Umphrey’s McGee, Summerfest, Milwaukee, WI- 7/2
Photo by Ty Phillips
From an epic performance to a thrilling encore announcement, Umphrey’s McGee’s most recent Milwaukee performance proved their love for the city is stronger than ever.
Just less than 90 miles away from the band’s hometown of Chicago, IL, Umphrey’s McGee performed in neighboring Milwaukee, WI, on Tuesday, July 2—the city where the band held a three-night Halloween run last October. Umphrey’s was slated to play a part of the city’s Summerfest music festival, an eleven night event that features hundreds of artists of many different genres, located right on Milwaukee’s water front. The night marked the band’s first return to Summerfest since 2010.
What would most likely be considered to be an untraditional venue, the stage resided below the freeway structure that appears to be traveling into the sky, paralleling Henry Maier Festival Park, the location of Summerfest. With the skyline of Milwaukee to the right, and the breeze off of Lake Michigan coming in from the back, the atmosphere for the evening’s entertainment was incredible and the jammed packed crowd surely agreed, as the concert attendees were especially lively and wild.
Taking the Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard stage at 9:30 sharp, Umphrey’s opened the night with “Le Blitz” before quickly diving into “Plunger,” a song off Anchor Drops that featured the quick yet smooth transitions of mellow and heavy sections that Chicago-based band has mastered ever so well. Fitting the good-vibe setting that is Summerfest, Umphrey’s then played the popular reggae-remix version of “Turn & Run” off of Mantis entitled “Turn & Dub.” Following the first verse, the band eased into a mellow-reggae type jam, and then continued the jam to slowly progress into faster pace improv session that was full of energy, before motioning right back into the next verse.
Towards the end of “Turn & Dub,” guitarist Jake Cinninger began teasing “Mail Package,” cueing the go ahead for the funky, fun tune. The song showcased the great complexity that is the song writing of Umphrey’s McGee as the piece turned from a funky number to an epic-guitar wheeling rift performed by the shredding duo that is Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger, as drummer Kris Meyers played the rapid, intense beats that Umphrey’s fans have always loved.
Next, the band went to the Umphrey’s classic, “Wife Soup,” which included an excellent and organic keyboard performance from Joel Cummins, very fitting for the jazz fusion-esque song. Following “Wife Soup” was a cover of “It’s So Easy” by Guns N’ Roses. Not surprisingly, the sextet easily matched the intense musical thrill that so many music fans associate with Guns ‘N’ Roses. However what was surprising was the great vocal performance Umphrey’s was able to match the song with. Especially during the chorus, Bayliss taking the low-toned vocal part of Axl Rose and Meyers taking the background vocal role of Duff McKagan, the pairs sounded strikingly similar.
“Robot World,” which is one of many songs that helped Umphrey’s McGee earn a reputation as a phenomenal progressive rock act; amongst many things, included a heavy almost apocalyptic type jam to add further musical complexity to the night’s performance. Umphrey’s then did a complete one-eighty, bringing up saxophonist and UM friend Kevin Sinclair, to participate in the fan favorite, “Pay the Snucka.” Between verses Sinclair alternated smooth solos between himself and both guitarists. With Sinclair still on stage, a cover of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” followed, causing the already lively crowd to erupt in cheerful commotion as non-stop dancing ensued through out the whole song.
Following Sinclair’s departure from the stage, Umphrey’s busted into “Bright Lights,” leading to an extensive, outer space-type jam. The psychedelic jam made flowing into “Another Brick in the Wall” only fitting as the crowd all sang a long to the Pink Floyd number.
Concluding the two-hour set was a segment that began with “2×2”, where midway through the song the band jammed into “No Comment”, which featured a brief percussion/drum solo from Meyers and Percussionist Andy Farag. Umphrey’s then jammed back into the excellent and lengthy composition that is “2×2”, finishing the set with the piece’s epic guitar rift finale.
Just before the band ended the night with a four-song encore that featured, “Deeper,” “Miss Tinkle’s Overture,” “Dear Lord”, then the conclusion of “Pay the Snucka,” Joel Cummins announced to the very Umphrey’s-friendly city that the band would be returning the Milwaukee next Halloween for another three-night concert run.
Milwaukee now has until Halloween to rest, until the rage is repeated.