Camp Counselor Niki reviews 2 nights with Umphrey’s McGee at the Drive-Inn.
Car meet in Bridgeview? No. Umphrey’s at the Drive Inn? Yes.
Three rows of cars in line to see Umphrey’s McGee twisted around SeatGeek Stadium’s driveway, into a gravel parking lot and beyond. Some had been there since noon. The tailgates ranged from camping chairs and coolers to full on tables of catering platters and inflatable unicorns. You would think it was your typical festival or concert pregame, if you saw past the face masks, social distancing assets, elbow bumps and the occasional reminder to stay next to your vehicle. The masked-up “quaranteams” came from all over the US; for some, it was their first show since COVID, for others, it was their first in 10 years.
Car horns trumpeted when the band took the stage beginning “1348” set-sandwich. The light show silhouetted the outline of vans, trucks, sedans, and pick-ups. The band covered “Synchronicity II” by the Police during Set 1 and “Making Flippy Floppy” by the Talking Heads in Set 2. We witnessed a very special Um-Proposal, rocked during “The Silent Type” (which always hits a little harder in Chicago), shed a brief tear during “All in Time”, and raged for the months of shows and festivals that COVID stole from us this year.
Sunday Funday was all about the good vibes. We pulled up and ordered Portillo’s to the parking lot. Other cars had Lou Malnati’s pizza, Buffalo Joe’s wings, local tacos, and other Chi-town faves. Lamar from Philly was drafting his fantasy football team as the gates opened. In the front rows, there were three separate birthday parties with balloons, cupcakes, party hats and jello shots. A couple set up an astro-turf lawn and inflatable couch on stage left. Another squad was shotgunning beers from their truck bed stage right. A few rows back, a couple held their 8-week-old daughter: it was their first show as a family of three.
What stood out to me most was the overwhelming sense of gratitude and positivity from each of these fans. It wasn’t about face masks or sanitizer (though we had plenty of both). It was about the opportunity to experience the festival vibes we all craved and dearly missed. The car-themed playlist just before the show left me nostalgic for “oldies”, imagining a time when drive ins were popular, wondering why we don’t do this more often, and suddenly wishing I had ordered a milkshake.
Night 2 started with ominous clouds and high winds overhead, amplifying the heavy metal moments. At set break, everyone was talking about “Ocean Billy. Set 2 opened with funky “Suxity”, the band’s newest song. We got a “Wappy Sprayberry” and Bob Seger’s “Hollywood Nights”. A sprinkle of rain fell as the band encored “Bridgeless” and the car horns chorused as the band left. We drove away with happy heads, full hearts, and an even stronger appreciation for live music.