meant a lot.

The rest of the set contained coveted songs with spacy jams that segued into one another before revisiting the original number, creating remarkable musical sandwiches that would even make Dagwood Bumstead drool. The controlled chaos included extended versions of, “Nemo,””Hangover,” ”2×2” and the rarity, “FF.” The unparalleled rhythm section, of Ryan Stasik on bass, drummer Kris Myers and Andy Farag on percussion, propelled the music into new terrain. The band displayed patience, letting the music unfold and the memorable set ended well past midnight with an explosive, “The Triple Wide.”

While the crowd chanted, “We want the funk,” Umphrey’s McGee returned to the stage pulverizing the GnR classic, “It’s So Easy.” They closed the night by a dedicating their cocky head-banging original, “Nopener” to Conspirator. It was a fitting end to a monumental show, as the days of Umphrey’s opening are clearly behind them.

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