Umphrey’s McGee threw a celebration for their triumphant return to the Riviera Theater from February 20th to the 22nd. It had been a long wait since their last three night run of shows in Chicago and the build up was almost unbearable. Needless to say, the creative energy was flowing all weekend and these concerts showcased some of Umphrey’s best work to date.
Buckets of rain flooded the city streets and sidewalks before the show on Thursday. Luckily, meteorologist Tom Skilling warning me of adverse weather conditions on Chicago’s WGN Midday News. I just so happened to tune in because Umphrey’s McGee was the show’s musical guest of the day. The band performed “No Diablo,” “Puppet String,” and “The Linear” throughout the hour long news program and the 30 second clips of my favorite band were just enough to send me over the edge with excitement.
Umphrey’s kicked off the first night of the run with an intro called “October Rain” playing over the loud speaker as the band walked onto the Riviera’s stage. They then took to their instruments and began to play along with the track. Umphrey’s immediately harnessed the room’s energy and once they found themselves in a free flowing groove, the band quickly segued into the frat party anthem: “40′s Theme.” Guitarist Jake Cinninger kept the song in Old Dirty Bastard territory, without letting it get too heavy.
After a contained version of “The Linear,” the song “White Man’s Moccasins’” hectically tripped into a maze of focused energy led by keyboardist Joel Cummins. There was a special feeling to the show that night. It almost seemed like everyone in the room was attending some sort of family reunion. Not to mention that the Riviera Theater is like the “Ghost of Concerts Past.” Its elegant chandeliers and pealing ceiling paint make you wonder what it looked like during its hay day. The balcony has perfect lines of site and a clear sound can be heard from almost every seat, even without headphones. The old theater chairs are so warn you can practically feel the springs stretch as they struggle to support you. I’ve seen dozens of shows at this particular venue but Umphrey’s NYE show from 2010 takes the cake. Needless to say, this time around felt just a special.
“Much Obliged” continued the show until it eventually hit an uplifting jam that provoked a lyrical Jimmy Stewart from Brendan Bayliss. This freestyle segment set the room ablaze with its indiscernible words just before it slammed into “Kimble.” The awkward change of pace was followed by “Morning Song” which seems to strike a nerve every time I hear it live, and always for a different reason. This time it was slow and controlled. See for yourself thanks to Tourgigs:
The first set ended with a grand version of “The Floor” that opened up into a progressive build that left me immediately impatient for more music.
After a longer than average set break, Umphrey’s chugged their way back on stage like a slow moving train. They started off the set with an appropriate “Slacker” that coincided perfectly with their tardiness. A hectic jam was complemented by sweeping laser beams of light that originated from the back of the stage and penetrated those of us in the audience. The show continued with a “Higgins” that restrained the band’s energy before it was finally allowed to gain momentum.
A big “Oh no!” came from the crowd as they witnessed the stage crew set up a microphone in front of bassist Ryan Stasik. Everyone knew this was when things would get weird. “Sad Gorillaz” is an Umphrey’s mashup of Metallica’s ”Sad But True” and Gorillaz’s “Clint Eastwood”. This particular version showcased an entertaining lyrical Jimmy Stewart sung by Stasik and its contents covered everything from xanax to Care Bears. He ended the sonnet with, “What the fuck… is happening?”
In contrast, Stasik later provided a moving bass solo to push forward the first few frames of “August.” As the rest of the band started to chime in, I couldn’t help notice the hush that had fallen over the crowd. Ryan Stasik is the male version of a diva and the whole room seemed completely captivated by him. I’m fairly certain he wore at least six different outfits over the course of three shows that weekend, which must be a record for any bassist.
By the time ”August” reached the raging jam, “Snake Juice,” I couldn’t help notice the whole room was thrashing. Umphrey’s then went back into ”August” to help bookend the segment.
The second set of Thursday night eventually ended with “Hurt Bird Bath.” This song always feels like an intense journey to a magical place. Waful held the tension of the room until his lights ignited into an explosion of color like never before. This combination of adventurous sounds and stimulating visuals provided a limitless moment of bliss only felt by being in the right place at the right time. It’s no wonder this song always invokes Umphrey’s fans to ”Woo…”
The show’s encore came just after midnight with a complete version of ”Pay the Snucka” that featured an insane guitar solo from Jake Cinninger. I use the word “insane” very literally here because a close friend of mine started to lose his shit at this point in the show. It was as if Jake channeled some sort of heavy metal death god and was sealing the fate of our souls with rapid fire guitar notes. And so, the first night of Umphrey’s in Chicago came to a close.
Encore: Pay the Snucka
 with The Fuzz jam and “Jimmy Stewart” with lyrics
 with White Summer (Led Zeppelin) jam
By the second night, wind gusts had torn all the letters off the Riviera’s marquee. A longer than average line wrapped around the venue for this sold out show because many fans, like myself, just couldn’t wait for the next round of Umphrey’s McGee.
The show kicked off with the slow growing intro called ”A Mild Sedative” and eventually exploded into the first notes off the album Anchor Drops. This version of “Plunger” contained a frantic jam to start the Friday show off right. It peaked with an abrupt stop-and-go section that slowly evolved into group improv unlike anything Umphrey’s has ever played before. Up next was “Passing.” Though it was a short and sweet, it stabilized the room’s energy before Umphrey’s launched into “The Crooked One.” There was a tension that was present when the song first started but ten minutes later, it turned into a glorious progressive jam that was bathed in Jefferson Waful’s lights.
The song “Comma Later” was played so impressively that night, many of those who once hated the tune are now sold on its potential. It’s jam was thick with disco grooves and peaked over, and over again. This was the type of moment die hard Umphrey’s fans live for and it was a total game changer for this particular Umphrey’s song.
Friday’s first set ended with a 20 minute ”Preamble> Mantis Ghetts>Mantis” and closed on a Cinninger peak. It was so intense, Jake had to turn his back to the audience while he became frozen in the moment. It was obvious the guitarist was in prime form that night. He aligned the whole room on his frequency, practically demanded we get on his level or be left in the dust.
