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Monday, July 24

Umphreys McGee and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. Rock Rain and Seek Shelter? Just another musical night in the Windy City. by Michael Wallentin. Photos and Gallery by Zach Stone

​Umphrey's McGee and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong.
Rock Rain and Seek Shelter? Just another musical night in the Windy City.  by Michael Wallentin. Photos and Gallery by Zach Stone and thanks to

​In Chicago Umphrey’s McGee has quite the following. It’s simple to say about every Umph-freak was absolutely stoked for July 21st, 2017. Shortly after a Phish tour opener the weekend before, many of us were just as excited for another. The band was to be opened by the rising and upcoming jam engine Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, but that wasn’t exactly the case. The storms started to brew along the Chicagoland area early in the afternoon. The radar didn’t really look so gracious for Northerly Island either. Huntington Bank Pavilion was surrounded by incoming dark red in every direction on the weather radars. Located right on Lake Michigan, the forecast stated the rain was supposed to hold off until 10 o’clock in the evening, however that was soon to be faltered.

 ​Only shortly before the gates were opened, each of the bands announced on their Twitter and Facebook accounts that there would be a storm delay. At this point, most of us had already made the trek downtown through what looked to be bad storms already. Sadly, we knew that our hopes of three sets of excellent music was now in high jeopardy. Especially for the like of Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. As we arrived at the venue, the rain had just haltered, and the sky didn’t give us hope to look up towards. Parking in Chicago is rarely cheap or close when your destination is to Museum Campus. The closest parking was located at Soldier Field for the high ticket of $35 dollars. Despite saying it’s “close”, it is still set out to be about a mile hike around the harbor onto Northerly Island itself.

​As the word sprung that the doors would be opened and the bands were back on schedule, a herd of folks exited the same parking garage as I had, and ahead of us was a 25-minute walk for us long-legs. Even more disappointing was the disorganization as we approached Huntington Bank Pavilion. Many of us were unable to see what was on paper as a great set from Pigeons. The box office hides itself a decent walk from the stage that faces out to the lake, and unfortunately most didn’t hear a lick of the Pigeons 5-song set. This must be one of the many reasons this venue has passed ownership like a fly, and made its way to a crap-bag. I’m sure both bands were just as upset as their fans, as they should have been with the way things played out that night. Although Pigeons Playing Ping Pong’s set was reduced to only five songs, the patrons who had witnessed it assured us who hadn’t that it was a good one.
 ​Pigeons Playing Ping Pong 7/21/17

- Upfunk, Poseidon, Avalanche, Horizon, The Liquid
​Umphrey’s McGee emerged from backstage to the almighty walk-out of “There’s No Crying In Mexico”. A simple, but a well-being song for an opener, that is usually picked up into something wild. The crowd had erupted. The storm seemed to be holding off allowing for a little something before the fat lady sang. I hadn’t seen a show where they opened with “There’s No Crying in Mexico” since Red Rocks in 2012. The notes started to tease and sputter across the island and truly things must come “All In Time”. At this point there wasn’t a soul with a worry on their mind as the floor was electric. Waves of people enjoying what most likely was their first Umphrey’s show since Summer Camp back in late May.
 ​The version tailed off as normal into a twenty minute epic of the cascading rhythms and melodies of Cinninger and Bayliss. As usual, the song had represented most of what being an Umphrey’s fan is all about. A little bit of rock, a little bit of roll, and some wisdom from the soul. It’s clear that this is one is an anthem, with an average show gap well right around 4.4. Then out of the blue came “Speak Up” a relatively new staple in the repertoire that was debuted New Year’s Eve in 2015 at Denver Fillmore. It had its moments, but was a bit of a surprise with the heat that had already came. The song is definitely worth a listen however.

​The highlight of the night for most of us had to have been the Mantis pullout of “Preamble>Mantis”. An absolute favorite, and one hell of an album ‘Mantis’ was. Since seeing Umphrey’s McGee in 2009 for the first time, it’s grown far and in between that we hear many of the songs on ‘Mantis’. The thirteen minute version was an absolute whirlwind as well, and it lifted the mood for just about as long as it could last. The song also included an excellently orchestrated “Stairway to Heaven” tease that wavered for some time before the jam ended. And then began the downward spiral.
 ​Here I do not mean to talk against the band, more so the management, and promotion companies that were overseeing Northerly Island. The show came to an end as “Cut the Cable” ran its’ way into a cut-off “Linear” around the six-and-a-half-minute mark. The sky was already seeming to call the dark, and us checking our phones caught heed before the announcement that the show was to be postponed. For what was looking to be an unforgettable set one, sadly was cut short by bad planning. The show in my opinion should have been called off upon the first notification of delay. There needs to be something done with the severe weather policy that governs over Northerly Island. It’s the last place in Chicago anyone should be if there’s even the slightest chance of a storm. Especially the size of those that were glooming over us.

​Luckily having bought ponchos, and zip-locs for my valubles, unfortunately for many they were unprepared scurrying for shelter. Although I was prepared, my shoes were clogs within only thirty-five seconds of the downpour. We all need to take a second to reflect on the fact that sometimes things are much easier left for later. The storm systems were showing tornado, and flood warnings for the greater Chicagoland area. That alone should have caused some major thoughts of cancellation. Especially long before several thousand bodies were told to evacuate on an island where the nearest shelter is further than a mile away. Where are the relief tents? This is not the first time this has happened at the island, and it won’t be the last, but something most definitely needs to change.
 ​There was some warning to vendors if your eyes were peeled many minutes before the announcement. There should have been no gap between the patrons and the staff to prepare for the absolute worst that was to soon happen later. We seeked shelter under anything we possible could as the rain came down just as hard as I could ever remember. People were being forcefully removed from under canvases, tarps, bleachers, or inside porter-trailers. This truly isn’t about the fact the show maybe rescheduled its more so about the preparation of safety, and or that of just a pure cancellation. I’m sure the bands are both looking to make up for the date. That being said, I bet they will face many issues in providing vouchers for those who had already bought “rain or shine” tickets.

​It brings us back to Friday night of Phish in 2013, where no less than 2 minutes into “Prince Caspian” the same thing had happened. As the venue staff tarped and wrapped down Phish’s set, the band all sarcastically recited, “Oh to be Prince Caspian..”. I am sure many strings were pulled to gain the 5:30 pm start time to allow for three sets the following night. Unfortunately,, Umphrey’s McGee and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong had surely called it a night. Luckily, Umphrey’s McGee just released a new date which will be September 23rd, 2017 at 6:30 P.M. So let’s all just pray for no rain! If you’re unable to make the show they are offering refunded vouchers until August 15th through email. 
.I had probably spent forty dollars the entire night. Although for those buying the $13.50 light beers, $17 one-shot cocktails, or $15-dollar craft beers, I’m sure they weren’t as thrilled. You can imagine what it all adds up to when finding entertainment in the highly taxed county in all of the United States. For those who came from out of town, or those who had hotel rooms my heart cries out for the bummer the night was inside the venue. Complaining was normal for the night, however we were still gifted with a few tunes, some great friends, and unforgettable memories. On another note, I believe a decision should have been made earlier in the evening. But then again, who can the weather command. 

One Set: There's No Crying In Mexico > All In Time, Speak Up, Preamble > Mantis[1] > Cut the Cable, The Linear

[1] with Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin) tease
show was halted, and postponed, during The Linear due to inclement weather

Support: Pigeons Playing Ping Pong
Umphrey's McGee released a free download of the night. 

Find the free download of the nights show at