The first thing one would notice is the merch table, and their brand new album, Death By Stereo, and next to it a tee-shirt that said simply: Rage. Rest. Repeat. The energy inside The Wilma Theatre was electric with people moving in every which way, there was no opener before their show tonight; there wouldn’t be any need for one afterward. Umphrey’s started their set in expected fashion; with a big intro, a mountain of building noises. Jefferson Warful, the light maestro as he is known lit up the old theater in custom fashion, showering the fans in an array of color as the band jammed into “Flamethrower” a rendition that brought it’s funky edge to the crowd before making an on point never expected transition into “2nd Self”.
You got the feeling these songs were warming everything up as you saw the signature electric guitar battle of Brendan and Jake take place with Ryan sandwiched between them with his Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cap and a pirates mustache to go right along with it. Ryan as it would turn out was the MC of the night, and he came as a pirate, and left master of the high seas, he swore like a pirate too…which was entertaining, like the shirt he wore that simply said: Relax, I’m Hilarious. He was. Next up for the 1000 plus fans was “Professor Wormbog”, quick and compact the song blew through the speakers with great piano and drum breakdowns by Joel and Kris. The venue was getting heated up with a heavy helping of this unique dance funk-athon. A first time ever played song called “Loose Ends” was then offered to the crowd, Ryan introducing it, it was clearly Bredan’s baby and as it turned out it was as good as a newbie could be. Umphrey’s has yet to explore where they can go with this song but the sky is the limit for this new rare treat. Ryan Stasik enjoyed having the mic, the first time this tour so he continued talk to the crowd pumping them up with the energy that only a microphone would bring to a non vocal bass man. Umphrey’s then rode their instruments right into “Nothing Too Fancy”; a song many we're hoping would be played as it brought smiles all around. “Nothing Too Fancy” carried with it an extra level of energy to the theatre as the lights were taken to the next level shooting colors throughout the crowd and Jake Cinninger welcoming everyone to watch what he does best, melt faces.
The highlight of the first set happened during this song as UM was turning humans into animals; a fan having a little too much fun threw something on the stage which saw Stasik finding the culprit while jamming on his bass and giving the person the finger wave no, no. They then transitioned into “The Haunt”, which had its mixture of smooth dancing reggae followed by heavy face melting rock n roll that you always know is coming but never expect when they are going to slam your face with it, which is true Umphrey’s fashion. Andy and Kris both elevated in the back surrounded by drums and percussion seemed to play their best of the show during this song. At the end of the song Ryan made sure to personally tell the crowd in singing fashion “Do not throw shit at us because Brendan does P90X and he will kick your ass”. “End of the Road” came next followed by the ever so popular “Much Obliged” which saw Joel bring the piano funk and lead the charge into Umphrey’s making a smooth song to song transition into covering The Smashing Pumpkins “Cherub Rock”. The crowd erupted and all started to sing along with Brendan, remember this classic 90s rock song. The crowd was in full force as a few lighted up balloons were launched into the crowd and the glow sticks that were snuck in were launched into the open air ceiling of The Wilma. They wrapped up the first set with “Rocker Part 2” allowing everyone in the Wilma to cram outside for some fresh air, chance to cool down, and of course collect their thoughts.
Set two saw Umphrey’s on a whole separate level. They opened it up with “JaJunk”, and right from the start it felt like the party was going to get more out of control and Umphrey’s had one thing in mind for the second set and that is to bring it and make everyone never forget. “August” was lucky song number two of the second set and before taking off into it Brendan made sure to tell the crowd Jake had a brand new shirt on tonight maybe giving Jake motivation to break it in, which is exactly what happened. Jake then had his moment of the show where he took control of all the minds in the building for a good ten plus minutes shredding showing off the new shirt and his mad man fingers. “Through the Cracks” and “Thin Air” followed next in order, which only added to the already insane second set that saw everyone in the Wilma floating with musical ecstasy. Joel on the keyboards seemed to take control of both these songs and somewhat the whole second set. He was bringing a mix of classical, traditional and funk piano mixing it all up and keeping the other band members on their toes as they used the Frank Zappa hand signals to make transitions. A new song off the new album “Conduit” written by Jake was shared next.
The encore was now set and primed as The Wilma Theatre got as loud as ever, fans craving for Umphrey’s to come back on stage and who would of thought it when they did return they surprised everyone with playing the classic and rare “Got Your Milk(Right Here)”. As they played this jam, hardcore McGee fans that were on tour for the long haul were caught in a musical heaven hearing a song they may have only heard live once or twice before, but tonight it was played. The end of the song saw Ryan, still on his microphone high, or ship’s mast whichever you prefer, drop to his knees playing bass as Branden and Jake surrounded him creating the frontline tripod. As one last goodbye to the crowd they broke back into “Nothing Too Fancy” for about 35 seconds, a little short, but a great note nonetheless to end the show on.
As you watched the amazing tour ending show you realized the worst thing that happened to Umphrey’s McGee was Phish getting back together. Umphrey’s, yes has a different style then Phish, and yes will most likely be in many people’s minds Phish’s little brother but don’t let any of that take anything away from this band which will does whatever they want and loves to keep you always guessing. And whereas moe. Is a jamband first, Umphrey’s is truly a rock band, and a fan’s band. A loud band. They turned the Wilma into one helluva party, on a Sunday night no-less and in a college town with midterms starting that week. That alone speaks volumes to how much this town loves good music. And further how incredibly talented they are as a whole. A band that changes days and makes Sunday nights turn into Friday nights, Umphrey’s McGee is welcome here all the time.
Words: Zach Nelson with Sammy Martin
Photos: Kevin Kenly
Flamethrower > 2nd Self, Professor Wormbog. Loose Ends*, Nothing Too Fancy > The Haunt, End of the Road, Much Obliged > Cherub Rock, Rocker Part 2
JaJunk, August, Through the Cracks, Thin Air, Conduit, Time > Cemetery Walk II**
Got Your Milk (Right Here) > Nothing Too Fancy
* debut, original
** with Demolition Man (The Police) jam