Umphrey’s McGee, Emerson Center, Bozeman, MT- 3/10
Photo by Kevin Kenly
Coming out of the gate with tons of energy is a Umphrey’s show hallmark, which is what they did in Bozeman, Montana only to be cut off during a incredibly precise “2nd Self” because their intense music blew the power out. After a brief technical intermission, with one of the rowdiest sold out crowds stomping, clapping and chanting “We want the Umph, Gotta have the Umph!”, the band came back on stage. Stasik explained what had happened while reminding the out of control fans to keep the venue safe and have fun, and without a moment to spare they picked up “2nd Self” right where they left it. It was a different kind of opening to an Umphrey’s show, but if the energy in the crowd was a sign of things to come, everyone knew this was going to be a great show.
This seemingly quiet Sunday show at the small (700 capacity) venue in the College Ski Town of Bozeman proved to be anything but. Since it was sold-out, many fans, some from hundreds if not thousands of miles away stood out front in the freezing cold on the steps of the nondescript grade school look-alike Emerson Center for Arts and Culture. Security is handled by the local Sheriff’s Department, alcohol, or even water is not allowed in the gymnasium-turned-main room, while the balcony sits high above the once multipurpose room that has been fully renovated for great sound and lights. The stage while small was large enough to fit every last member of this formidable forever-on-the-road jamband.
As the show got going the energy between band members seemed relaxed, yet their playing was technically perfect. Something that Umphrey’s noticeably tries to do is to play their complex and unique compositions in a tight fashion, and on this night they were in sync and playing off of each other with a purpose. The next segment of the first set that was a true monster came in the form of “Mantis” > “Walletsworth,” “Turn and Dub,” “Prowler” > “Mantis. While Umphrey’s concoct masterful setlists with sandwiched songs throughout, this was the night of the song sandwich.
The jam-reggae-jam segment that set the tone for the evening set up another monster, when all 6 members playing unison and making it look easy as they explored a funky and mystical “Deeper,” off of their latest album, Death By Stereo. As the band seemingly played off the energized and sometimes out of control vibe from the fans, there came a sweet “Plunger” that had a full “Can’t Find My Way Home” (Blind Faith) cover smashed in the middle. It was a masterful first set.
The second set had the band running out of the gates with a huge “Nothing Too Fancy,” which was drawn out and again as with the first set played with precision. Guitarists Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger traded licks and time at the front playing lead guitar, while Joel Cummins plastered down layers of sound on his keyboard, Ryan Stasik played the bass with reason, often turning around to Kris Myers, syncing up with his powerful drumming and even at one point remarking to the crowd that Kris was a machine.Andy Farag, kept up with Myers, adding all of those under-appreciated percussive elements to round out another completely smooth “NTF.”
“Fancy” went into an “Ocean Billy” which gave way to “Syncopated Stranger” and then the rarely played but recently popular “Girlfriend Is Better”, by the Talking Heads. As they performed this cover close to the original, but adding a jam section to put a huge Umph stamp on it. A big highlight of the second set. They then moved through three more songs before closing out the set where it started with the closing notes of “Nothing Too Fancy”, another sandwich in a fantastic night of music full of them.