Umphrey’s McGee at Lupos: A Fan’s Take
Matthew Golia sent this to us, explaining he was “compelled to write something after saying I was going to so many times before when seeing these guys.”
So here’s a fan’s take on Umphrey’s McGee’s perfortmance at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel on 2/7/14.
Just What the Doctor Ordered
Take it for what it’s worth, Umphrey’s McGee is consistently epic. To me, their shows are worth so much more than the dirt cheap entrance fee to any of the Northeast’s Cozy Club Haunts. Intimate. Noisy. Cramped. Energetic. Each and every describes the scene, and each is a positive endorsement for the most relentlessly epic band that just doesn’t know when, or how to quit.
A Preface: Driving in on the West Side highway, January 21st, 2012, on my way to the Best Buy Theater, stuck in thick NYC traffic, anxiety ridden wondering if I was going to make the show before the first notes rung out, when the opening to Hollywood Nights slipped from the speakers of an FM Station, easing the tension, breaking up traffic; we arrived just in time. Cut to Second Set, Umphrey’s drops only the 7th Hollywood Nights of their career! Mind Blown!
Friday February 7th, 2014 approximately 4:30 PM, we arrive at a Mystic, CT gas station for quick freshen up, and when I arrive back to my vehicle, my girlfriend ducks out to take her turn at relief so I quickly recline my driver seat and slip into a five minute snooze. While dosing off, albeit briefly, the radios static, and scratching of a blown tweeter belt out the anthemic Dr. Feel Good! A foreshadowing of things to come?
A bulging line stretches down Washington St, the heat of human breath doing nothing to melt the still iced sidewalks, forcing all occupants to walk and stand just a little closer. Curling down Union St, a Motley Crue of willing devoted fans buzzed, pre-amp style, awaiting yet another sizzling performance by Umphrey’s McGee, which was sure to ease the sub zero temperatures of Providence. Anticipation was rising just as the breaths of exhaled air, into the Friday night overcast. Hype up the potential of any Umphrey’s McGee gig, I dare you, you will always come away with favorable results. Bet on it!
This band does something, well…different. While the Main Stream Media recognizes Artists, Popular Culture Icons, pretty faces…that blend genres, and applauds their bridging of “Oohmbop Cowboy Sentimentality”, which speaks to their relative inability to recognize musicianship, Umphrey’s moves between Texture, Genre, Rhythm, etc…and they do it in minutes, in moments, in nanoseconds; they do it in improvisation, in the ability to recognize, like a DJ might, the intricacies of rhythm, beat, progression, and find the unlikely pairing of song bits, relatively tattered edges of obscurity, that when coupled, appear to fit, as two pieces of a puzzle might, once located in the pile of the other 5000 pieces. Umphrey’s doesn’t just do this, they do it well, they are the one band that gives that sideways carrot (>), the one that denotes the bridging of songs, over-utilized and under-deserved, and somehow makes even that sideways carrot disappear to familiar obscurity so that you were sure the two songs just linked were identical twins that were split at birth and now, in front of your very eyes, like some new age reality television show, are reunited by the band, on stage, for your pleasure. (Oh and you don’t feel dirty, like after an episode of Real Housewives, so I’ve been told!?)
What I continue to find amazing, which in and of itself is difficult these days, (to be consistently Amazed) with outlets of media vomit poring up through street grates these days, is that I come to an Umphrey’s show and am always, always blown away. This band brims with confidence while holding a sense of innocence that makes them likable, not just as artists, but as potential drinking buddies. During the first set, dropping into Ocean Billy, my legs felt the tinge of burning that begins a catalyst of blood pumping, neurons firing, energy levels rising. The cold that had embedded itself in my Weathered Northeastern soul, was thawed. It was on. Stretching the lengths of the song, it slowly disappeared into “Cut the Cable” and $hit was really on! Still working out a sizable enough personal dance space, my movements threaded an arterial sea of humans flowing passed me a la “The E.A.C.!” If I wasn’t careful, or if I was lucky I might get swept to the front of the room. Basking in the lights, full blown light ups blinding the crowd, creating oceans of hands, heads and sweat laden bodies, I watched the band move between sections, having fully grasped their instruments, but also, having fully grasped each other. Tacit understanding of each other’s progression, when to return to the pocket, moments to step back, where to solo. How to, all at once, shine the light on one member, while all members input being of tantamount importance: Artistry! Ego-less! We were all the lucky bystanders to a magical connection, a conduit that began in the ether and emanated on stage, delivered directly to our souls. The Surgeons on stage had just spliced yet another Frankenstein, and it was beautiful, delicately crafted, but with a surge of ROCK & ROLL, metal, jazz, all pure 100% unadulterated Umphrey’s. And that was just set one!
Set two found me in a much more manageable space, with enough groove room to only step on a few toes. Integrating several teases into their musically rich repertoire, Umphrey’s sewed a patchwork of cuts dripping with improvisation, precise musicianship, silly stage tactics (When I turned around, in the midst of a manic dance escapade, during second set, to face the defunct bar area to the left of the stage, Brendan and Jake were standing on the countertop of the bar, raging to an audience hell bent on landing the perfect Selfie! When I heard the transition to Dr. Feelgood, I began to nudge my girlfriend repeatedly, more and more aggressively, exclaiming with my jawdropped looks, can you F&^%ing believe this. I felt at one point I had been transported into a DJ driven dance party, effects registered from instruments at a moment’s notice that fit the specific moment perfectly. A Dionysian frenzy ensued and quickly forged it’s way to a musical precipice; The band balanced on a razor sharp edge of complete dissonance, with the expert ability to transition back into the framework of the song. Magic!
When the band stepped away after their encore, layers had been shed. Yes, I was down two shirts and fleece, to a now beer and sweat soaked short sleeve shirt. But further, the heat, exhaust and sweat I had poured over the last few hours, cleansed my soul while whetting my musical palate. I whisked the sweat beads from my forehead, turned to face the exiting audience, at all the spent souls that had, by their own volition, drained their battery to zero, attempting to keep up with the creativity, energy, pace and all around swagger of the hardest working band in the industry (IMHO). Making our way to the lobby and beyond, we each stepped through the threshold of Lupo’s, into the frozen New England Winter, just a little bit warmer, slipping back to our places of rest, to re-charge our batteries, reset the clock, and await the minutes, hours, or days, ticking away until the next time, when we might meet our dear friends again.