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EVENT: Umphrey’s McGee in Northampton + Guitarist Spotlight

umph2Join us for an evening with Umphrey’s McGee in Northampton, MA this Friday October 18th! The cult-followed jamband band will be performing at the Calvin Theater for their seventh time, a venue that has been cited by Marc Brownstein of The Disco Biscuits as “one of our favorite places to play in the country”. Only a month has passed since their headline-worthy tour with STS9 culminated, and the funky quintet is on the road again, this time one on one, with two sets.

When it comes to Umphrey’s McGee it’s hard to view them through a particular scope. In terms of both technicality and style, they have mastered not just one signature sound, but many. Their song structures are typically variations of rock songs written with alternative or progressive themes, fused with well written funk, classical, psychedelic, and orchestrated compositions. Unlike some other acts, these guys bring HUGE doses of improvisation to the table, without question and without flaw. To each their own, but when the focus is solely left on the tightness of the group’s playing, they are impeccable. A shining example of such skill lies with the band’s lead guitarist, Jake Cinninger.

UMRothbury2009_20110708_140555The most fundamental and intrinsic characteristic of UM‘s sound is the precision harmony displayed in the segments/solos between guitarists Jake and front-man Brendan Bayliss. The chemistry shared between these two mammoth guitar players and the other members is the catalytic agent that’s propelled them through the years without any static. Bayliss’ execution of the harmonized sections certainly gives us some insight to his competency as a musician, but he still represents the role of a rhythm guitarist. Jake Cinninger is the band’s strongest weapon. Seemingly immune to any friction, you’ll often hear him transition through hard metal riffing, jazz, funk, blues, melodic, psychedelic, and pure rock playing, and at any tempo. On top of his abilities as a jam-virtuoso, his placement of such techniques is on point every time.

Weapon of Choice: On their last tour he was playing with a GNL Legacy that he’s been using since the 90’s, which is the Stratocaster’s brother(the company helped to produce stratocaster’s in the late 50’s and early 60’s). A perfect guitar for a player like this. His rig on stage consists of around 15 different effects pedals. Each are all simultaneously linked to a True Bypass Rig, which allows him to assign any configuration of multiple effects to one particular number on the device. This way, he can custom design his sound catalogue for each specific show. Here’s another way to look at it; Wolverine has equipped himself with an arsenal of destructive futuristic rifles on top of his adamantium claws, and you are the mutant-hunting Sentinel’s about to be ripped to shreds. 

UMPH1Now some people might say, “Jambands? People still listen to that Grateful Dead crap”? We say… To hell with ya. Long ago you see, when AOL and MTV were trusted media conduits, and characters still smoked cigarettes in Disney films, jambands were a very relevant thing in contemporary music, particularly the 90’s. We’re not stupid, of course this movement is still in gear. Of course Phish still sells out Madison Square Garden every New Years Eve, but this is the electronic age, and Skrillex and Miley Cyrus decide the fate music now. We like to think we’re here to show you what makes a particular artist unique, and/or how they perform live. We present the music to you, for you to form your own opinion on it. We’re admittedly fond of the concept of jambands though. They, are at least dynamic. You may not be a fan of the music? Sure. But to deny the potential sight of such extreme displays of musicianship is plain foolish. Really it’s a music lover’s wet dream. No same concert is the same, and you see a new version of each song every time it’s played live. With at least an hour of music per set, and the fact that most touring jambands record each of their performances, you’re getting the equivalent of a new album with each concert played. A reoccurring complaint from those who don’t find appeal with this musical direction that listeners get bored with a 30 minute song with minimal vocal sections. The way we see it, it is up the artists not to bore you. In recent years, the Jam scene has changed form. Phish, a legendary act in their respective class, has drifted further away from their roots in improv since their return from hiatus in 2009. A few tours here and there have reached the level of on-stage jamming(Tahoe“Tweezer” Summer 2013) that they had once mastered, but for the most part their setlists are packed with more songs, and less improvising. Fans of The Disco Biscuits, a group known for their patented fusion of electronic music with various styles jazz and rock compositions, have grown frustrated with the band’s recent lack of consistency and tour dates over the last 3 years. Time moves forward, and sometimes the music does not. No complaints have been mailed in to Umphrey’s McGee as far as we can tell though. The band is playing with as much momentum as they’ve ever had, and certainly don’t “bore”.

Now, stop snoring, and get yourself to the party ladies and frogs. Kicking off their 20+ date tour tonight in Burlington, VT, they’ll good and warmed up for Friday’s show. This will be one of the highlight fall dates in New England. We’ll even show you where to purchase tickets (<here!). 

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