I guess you could say that the first set of Friday night was looser than a ’lot girl’ at the end of Phish’s summer tour. In fact, the first hour of music was so robust, a set break was welcomed this time around.
“All In Time” kicked off the second set. This classic Umph song contained a jam led by percussionist Andy Farag that subtly turtled to its peak until Jake unleashed like a viper, shredding it to pieces.
“The Triple Wide” began as a dedication to the band’s friends and family that were there in the audience that night. Then, in the middle of the song, half of the band ventured up into the balcony to rage right next to their loved ones. It was something Umphrey’s has recently started to experiment with since they’ve started playing with wireless technology. Needless to say, the crowd was wildly entertained by the theatrics and even chanted, “USA…USA…” in approval.
“Hajimemashite” started out pretty standard but once the first verse was complete, Umphrey’s immediately transitioned into the song ”Glory.” The rest of the tune bounced back between the two songs as if they were always meant to be played together. It was a moment of pure grace like I’ve never experienced before. Check out the video shot by Tourgigs:
After the mesmerizing “Haji/Glory” combo, Bayliss took a moment to thank the crew and introduce his fellow band members. A song played as each member was introduced and the band even completed a whole verse of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” after Kris Myer’s introduction. The group then went into the jazzy old school favorite “Prowler” that almost immediately transitioned into a 10 minute “Intentions Clear.”
All of the night’s cover songs came at the end of the show and I have to admit, I was kind of embarrassed I knew every word of Wang Chung’s “Dance Hall Days.” Most folks around me seemed lost but I still sang each verse as loud as I could. The set ended with “Hangover” and included a tease of ZZ Top’s “La Grange” and a full verse from Hendrix’s ”Voodoo Child.”
Jake Cinninger dedicated the encore to South Bend then delivered the first verse of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.” For the final song of the night, Umphrey’s McGee played a heavy version of “1348″ that left everyone in the room satisfied. The show, overall, contained everything that is wonderful about this band. Every jam was executed perfectly and you could really tell the whole band was actively listening to each other that evening. Friday’s show was definitely the highlight of the weekend.
Set 2: All In Time, The Triple Wide, Hajimemashite > Glory > Hajimemashite > Glory, Prowler > Intentions Clear -> Dance Hall Days, Hangover > Voodoo Child > HangoverEncore: Comfortably Numb > 1348
 with Hajimemashite teases
 with La Grange (ZZ Top) jam
Saturday felt like I was seeing a completely different band. After the debut of Umphrey’s newest intro, “Bathing Digits,” a massive “Phil’s Farm” circled in and out of a back woods jam that wouldn’t let you forget its twangy roots. The rest of the set was nothing to tell mom about. The beginning of “Miami Virtue” almost fooled me into thinking it was “Nothing Too Fancy”, which was kind of a let down. I was waiting for that epic, jaw on the floor moment but, for some reason, this set never hit it. ”2nd Self,” ”Thin Air,” and “Red Tape” weren’t as tight as they could have been and it felt uncomfortable.
“Bad Friday” was probably one of the most anticipated songs of the weekend, but it just didn’t hit the level awesomeness it did when it first debuted this past New Years Eve. Check out the Tourgigs footage:
Overall, this part of the run lacked the free flow of energy that existed on Thursday and Friday. The second half of the first set featured Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger on acoustic guitars. For a band with such high energy live shows, this type of breakdown is usually saved for special occasions. I have to admit, I actually started to cry during Bayliss’s touching delivery of “The Weight Around.” To top it off, the band was joined by a spunky singer named Daphne Willis for backup vocals on another acoustic rarity: ”Bullhead City.” Overall, Umphrey’s acoustic treatment was very personal and salvaged what was left of the set, which finally came to an end with a short cover of Bob Seger’s “Night Moves.”
Whatever took place during the first half of the Saturday show was most definitely overshadowed by the five song second set that power houred through to the end of the Chicago run. The jam of the night, maybe even the whole run, was a 27 minute DBK that invaded the galaxy. ”Just What I Needed” was a quaint cover before “Divisions” dove deep into a sea of slow paced progression. It was followed by a strange version of “Believe the Lie” that started out sounding like a Zappa cover. I’m pretty sure this trickery was part of the show because shit just kept getting more and more weird.
Overall, the theatrics that weekend pushed the boundaries of Umphrey’s stage show. Wireless guitars allowed members to utilize their stage space like never before. Mix in Waful’s strobe lights and you could barely see Stasik and Cinninger wandering around the back of the stage and messing with the other band members. The second set came to a close with an overly controlled “Puppet String” that was stripped down until right before the song’s raving peak.
For the final encore, drummer Kris Myers sat behind his kit only to admit he didn’t know how to play the next song on the setlist. Conveniently enough, Myers found the Smashing Pumpkins’ drummer, Jimmy Chamberlin, on the side of the stage. Chamberlin then took over Kris’s drums so Umphrey’s could cover the Pumpkins’ classic, ”Cherub Rock.” The audience was overjoyed to share in this authentic home town experience.
 debut, original
 with Brendan and Jake on acoustics
 with Brendan and Jake on acoustics, and with Daphne Willis on vocals
 debut, The Cars
 with Jimmy Chamberlain on drums and Kris on percussion
So the highly anticipated Chicago run finally came to an end. Overall the weekend was extremely relaxed and controlled. Friday definitely stands out as the most successful night of the run and I would highly recommend you give it a listen.
It has been a while since I personally have gotten to a show and hitting up Umphrey’s McGee and The Werks last weekend was a perfect end to my drought. The Fillmore in downtown Detroit always provides a very intimate setting for every act I have seen there over the years. I love the beautiful cathedral ceilings and artwork.
