Umphrey’s McGee made their only Upstate NY appearance last weekend when they visited The Palace Theatre in Albany on Saturday, February 6. Familiar tour mates, Tauk, opened the show. This four piece fusion jam band from NYC has become kindred spirits with Umphrey’s McGee. They recently put out a cd entitled Headroom, which compiles some of Tauk’s best live performances of 2015. One of the highlights of their opening set was a killer instrumental version of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” It happened to be keyboard player A.C. Carter’s birthday. These guys are really evolving as a band. It won’t be long before they step out of the opening position.
Next up was jam band heavyweights, Umphrey’s McGee. I can go on about this group for hours. When I go to an Umphrey’s show, I tend to get down in the meat and potatoes of the front section, where the action is. For this night I thought I would observe from the balcony more than the floor. My observations from above lead me to several conclusions for the evening – Labeled as such by his own band members, I’m gonna have to fully agree that Chris Myers is truely a man freak. Watching him from above, this guy never stops moving. He only has one playing style – INTENSE!! Next observation – Jake Cinninger often works his way through a jam like he’s clawing his way through a battlefield with guerilla warfare, shredding guitar tactics. He stands back, takes a few steps into the music, towards the center of the stage. He belts out about 4000 notes in a couple seconds, and then retreats back to the side stage he came from. Kind of resembles a musical fencing match.
Watching from the balcony, you get a whole different experience with the light show than what you experience from the front of the floor. Known for their advanced light show, from up above you see more clearly how the lights follow the music. At many points of the show, you would see multiple rays of different colored lights coming from the same direction. The only way to describe it is like the shimmering light that blasts through the stained glass window of a church on a really sunny day. I consider lighting designer Jefferson Waful to be the 5th Beatle of Umphrey’s McGee. When the music breaks open, the lights follow. (Factoid of useless but cool information – Jefferson Waful was born in Syracuse, NY)
Now on with the show – the first set contained a very extensive “Cemetery Walk,” as well as a big long “Ringo” that contained some Jimi Hendrix overtones. “The Pequod” was a rare treat. The whole set was sandwiched in a fragmented “JaJunk.” It looks short on paper, but set 2 was composed of a short list of long songs. Half of Tauk joined Umphrey’s for “Bad Friday.”
The highlight of the whole show came in the second set. Every now and then Umphrey’s will mash up some classic songs in the most unique of ways. February 6 also happens to be Bob Marley ‘ s birthday. In tribute to him, they decided to mash the Marley classic “Exodus” with “Life During Wartime” by The Talking Heads. It was amazing. They intertwined these songs in that Umphrey’s signature style. Dubbing their creation “Life During Exodus,” the song started as the Marley classic before morphing into other forms. At some points you heard classic “Exodus.” At others it was classic “Life During Wartime.” At the transitions, you heard “Life During Wartime” lyrics over the “Exodus” melody, or “Exodus” lyrics over the Talking Heads melody. At one point in the middle, they segued into Zappa’s “City of Tiny Lights” just for good measure. For nearly thirteen minutes, Umphrey’s McGee tangled you up in these songs. You felt like you were stuck in some “Chinese fingers” type of torture device that gets tighter when you try to pull back. This one song really gave your mind a workout. By the time they finished, you felt like you just witnessed Bob Marley and David Byrne have public sex in some shady underground NYC porn club while Frank Zappa pleasured himself in the corner. It absolutely was a party. It surely was a disco. I felt a little mind raped in the end, but I think they were just fooling around . . .
The band graced the fans of Albany with a double encore, which consisted of “Triple Wide” followed by a perfectly placed “Haji.” Umphrey’s McGee is the band that does not peak. They have an uncanny ability to blow the roof off of your mind, bigger and better than the time before. Every time! As I said, I could go on for hours. If you have yet to see Umphrey’s McGee live, get it on your bucket list! Their next appearance in Upstate NY in the foreseeable future will be June 2 when they headline the opening night of the Mountain Jam festival in Hunter, NY. The good news is that it will be a LONG time before anyone can make the statement that they saw Umphrey’s in their prime.
Set 1 – Catshot, JaJunk, Mulche’s Odyssey, The Pequod, Gone For Good, Cemetery Walk, Cemetery Walk II, Ringo, JaJunk
Set 2 – Attachments, Bad Friday, Higgins, Life During Exodus, Resolution, Remind Me
Encore – The Triple Wide, Hajimemashite
Mountain Jam Lineup: http://upstatemusicandfood.com/mountain-jam-releases-initial-lineup/
AUTHOR: George DiFabio
PHOTOS: Jerrie DiFabio