Halloween is a BIG weekend for the infamous Umphrey’s McGee. These novelty shows usually follow a tradition of busting out a handful of debut covers in a variety of ways, including combining them together into one beastly monster called a ‘mash-up’. I knew I couldn’t miss a single night of this year’s mash-up run, so I took up residence at a hotel suite directly across from the Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater along with ten of my closest friends. The first night of the run was actually on Halloween, plus all three shows were being streamed and taped for later release. I guess it goes without saying that this weekend was destined to be mashed to another level.
I spent the first half of Halloween day sewing together my Hell’s Belle costume, which was a mash-up of the devil and Belle from Beauty and the Beast. I was definitely ready to rock and roll in my AC/DC get up and, needless to say, the members of Umphrey’s were also dressed to impress for this special holiday. Brendan Bayliss was HeisenBert Reynolds, Jake Cinninger was Silent Bob Seger, Kris Myers was Dr. Phil Spector, and Andy Farag was Paul Ryan Braun, to which the Milwaukee crowd boo’d and hissed as he was introduced. But the best costume had to of been Joel Cummins dressed as Uncle Jesse Pinkman.
The first mash-up song of the night came at the end of the first set. It featured “When Doves Cry” by Prince, blended with Umph original “Pay the Snucka” and Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”. While ”Don’t Fear the Doves, Snucka” was fairly well mashed, I felt like it didn’t have quite enough cow bell to really pull it off.
Halloween night’s second set contained the next mash-up; “Papa Can Change a Blurred Stone”. This was probably my least favorite debut of the weekend, mostly because Umphrey’s covered Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”. This pop song has haunted me at every wedding, club, and dive bar I patronized over the past six months and the fact that I had to endure it once again while watching my favorite band was the ultimate Halloween trick. Not only that, but it completely overpowered The Tempations, Marvin Gaye, and LCD Soundsystem in the process. I am not sure whose idea it was to cover that specific song but I have a feeling bassist Ryan Stasik was involved, especially since his mash-up costume was Batman & Robin Thicke.
The final mash-up of the night stayed true to the yearly Halloween Mash-up Show tradition of saving the best for last. “Highway to Electric Avenue” was probably the most well mashed song of the Halloween show and seemed deliberately put aside for the show’s encore. Umphrey’s original “The Triple Wide” helped set off the mash-up’s pace which eventually evolved into a game of double-dutch between AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” and Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue”. I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that this mash-up contained a song by the same band that inspired my Hell’s Belle costume. Besides the three mash-ups, the setlist from Halloween contained heavy hitter after heavy hitter without a single song from the albums Mantis or Anchor Drops thrown in the mix. Fancy that.
Encore: Electric Avenue to Hell
 with Halloween theme (John Carpenter) jam, and Thriller (Michael Jackson) and Day Nurse teases
 debut; Papa Was a Rolling Stone (The Temptations) + Blurred Lines (Robin Thicke) + Got to Give It Up (Marvin Gaye) + I Can Change (LCD Soundsystem) mash-up
 debut; The Triple Wide + Highway to Hell (AC/DC) + Electric Avenue (Eddy Grant) mash-up
For Friday night, I signed up for Headphones and Snowcones. It basically cost me $40 for a pair of headphones that streamed a live audio mix directly from the soundboard to my tympanic membranes. This was the first time I tried the experience for an entire show and now I’m afraid live music will never sound the same. These headphones allowed me to tune out the rest of the world so I could get completely lost in the moment. This type of experience is the reason I am so in love with live music and now I don’t know how I will be able to fully enjoy a show without a set of headphones on. So it goes.
The second set on Friday opened with a DBK club sandwich and contained the night’s only debut mash-up: “The Final Teen Spirit”. Dramatic synths from Europe’s “The Final Countdown” directly clashed with Nirvana’s grunge classic “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. The simplicity of mashing only two songs into one seamless tune made this one of the most successful, straightforward mash-up of the weekend.
 with Simple Gifts (trad.) teases
 debut; The Final Countdown (Europe) + Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana) mash-up
 with Adam Budney on vocals
 with Baba O’Riley (The Who) teases
Brother’s Rage played a smoking after party show on Friday night that featured one of my favorite sit-ins to date. Jake Cinninger, the other worldly guitarist from Umphrey’s McGee, joined the late night act for a cover of The Grateful Dead’s “Estimated Profit” followed by some spacey improv. The jam eventually slammed into the sweaty disco tune, “You Should be Dancing” originally by the Bee Gee’s and featured Mr. Barry Brown on vocals. Needless to say, a legendary dance party erupted among all who attended and continued into the early morning hours.
By the final day of the Halloween run, most of my crew was hurting. Too much bourbon and beer had our hotel room smelling like the bathroom of a Wisconsin dive bar. Saturday’s show was sold out but I ended up getting a wristband for the floor, which ended up being completely packed with people. I was forced to stand behind a guy wearing a huge mushroom head hat and next to a girl that decided to conserve space by grinding on my leg like a dog humping its favorite teddy bear.
As far as Umphrey’s goes, this was definitely their most animated show of the weekend. Jake and Ryan were all over the place, both musically and physically. The first set contained an unfinished version of The Police’s “The Bed’s Too Big Without You”, which made me realize that I will probably never get a chance to hear Umphrey’s cover “Walking on the Moon” live. Also, it’s about time for Umph to tackle ”Man in a Suitcase”.
The final mash-up of the weekend was “Push the Booth Deeper” and it was confusing as hell! Most of us had no clue what was going on, which song was being played or whether all three originals were being played at the same time. A friend was able to get a hold of the song’s notes and confirmed the cluster of confusion from which this mash-up was birthed. To be honest, I am still trying to wrap my head around it.
Umphrey’s McGee finally ended the second set on Saturday night by busting out the Metallica rager, “…And Justice for All”, which hadn’t been performed live in over five years. But the real highlight of the evening was the relentless “Bridgeless” encore. As the tune progressed, one particular audience member could no longer contain his excitement. This very dirty looking man ran across the stage without shoes on, only to be tackled by the stage crew in front of the sold out crowd. It was then rumored that the same wook ended up outside the venue about an hour later going absolutely insane without a single piece of clothing on his body. And thus, a Halloween weekend full of mash-ups and debauchery came to an end.
 debut, The Police; incomplete
 with Jake on keys
 debut; Booth Love + Deeper + Push the Pig mash-up