Umphrey’s really gave us a great performance including a cover of Simple Mind’s “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” to commemorate the recent loss of their original drummer Mike Mirro. Brendon Bayliss gave a heartfelt speech during the song. Here is a video with audio of the performance featuring a slide show of pictures of Mike:
And here is a transcription of the speech Brenden gives:
“You know Detroit, looking out tonight, seeing so many people…words cannot express how good it feels to be onstage playing live music after so many years together we’ve been doing this. I don’t even know how many, it’s like 16 or something. Way back when we were in college we were starting this thing and it was like, when you’re in college you’re a kid, you have no idea what the fuck you’re supposed to do with the rest of your life, but they tell you you have 4 years to figure it out and you gotta do it well, right?
You know when we started, we were playing bars and 15, 16, 20 people would come out and we’d make about $18 and we were full of self doubt and we had no idea that it was going to get to this point where we are right now. And so I want you guys to know when you’re full of doubt and you have no idea what’s going on in your life and you’re down and you’re out, you’re not thinking anything is going anywhere, it happens to everybody, everybody in this room is in the same position. We all have no fucking clue what is going on. So just believe and have faith because everything will work out in the end. It works out for me, it works out for him, it works out for him, it works out for her, for you, for you, for him, for everybody.”
- Brendan Bayliss
Overall the show was amazing and the band played very tight in my opinion all night long. Opening with 40′s theme gave me a good idea early on that the band was here to give us a good show.
SET I: October Rain, 40′s Theme, Domino Theory, #5, In The Kitchen, Utopian Fir, The Message, Utopian Fir
Set II: Bright Lights, Big City, Hangover, Hurt Bird Bath, Don’t You Forget About Me, Bass Solo, August, Mulche’s Odyssey
Encore: Puppet String
Full downloads of the show are always available straight from the band at UMlive.net.
I know I will be listening to this one for some time now to help get through this winter and back into full fledged Festy Season! My festy gland has been tingling out of control for some time and I can’t wait for this snow to melt here in the mid-west so we can get ourselves back to Chillicothe.
Until next time,
Come see one of your favorite Summer Camp bands and help a good cause too! At the SOLD OUT Umphrey’s McGee show on Saturday, February 22nd at The Riviera Theatre in Chicago, Summer Camp’s Make A Difference will be hosting a drive to benefit Deborah’s Place, an organization committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness for women in Chicago.
Through a continuum of housing options, comprehensive support services and opportunities for change provided by dedicated volunteers and staff, women succeed in achieving their goals of stable housing, sustainable income and greater self-determination with Deborah’s Place.
Bring cleaning supplies to the show and you will be entered to win a pair of tickets to Summer Camp Music Festival 2014 or the Umphrey’s Merch Package above!
The cleaning supplies that Deborah’s Place has requested include:
- Bleach and cleaning solution
- Sponges and scouring pads
- Dish soap
- Laundry detergent
- Paper towels
Some of your Summer Camp Field Day Captains and Refs will be there to take donations and sign you up to win prizes, so remember to bring cleaning supplies to the Umphrey’s show on February 22nd to support Deborah’s Place – you can Make A Difference!
All entries agree to our Official Sweepstakes Rules & Regulations.
Night two of my clandestine run started with a rendezvous in Denver and a quick cab ride over to the Fillmore. It was during their gig at Red Rocks that Umphrey’s McGee announced that they would be doing three nights on Colfax for New Year’s. They too subsequently announced a private VIP show for the 30th at the newly renovated 1 Up. The fact that the 30th was initially left open by YMSB, SCI, and UM lead many including myself to speculate that there would be a benefit on par with the 4 Mile Canyon show. However this did not come to pass, but I can’t help but feel that we missed a real opportunity for some incredible fundraising and some unforgettable collaboration. So it goes. I arrived just moments before Dumpstaphunk hit the stage and opened with their own funk explosion “Everybody Want Sum.”
Set 1: Everybody Want Sum, Blueswave, They Don’t Care, If I’m In Luck, Put It In The Dumpsta, Dancin’ To The Truth, Immigrant Song
Dumpstaphunk is a band directly descended from the New Orleans funk tradition. Led by multi-instrumentalist virtuoso Ivan Neville, the lineup is literally a super group of funk masters. Nikki Glaspie on drums with the three-pronged attack of Ian Neville, Tony Hall, and Nick Daniels III on guitar. This unique array of musicians allows for some amazing give and take. Their anthem to positive thinking, “Put It In The Dumpsta” was one highlight in a full and funky hour-long opening set. They closed with a smoking version of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” that seemed to properly welcome everyone for the night’s festivities.
Dumpstaphunk is a great addition to any bill, but they were especially fun at The Fillmore. After a quick instrument change the lights dimmed and Umphrey’s McGee emerged from the darkness. This show was being streamed live and the room was just short of capacity. They opened with the Kris Meyer’s tune, “Flamethrower.”
Set 1: Flamethrower> Mulche’s Oddessy, Miami Virtue> Plunger > Day Nurse, No Comment> Plunger, Nemo> Dear Lord> Nemo, Dump City*
Set 2: Der Bluten Kat> Amble On> Der Bluten Kat**, Wife Soup, Ringo, River People^
*w/ Ivan Neville on keys
Joshua Redman sat in for the entire 2nd Set and Encore
**w/ Jaden Carlson on guitar
^First Time Played (Weather Report Cover)
The band bounced along almost innocently before ripping into a face-melting “Mulche’s Odyssey.” The prog-tastic “Miami Virtue” always makes me feel like I’ve just been plopped smack dab in the middle of a dance off scene in a John Hughes film. Plunger went dark and flashy before they dipped into a sneaky “Day Nurse,” which featured some sick synthesizer work from Joel Cummins. The song broke out into a tight but frenetic jam, which dissolved into funky “No Comment.” In classic Umph fashion they went succinctly back into “Plunger.” The somewhat rare “Dear Lord” jam during “Nemo” was a very nice touch. Umphrey’s invited Ivan Neville out for their set closing “Dump City.”
