Umphrey’s McGee – December 29th – Fillmore Auditorium

Umphrey's McGee 2013-12-28-14-8847Photos by Jim Mimna
(From Sat. 12/28)

The Scene: The Fillmore is always a fun venue – with it’s stage setup, it’s many accessible bars and, of course, those funky chandeliers.  I’ve never seen a less than awesome show at the Fillmore, and this night with Dumpstaphunk, Umphrey’s McGee and special guests was no exception.  The music started early to an enthusiastic crowd in the midst of their New Year’s Run.  Anticipation was high, the sound was immaculate and the light show was wild.  A good portion of the crowd was there for the entire run, even the intimate and exclusive Monday night show at 1Up Colfax.  These fans were setting the mood long before anyone had hit the stage, and it was obvious that this show was going to be a good one.

Opener: Dumpstaphunk. Dumpstaphunk opened the show early in the night for one of the many eves of this New Year.  An original Big Easy act, Dumpstaphunk provided classic Funky beats that set the mood just right, and immediately upped the ante on a quiet Sunday evening.  Their vintage-style Funk was the ideal way to kick off the night, especially with the special guest that was to later join Umphrey’s for the main show.

Umphrey’s McGee: If I were to say that I was as big of an Umphrey’s fan as I am of the others bands I’ve had the great pleasure of writing about recently, I’d be lying.  Though I’ve only seen them live twice, and both shows were good, I’ve never been quite the “Umphreak.”  However, this night turned everything around for me, and showed me just how much these Chicago natives have to offer.  Maybe it was the smaller venue, or the indoor acoustics, or just the excitement of the New Year, but the band had a stage presence conceivable only to those lucky enough to witness it.

The first set opened with “Flamethrower,” and Umphrey’s went into it with a great and unanticipated momentum.  The lights came up in a burst of color as the night’s festivities blasted off.  Making my way to the center of the crowd, I took a moment to look back at all the faces in the audience, and the energy was ecstatic.  Masked in bright and colorful lights, each and every one of us sported our neon orange “Umph Love” sticker as we danced and sang in anticipation of the coming New Year.  The first set included “Mulche’s Odyssey,” “Nemo” and a two-part “Plunger” that rocked the house.  Brendan Bayliss’ guitar sound was flawless, and the musicianship overall was as clear and articulate as a Rock and Jam band could possibly be.

No one could have predicted what was to follow as Umphrey’s returned to the stage for their second set.  These guests were far more than special, and nowhere near what was expected – two terrifically special and totally shocking appearances. Nothing compliments a rock band like it’s very own brass section, which came in the form of the legendary Joshua Redman on the saxophone.  The entirety of the second set was accompanied by Redman, who kept up with Umphrey’s quick and bass-heavy jams like he’d been part of the band since the very beginning.  Kick-butt tracks like “Wife Soup” were taken so much higher with the addition of Redman blowing on his beautiful sounding sax, and the high energy was felt as far back as the doors, pushing hot hot heat out into the freezing night.

Next to be welcomed to the stage was local guitar prodigy Jaden Carlson.  Replacing Bayliss for the second half of “Der Bluten Kat,” Carlson did her thing onstage, ripping the Umphrey’s track to pieces.  Obviously not her first rodeo, Carlson was cool and collected as she left us in utter disbelief of what was happening.  It’s not everyday a teen gives jam stars a run for their money, and we were totally bewildered by the display of immense talent right before our eyes.

Despite the frigid temperatures outside, the night never had a chance to cool down.  Umphrey’s brought the weekend’s second Fillmore show to a close with a bang.  It felt like the night had just got going when Umphrey’s encored with “1348,” and I instantly recognized a familiar feeling of jealousy as I thought about how amazing it was going to be for those blessed attendants of the band’s December 30th show.  Last Sunday night, Umphrey’s McGee honorably squashed all of my doubts and gave us all one of the most memorable nights of 2013, just in time.

12.29.2013 The Fillmore Auditorium, Denver, CO, USA

Set 1: Flamethrower > Mulche’s Odyssey, Miami Virtue > Plunger > Day Nurse, No Comment > Plunger, Nemo > Dear Lord > Nemo, Dump City[1]

Set 2: Der Bluten Kat[2] > Amble On[2] > Der Bluten Kat[3], Wife Soup[4], Ringo[2], River People[5]

Encore: 1348[2]

[1] with Ivan Neville on keys
[2] with Joshua Redman on saxophone
[3] with Joshua Redman on saxophone and with Jaden Carlson replacing Brendan on guitar
[4] with All In Time tease; with Joshua Redman on saxophone
[5] debut, Weather Report; with Joshua Redman on saxophone

Energy: A
Musicianship: A+
Sound: A
Stage Presence: A-
Set/Light Show: A

Overall: A