Umphrey’s McGee and STS9 Rock The Mann Center’s Skyline Stage

Umphrey’s McGee is an electronic/hard-rock/progressive/jam band who met in December of 1997. When I heard that they were coming to the Mann Center’s Skyline Stage along with fellow electronic rock band Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9), I was overjoyed. Going into Umphrey’s McGee, my expectations were very high. I’d been listening to a lot of live Umphrey’s over the last couple of months and knew that time after time, they will always deliver an amazing show.

 

I arrived in the parking lot about an hour before the show to both get tickets and hang out around the parking lot. If you’ve never seen a parking lot outside a venue that a jam band is about to play, it’s quite an experience. Beers and liquor shared between friends who have either come together or met at another previous show. As tie-dye balloons bounce around the lot, they reminisce about good memories and discuss the last shows they went to. All I can say is that it’s a great community to be surrounded by.

 

Last call went among the crowd and swarms of people were herded into lines before the gate. Approaching the stage about a quarter of the way through STS9’s performance, I was greeted by swirling smoke machines and a bouncing crowd. STS9 played through their set perfectly and really got the crowd into the music. As it darkened, lights from Umphrey’s immense lighting setup danced through the crowd. I could not have thought of a better band to open for what was about to come.

 

Umphrey’s McGee took the stage to roars of applause and fans with hands held high making the symbol for rock with their pointer and pinky fingers. Some may have predicted that Umphrey’s would take the show slow at first, building up slowly to a dramatic climax much like their songs. But they came out swinging with “Gurgle” and “Slacker”.  Each song packed a huge punch for hard rock, insane solos and breakdowns split by spacey rifts that seemed to hang in air only to be chased away slowly as the song progressed.

 

If anyone has ever said that lights can’t contribute to a concert, they would be wrong. Smoke blew towards the stage, and aided by circular lights, turned into rotate circles making it appear as if the band was drawing energy from the crowd. Small beams and floating shapes swayed with the music in perfect time.

 

Next, the band entered into a fan favorite “Ocean Billy”. Supported by a bongo player, a drummer, and a bassist, both guitarists were set free to improvise some of the most complex rifts I’ve ever heard. I couldn’t get enough of how well the band balanced each other out. The slapping bass and pounding drums truly laid down a bass layer (no pun intended) for other members to work off. As the guitarists intricately tapped together, offsetting each note with extreme precision, their keyboardist plucked away, giving the band their distinct techno-escque sound. Fading out of “Ocean Billy” and into “Day Nurse”, Umphreys showed one of the best elements of jam, the musical knowledge to morph in between different keys and time signatures without missing a beat.

 

As “Day Nurse” came to a close the band transitioned back into “Ocean Billy” to the crowds delight. One of the biggest highlights of the show was the band’s cover of Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”. The crowd went crazy and, encouraged by lights that shown into the audience, sang the chorus with gusto. Followed by another personal favorite “Wappy Strawberry”, I was blown away by how good their performance was. I remembered an Umphrey’s McGee t-shirt I had seen in the parking lot that read “15 years of face melting”. That’s exactly what was happening. These guys are true rock stars. “Pay The Snucka”, their final song incorporated  “Bulls on Parade” by Rage Against The Machine and featured a mind blowing, guitar only solo by their lead guitarist. Absolutely stunned me. If you ever see an Umphrey’s McGee concert coming to a town near you, DO NOT MISS IT.

 

3 Comments

  1. Megan Larsen

    September 12, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    This is an awesome review!

  2. Jennifer Logue

    September 13, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    I second that! 🙂

  3. Pingback: Album Review: Umphrey’s McGee – Similar Skin - Rock On Philly

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