Umphrey’s diverged into a world of deep and intricate jams for set two. I’ve talked before about the magic of six song sets. It all began inconspicuously enough with a textbook “Der Bluten Kat” opener. However the segue into “Amble On” and back into “Der Bluten Kat” contained some of the most poignant and extended jamming of my entire New Year’s run. The inclusion of Joshua Redman on sax for the entire second set obviously added a level of class, but more than that it elevated the entire band. Umphrey’s has performed with a number of different horn players over the years, but Redman is simply a powerhouse of sophistication.
During the return to “Der Bluten Kat” the boys also invited local guitar phenom Jaden Carlson up to shred with Jake and Bayliss. For those that don’t know this kid is akin to a young female Derek Trucks. Just barely a teenager she is playing gigs many three times her age would kill for. She is definitely one to look out for and it’s awesome that Umphrey’s McGee took the opportunity to invite her up to play. “Wife Soup” was massive and contained perhaps the best back and forth with Redman and UM of the show. The “Ringo” was sublime and again went to the deep end. They closed with a debut of a “Weather Report” cover “River People.” It seemed to fit the mood of the evening very well. The encore again featured Redman for a fully realized “1348.” For many the 29th night may have lacked the pizzazz of the two following nights. However, Umphrey’s McGee is one of the most technical and musically elaborate bands touring today. Their show on Sunday was like bowing down at the altar of funk, jazz, and progressive rock. The genre bending and the amazing collaboration was definitely worth the price of admission.
A week into the new year, it’s time to look ahead to all of the musical excitement that this year has to offer. But first, it’s always fun to reflect back on the year I just had…
After 2012, I had been to 105 total concerts – which isn’t too many, I know – but considering I’ve been an athlete my entire life I have other priorities that take precedence over live music! 2013, however, was a milestone year for me in music as I fortunate enough to attend 45 shows, nearly twice as many as I saw in 2012. A lot of this is due to my first ever attendance of a camping festival (Summer Camp), and then of course my annual celebrations at Summerfest in Milwaukee. Let’s start with…
The Most Frequent Bands I Saw in 2013
Roster McCabe – 9 shows: I’ve written extensively about this band (now known as Night Phoenix) before, so this is nothing new. The Midwest “electro-rock” tours heavily throughout the year and I was able to catch them 9 times, putting my career tally at 20 Roster McCabe shows.
Umphrey’s McGee – 4 shows: No surprise here – my first UM show occurred in 2004 when I was just 12 years old. In 2013 I was at all 3 Scamp shows and also their set at Summerfest, making it 4 on the year. I have seen the improg group at least once every year since ’07.
Michael Franti & Spearhead – 2 shows: My favorite feel good musical choice, Michael Franti & Spearhead rolled through the Midwest in 2013 in support of his latest album, All People. I caught the “rebel rocker” at the Minneapolis State Fair in late August and about a month later in Madison with Moon Taxi.
Nahko & Medicine for the People – 2 shows: I had never heard of this band until about a week before they showed up in La Crosse, WI for a show at my favorite bar The Popcorn Tavern, which was a memory I’ll write about further down the page. A similar sound to Michael Franti and Matisyahu, Nahko just has a radiance of good vibes glowing off him that the rest of the band and crowd feeds off of.
Other notable acts: Pretty Lights, Big Gigantic, Moon Taxi, moe., Victor Wooten & Friends, Thievery Corporation, Blues Traveler, Dark Star Orchestra, 311, EMEFE, Steez, and Dark Star Orchestra covering The Rolling Stones.
My Top 5 Shows of 2013:
Of the 9 shows I saw Roster McCabe perform in 2013, why this one? Perhaps because it was only one set, which means it was a straight up dance party. Also, this was on Thursday at Summer Camp – the pre-party – so it was just a great way to set the tone for the entire weekend. The Camping Stage was a great spot right on the outskirts of the woods to draw in all the campers – and everyone LOVED it! The crowd didn’t stop moving through the entire – most of them unaware of Roster – but loved discovering a new band to get down to. They closed the set with a cover of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky that turned into a frenzy.
4) Umphrey’s McGee, 2013-07-02 Summerfest – Big Backyard
So many great things about this show. My hometown, in the front row with all my friends, Kevin Sinclair sit-in, Pink Floyd cover, 4 song encore (!!!) that included rarity Dear Lord, this show is a must download!
3) Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, 2013-06-28 Summerfest – Marcus Amphitheater
This was my 6th Tom Petty show, and possibly my last. A sell-out crowd at the Amp sang along with all the hits and had great energy, as always. Petty loves Milwaukee, he makes that very clear every time he comes (all 6 times I’ve seen him came at Summerfest) and even showed a surprising amount of improv jams in a couple songs!
2) Trey Anastasio Band, 2013-05-26 Summer Camp – Sunshine Stage
This would be #1 if not for the unfortunate fact that the show was cut short. Due to the extreme rainstorm. But wow. This was my most listened to show of the year by far. I can’t imagine a better band to make such miserable weather conditions tolerable.
1) Everyone Orchestra, 2013-05-26 Summer Camp – Red Barn
The lineup included Victor Wooten, Joel Cummins, Al Schnier, Vinnie Amico, Allie Kral, Alex Steele, Mike Dillon, Roosevelt Collier and a few other I can’t remember, all conducted my Matt Butler. This show just completely blew my away from start to finish. 100% improv! What else could you ask for from an all-star lineup?!
Conclusion and Looking Towards 2014
The only regret I have from 2013 is that I didn’t get to see my all time favorite band, Phish. I had tickets for all 3 nights in Chicago but unfortunately it didn’t work out with some other things that popped up. I have a good feeling they’ll return to Alpine Valley for 2 nights this summer though!
2014 will be a great year. Of course Summer Camp already has an amazing lineup announced and it will only get better. Particle reunited and is on a heavy tour for 2014 – don’t miss out on these guys! One of the founding bands of the electronic jam scene next to the Disco Biscuits and STS9.
Happy new year, and see ya on the road!
Denver was a busy city on New Year’s Eve. The String Cheese Incident was playing their 20th anniversary show just outside the city while Pretty Lights was headlining EDM extravaganza, Decadence in the heart of downtown. Umphrey’s McGee, on the other hand, was wrapping up a four night New Year’s run at Fillmore Auditorium. I hadn’t caught an Umphrey’s NYE show in over two years and there was truly no place I’d rather be.
I arrived at the venue just before the show started. My road beverage turned to liquid gold as I waited in a line that wrapped around the Fillmore and into a quaint Denver neighborhood. Luckily it wasn’t too cold outside, or maybe it was the alcohol, but everyone was feeling pretty good, until we heard the crowd roar from within the venue.
Frustration and panic washed over my face. With each note that followed, the pain burrowed deeper into the pit of my stomach. I realized that this was probably my version of hell; being stuck in a line outside a venue only to hear the empty echoes of my favorite songs being played inside while energetic lights escape from a securely guarded door.
The line moved slower than expected and I ended up missing the first forty minutes of the show, which included “Le Blitz > Phil’s Farm > Ocean Billy”. Therefore, the first official song on my New Year’s Eve setlist was a sassy “Mail Package” that Jake Cinninger soulfully delivered. It was followed by a thrashing “Wizard Burial Ground” that Brendan Bayliss comically dedicated “to all the lovers out there.”
Umphrey’s ended the first set of NYE with a debut of a never before played original, “Bad Friday”. This song was probably the highlight of the show. With the help of Mad Dog’s Filthy Secret on horns, Jake’s familiar soul riff finally took flight. A catchy backbeat turned this new Umph tune into straight-up pop music. From the first notes, a disco dance party formed under glimmering crystal chandeliers, which seemed to float above the crowd.
I love being present when an original song is played for the first time because it puts everyone on the same level. From the most avid fan to the kid experiencing their first show, no one knows what will happen next. It made me recollect the first time Umphrey’s played “Puppet Strings” at Summer Camp and my visceral reaction to hear it over and over again. I predict “Bad Friday” will be Umphrey’s bust out song of the 2014; much like “Puppet Strings” was in 2011.
Second set was much stranger than the first. A horn section, appropriately labled Mad Dog’s Filthy Secret, added a deeper level of weird to Umphrey’s musical landscapes. The sounds engulfed me since I was wearing a pair of headphones that streamed live soundboard audio. My previous experiences with Headphones and Snowcones convinced me that this was the best way completely submerge myself in the live music experience. So why not rock them at Umphrey’s biggest show of the year? The headphones demanded my focus be on the music throughout the first set so I chose to venture through the crowd alone during the second to get a better view of the stage.
I felt like an island surrounded by people, something that further enhanced my response to Umphrey’s debut cover of “Twilight Zone”, which also included teases of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train”. I zoned into the way Jake commanded his guitar while Brendan attempted to catch the rhythm. It all felt like it wasn’t adding up so I started making friends with the strangers around me and eventually found myself covered in Umphlove stickers.
Songs like “40′s Theme” and “Booth Love” were done justice by the addition of horns, while ”No Diablo” finally got a chance to dig deeper into its Motown roots. Umphrey’s ended the set on a high note with the most unforgettable cover of the night, Phil Collins’ “Sussudio”. Once again, the strangeness crept in as I recalled American Psycho’s analysis of Phil’s work. At this point I began to realize that maybe this weird feeling was strictly subjective.
Third set began just before midnight with an insane version of “Hurt Bird Bath”. In keeping with tradition, Umphrey’s had never played this song into the New Year. Jeff Coffin, along with the rest of Mad Dog’s Secrets, amped up the energy of “Hurt Bird Bath” like I had never seen it before. The insane build up of the song made me appreciate the true meaning of “rage” in how it relates to the actions of a raving maniac.
By now I had found most of my friends standing right in front of the sound board in the center of the ballroom. This spot provided the best view I experienced all night. Light designer Jefferson Waful was perched on a tall platform just behind us and his devotion to symmetry made the room’s visual landscape just as stimulating as the audio coming from the headphones.
But when the countdown started, I removed my headphones. This was not a time when I wished to block out the rest of the room. Umphrey’s provided all the elements necessary to engrave this moment in my head for the rest of my life. Balloons and confetti fell from the ceiling. My focus switched from the stage to the people around me. Smiling from ear to ear, I hugged my friends and wished them the best in 2014.
Whimsical swirls of energy surrounded us as the band ventured into the New Year’s classic “Auld Lang Syne”. After spending a handful of past New Year’s Eves with Umphrey’s, I knew this was coming. I even looked up a few verses of the song before the show in preparation, so when I heard those first few notes I belted out the lyrics as loud as I could, greeting 2014 with a song.
It was all so intoxicating; the music, energy of the room, glow of the lights, and smell of weed becoming legal. At midnight Colorado became the first state to legalize marijuana, something I never thought I’d experience in my lifetime. It made me feel like I was part of something BIG just by being there. New Year’s always offers a fresh start with limitless possibilities, and this was no exception.
The rest of the third set was pure perfection. “Hit It and Quit It”, a debut Funkadelic cover, provided just enough raunchiness to everyone’s juices flowing. I turned my headphones over to some friends so I could share the experience. The look on their faces was of pure ecstasy.
The night ended with an appropriate “Resolution” encore that jammed out the New Year’s classic, “Auld Lang Syne” and eventually segued into Kool & the Gang’s “Funky Stuff”. Umphrey’s was once again joined by Mad Dog’s Filthy Secrets to conclude the long night of music on a high note.
While strange, the night felt perfect in every way.
New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest nights of the year for music. Some of the best memories of my life come from the times I’ve spent with friends and family getting down at a New Year’s Eve show. You can’t beat the atmosphere, the people, or the unbelievable 3 night runs so many of the artists put together. I thought I’d share where I think the top places to be this NYE as well as some clips from some of the great NYE shows of the past.
#1 – String Cheese Incident – Broomfield, CO
The photo above is from one of the greatest shows I’ve ever witnessed. String Cheese at 1STBANK Center in Broomfield, CO a couple years back in 2012. Unreal! The atmosphere was amazing and the vibe in Colorado was jubilant. The three night run included an unforgettable light show, guest spots, on stage performances, and the best people in the world all gathered to bring in the new year in the most exhilarating way possible. The three night run ended with a nearly 4 hour long, 3 set show that was truly unforgettable. My favorite part of the show is the “Sweet Emotion” cover towards the end of the first set. I was in another world listening to the reverberations of the bass as the tune echoed through the crowd.
This year promises to be even better! People who have been before have been geared up for this event for months. One of my good friends even organized a trip with over 100 people and took over an entire hotel floor! Go Steve Bannister! The video below from 2012 will rock your world! “Sweet Emotion” is about 20 minutes from the end.
#2 – Umphrey’s Mcgee – Denver, CO
Colorado is the place to be! Broomfield is only a short drive from Denver so you could hypothetically check out part of each band’s run this NYE. I came into my own as a person and passionate music fan during the early 2000′s in Chicago and I’ve attended UM on NYE at least 5 times without counting. They really bring it and you can expect something unique and special every time. They used to do a 3 night run at the Aragon EVERY YEAR much to the delight of Chicagoans, but the story is that the Aragon cancelled on them a couple years back to make way for the Black Keys. Bad move. UM has never been back and they’ve continued producing epic shows each year since. Highlights that I can remember from off the top of my head include UM playing with a full brass band, they brought an entire chorus with them another time, stage performances, and some covers I’ve only gotten to hear them do once.
UM has 4 nights in Denver so hopefully you can get into one of the shows. Here they are they Pageant in 2011, the first year they didn’t play Chicago.
#3 – Widespread Panic – Atlanta, GA
The photo above from December 31st in Charlotte last year pretty much says everything you need to know about how great the 30th and 31st are going to be in Atlanta this year! It’s been awhile since I’ve seen these guys, actually, all the way back to 2011 Summer Camp. But I’ve been in the mood for listening to NYE shows and I came across this from 2005. I immediately knew I had to add this year’s show to the list.
#4 – Sun Stereo – Urbana, IL
Personally, I’ve been doing a lot of traveling and I decided to stay closer to home. I’ll be checking out Josh Houchin, Kelly McMorris, and the rest of Sun Stereo rock the Canopy Club. This local band rocked Summer Camp and Hangout Festival last year and will without a doubt be the best show in town come NYE.
Happy New Year’s Everyone!
I’m sure by now you have seen the initial line up for Summer Camp 2014 (which, by the way, features just a FRACTION of the over 75 bands that will play). For me, just knowing moe. and Umphrey’s will be there every year is enough, but let’s take a closer look at all of the other awesome artists that will be raging into Three Sisters Park this May!
I will never forget the first time I saw Bassnectar live. It was an experience for sure. The craziest part of seeing him that night; it was right after Furthur played. So after seeing Furthur’s epic performance, going into something like Bassnectar literally blew people away. I remember going into a Porta Potty right next to the stage and it was literally moving with the bass. I have seen Bassnectar (Lorin Ashton ) countless times since and I had a blast every single time.
Lorin’s stage energy is great and his production set up is always top notch. Bassnectar for me is one of those acts that are meant for a festival. Sure, he’s fun in a club setting, but raging with thousands of people at Summer Camp is going to be a night to remember.
Check out when Bassnectar killed it at Summer Camp in 2010:
Bassnectar fun fact: When starting out, Lorin’s stage name was DJ Lorin. He released his first album in 2001, and it wasn’t until 2002 that he founded his stage name, Bassnectar.
Trey Anastasio Band
If you were at Summer Camp 2013, I’m sure Trey Anastasio Band was on your wish list to return this year! I don’t like letting the weather ruin my fun, so I still (along mannnny others) got down to Trey on Sunday of Summer Camp 2013, and i’m sure he’ll pick up right where he left off this last year! I’m so extremely excited! For those that don’t know, Trey Anastasio is Phish’s lead guitarist and vocalist.
Trey Anastasio’s Band is made up of Russ Lawton on drums, Tony Markellis on bass, Cyro Baptista on percussion, Ray Paczkowski on keys, Jennifer Hartswick on trumpet and vocals, Natalie Cressman on trombone and vocals, and of course, Trey Anastasio on guitar and vocals! One of my personal favorite songs is “Architect”. This team of amazing musicians is one not to be missed.
Trey Anastasio Band fun fact: Trey Anastasio Band first made their debut in 1998. What started off with only 3 members has grown into the wide range sounds of what TAB ( Trey Anastasio Band for short ) is today.
Primus is one of the most unique acts of any band I have seen. Part of that for me is the vocals and talent of bassist / vocalist Les Claypool. The rest of Primus is made up of guitarist Larry LaLonde and drummer Tim Alexander.
Although I have been listening to Primus for a long time, it wasn’t until 2010 that I had my first chance to catch them live. When the lights dimmed and the mysterious intro music started, I grinned a large smile and I knew I was in for a treat. What I actually saw throughout their whole set was something I have never seen before in a live act. Les Claypool is a very interactive vocalist. In between many of their songs, he goes on a hysterical banter with his interesting voice. Normally I can do without artists talking in between songs, but I actually embrace it! Many people that witnessed Primus at Summer Camp in 2012 claim it to be one of the most epic sets. Well, they are ready to party it back up at Summer Camp this year, and I for one am smiling ear to ear once again!
Check out Primus live when Bob Weir sat in from Summer Camp 2012:
Primus fun fact: Primus has a catchphrase, being “Primus sucks!”. When fans say this, it often confuses new listeners. In 2011, Les did say that he got tired of fans saying it.
Yonder Mountain String Band
YEEEEHAAAWWWW! Yonder Mountain String Band. YONDER MOUNTAIN STRING BAND! Seriously, I NEVER get tired of seeing these guys live. They are what got me into bluegrass. It’s hard to explain to people that aren’t familiar with these guys, or bluegrass in general, how hard they rage live. Their foot stomping fun is comprised of Jeff Austin on mandolin and vocals, Ben Kaufmann on bass and vocals, Dave Johnston on banjo and vocals, and Adam Aijala on guitar and vocals. I’m not sure if it’s because of the lack of drums in the band (and I don’t say that in a negative way, I love it), but the way the audience dances at a Yonder show is awesome. It’s almost as if everyone dances as the drummer keeping the beat.
Seeing Yonder this past year at Summer Camp two times was a very cool. My favorite of the two was their barn set. If you were one of the lucky ones to see them perform in the barn Friday night, you know how special it was. Especially late night ( although seeing them around 6 PM with a full sun is awesome ). I can’t wait to see what the guys bring to the stage this year at Summer Camp.
Check out this video of Yonder late night in the Red Barn at Summer Camp 2013:
Yonder Mountain String Band fun fact: When Dave Johnston and Jeff Austin first met, Dave asked Jeff to join and sing in his band, The Bluegrassholes. It was then that Jeff revealed he had a mandolin, and Dave said bring it along; “just play it fast and loud!”
Lotus. LOTUS. LOTTTTUSSSS! I’m pretty sure that’s what muttered out of my mouth when I saw they were on this years line up. Lotus has and always will hold a special place in my heart. I have seen these guys so many times I have lost count, and I have never seen a bad set by them!
Lotus is made up of Mike Rempel on guitar, Jesse Miller on bass and sampler, Mike Greenfield on drums, Luke Miller on guitar and keyboards, and Chuck Morris on percussion.
I think what I love most about Lotus is the way that they build up their sets until your face is officially melted off. I’m not kidding either. When they get into their epic jams, I loose my mind. The whole audience is connected into the band, and the band into the audience and everyone is just feeding off each others energy. Not only are these guys amazing musicians, but if you ever get the chance to speak with these guys, they are very down to earth. For me personally, Lotus at Summer Camp is what’s on my mind. I will be seeing them perform multiple times in between then, but nothing is better then Lotus raging Summer Camp!
Check out this video of Lotus playing “Backlight Sunflare” at Summer Camp 2011:
Lotus fun fact: Jesse and Luke Miller are brothers. Also, Lotus has done many themed shows. On October 31, 2008 at the TLA in Philadelphia the show was billed as “Live Fast Die Young: the 27 Conspiracy”. Each of the 5 members dressed as a rock star who died at the age of 27 (Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Pigpen, and Jim Morrison) and the show featured covers by each of the respective bands.
Comprised of String Cheese Incidents Michael Travis and Jason Hann, these dudes know how to bring the energy! What really sets EOTO apart from other electronic artists is their music is created without prerecorded loops! It’s all improv, and all loops are created right then and there! Onstage, they use Abelton live as their primary software for looping. Every time I have seen EOTO has been a much different.. not in bad way! Their stage set up is called the Lotus Flower and utilized 3D mapping to project really cool art work on to the set up.
EOTO fun fact: EOTO originally started out as End Of Time Observatory, with the members often calling themselves EOTO. Many Japanese fans explained EOTO means “good sound” in Japanese, and the band decided to officially stick with the name EOTO instead.
Keller Williams is a “one man jam band” hailing from Fredericksburg, Virginia. Using loop recording, his live shows mimic a full four piece act on stage. If you close your eyes at one of his shows, you often forget there is only one guy up there making music. It takes a lot of talent to do what he does, and he does it very well at that!
Keller uniquely blends bluegrass, folk, rock, reggae, electronica, jazz, and funk all together into an epic dance party. Keller often plays Grateful Dead songs which is always a plus in my book! I was able to catch a couple songs when he played as Keller Williams with More Than a Little right before Umphrey’s on Friday Night this past Summer Camp. It was so good!
Keller Williams fun fact: Keller Williams never took any lessons. He is a self taught musician!
The funkiest group returns to Summer Camp! If you have seen them perform before, then I know how happy you are that they are returning on the line up! They were so amazing at Summer Camp this past year as they funkified the Moonshine stage! About half way into their set, it started raining pretty good, but it felt so right in that moment and time! Everyone got crazier and really started dancing around like wild animals!
Lettuce is made up of Eric Krasno on guitar, Adam Smirnoff on guitar, Neal Evans on keys, Adam Deitch on drums, Erick Coomes on bass, Sam Kininger on sax, Ryan Zoidis on sax, and Nigel Hall on vocals. All of these guys are so talented! They have all found success in other acts as well, all touring in different groups around the world when not playing with Lettuce. They are an act to NOT miss when Summer Camp arrives!
Lettuce fun fact: In the fall of 1994, the band reconvened as undergrads at Berklee and attempted to play at various Boston jazz clubs, walking in and asking the club owners and other musicians if they would “let us play”, giving birth to the name Lettuce.
Beats Antique is an American experimental world fusion and electronic music group. They were formed in California in 2007. I like to heavily emphasize the world fusion part… If you have seen them or at least even heard their music, you understand what I’m referring to. Their shows are so outrageously unique! Made up of David Satori, Zoe Jakes, and Tommy Cappel, Beats Antique is another act I recommend checking out! Their shows somehow remind me of a Cirque de soleil show. They feature belly dancing and many different characters/costumes dancing about.
Beats Antique fun fact:
Zoe Jakes began belly dancing in 2000, but is a lifelong dancer, having 10 years of jazz and ballet dance experience under her belt. Her belly dancing is a blend of traditional belly dance with tango, popping, and indian dance.
Hailing from Chicago, Future Rock combines elements of Electronica, Progressive House, and dance rock. The band consists of Felix Moreno on bass guitar and synthesizer, Mickey Kellerman on keyboards and synthesizers, and Darren Heitz on drums and synthesizer. Future Rock was so cool in the Red Barn this past year. They brought the heat in there!
Check out this video of Future Rock late night from the Red Barn at Summer Camp 2013:
Future Rock fun fact: They once performed as Aphex Rock, performing a full set of music by Aphex Twin.
Other Summer Camp 2014 Artists
The other acts announced in the first round are Bro Safari, Wick-it the Instigator, Family Groove Company, This Must Be the Band, The Floozies, Henhouse Prowlers, DJ SOLO, Manic Focus, The Delta Saints, IndigoSun, Robotic Pirate Monkey, DUGASMUSIC, Sun Stereo, The Black Cadillacs, Old Shoe, Chicago Farmer’s New Feat with Old Shoe, Positive Vibr8ions, Caroline Rose, Brainchild, and Bone Jugs N Harmony. And there are many more to come – over 75 bands on 7 stages!
All I can say is WOW! Summer Camp always finds a way to keep making adding fun to the party year after year! Get your tickets now! You don’t want to miss this!
If you happened to miss the official video announcing this first round of artits, make sure to check it out below:
Give our announcement video a watch, or learn about each artist here. And stay tuned on Facebook and Twitter as May approaches, because we aren’t done! More artists will be announced – over 75 bands on 7 stages!
Recently I got the opportunity to meet with a person who is an integral part of the music industry that often goes unnoticed. Dr. Charlie Kautz, DC., is a chiropractor who specializes in treating musicians before their performances. Dr. Charlie and I sat down and discussed his services.
Me: Dr. Charlie, your website states that you provide specialized treatment protocols for professional touring musicians. Can you elaborate?
CK: Hey thanks, Alex! I’m a licensed chiropractor and my business, “Epic Performance Integrative Chiropractic”, to put it simply, provides a service to musicians to decrease pain and increase function to allow them to focus on what is important while they perform – the music. Along with chiropractic adjustments, I utilize a soft tissue technique called Active Release Technique and the application of kinesiology sports tape in my typical treatments.
Me: What is Active Release Technique?
CK: Active Release is a technique designed to treat repetitive stress injury and there is a unique protocol for each muscle in the body. I identify the muscle that needs to be treated, based on the type of musician I am working on, and use my unique treatment protocols to improve range of motion, increase muscle memory speed and decrease pain.
Me: As a chiropractor, what happened to inspire you to focus specifically on musicians?
CK: I’ve always been a big fan of music and it’s been a huge part of my life. During chiropractic school, I had a “light bulb moment.” While everyone wanted to be a “sports chiropractor”, I spent time trying to figure out how I could be different. By becoming a “music chiropractor”, I could incorporate what I love with my professional aspirations by treating a group of people that I feel need chiropractic more than anyone. Between the repetitive stress they put on their muscles and joints everyday and traveling and experiencing the rigors of touring, every musician can really benefit from what we have to offer. My friend, Wes Bailey, is really the first musician I started doing regular work on. If you haven’t heard of his band, Moon Taxi, you need to jump on the bandwagon ASAP.Me: This sounds like a relatively new field of work. Have you come across other chiropractors that specialize with musicians, or would you say you’re starting a new trend?
CK: I’m a member of the Chiropractic Performing Arts Network (CPAN). It’s a national organization of chiropractors who share a common vision of providing natural healthcare to performance artists by enhancing performance, increasing vitality, and increasing overall body awareness. I would be surprised if there were many other chiropractors out there with the drive and motivation that I have to study musicians and their ailments, especially one who is also certified in several soft tissue techniques. It’s really a niche I feel I’ve discovered. It’s a great time working with and treating the talented people that I admire and then seeing the looks on their faces after a treatment and getting to watch them perform on stage.
Me: What does your typical work week look like? Are you more in the office or traveling to work with bands?
CK: I work Monday through Thursday at Chiropractic and Wellness on Pewaukee Lake in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. Any time bands are playing in the Milwaukee or Madison area, I will go to the venues and work with them. On weekends I do a lot of traveling between seminars and working on bands out of state. So, pretty much I am a really busy guy (laughs).
Me: So you’ve just been doing this for a few years now. What bands have you worked with? What has been the best experience so far?
CK: I’ve gotten my hands on a countless amount of musicians already but I’m somewhat limited to what I can say. I’ve received testimonials from members of Umphrey’s McGee, Moon Taxi, Roster McCabe, The Motet, Steez, Indigo Sun, and Undercover Organism, just to name a few. You can read their testimonials on my website. It was a lot of fun to be able to work Umphrey’s McGee recently during their Halloween run at The Riverside Theater in Milwaukee. They’re a great group of guys and even more talented than I ever imagined before getting to meet and talk music with them. I also recently had the opportunity to provide my services to John Densmore, legendary drummer of The Doors. That was a really cool experience for me. I discovered that at the height of their touring career, the band would have a chiropractor come to the venue at least twice a week to treat them before they played. Mr. Densmore explained that chiropractic has been a vital tool he has utilized throughout his career to help with all of the aches and pains associated with being a musician. That was great for me to hear and offered a sense of validity to the mission of my business and what I can offer.Me: What aspirations do you have for Epic Performance Integrative Chiropractic going forward?
CK: I’d really like to expand my services to music festivals and connect with event organizers and promoters. I’ve been able to connect and work 1-on-1 with the bands really well so far, but one of my goals is to totally redefine artist hospitality at the big summer music festivals by taking the pre-show massage to a whole new level. While a massage feels great, it doesn’t address the underlying structural problems often associated with pain symptoms and dysfunction. I’d also like to establish some sort of “residency” with the bigger venues in the states that I’m licensed in, like I’ve done with some of the venues in the Milwaukee and Madison areas. Who knows, maybe you’ll see me at Summer Camp (laughs).