Tour Tales

Umphrey’s McGee Rocks Out Strong In St. Pete

Umphrey’s McGee Rocks Out Strong In St. Pete

This spring, Umphrey’s McGee embarked on a “15 Years of Face Melting” tour, which included three consecutive dates in Florida. The finale of the three-night run found it’s way to the newly remodeled Jannus Live in St. Petersburg. Surprisingly, it was band’s first time raging Jannus Live’s outdoor stage in the heart of downtown St. Pete, in proximity to the Salvador Dali and Chihuly Collection museums, an area in which UMphreaks flocked to before the show.

This spring, Umphrey’s McGee embarked on a “15 Years of Face Melting” tour, which included three consecutive dates in Florida. The finale of the three-night run found it’s way to the newly remodeled Jannus Live in St. Petersburg. Surprisingly, it was band’s first time raging Jannus Live’s outdoor stage in the heart of downtown St. Pete, in proximity to the Salvador Dali and Chihuly Collection museums, an area in which UMphreaks flocked to before the show.

The venue was something between an alleyway and a courtyard, with a large deck in the back surrounded by two-story brick buildings with balconies. Two huge oak trees and a brand new enormous stage provide shelter and accommodated UM’s signature lighting rig like a glove. The picture-perfect day in West Florida set the vibe for a truly amazing, one-of-a-kind performance from the 15-year veterans of the jam band scene. The band’s shiny red lipstick tour bus and semi tractor-trailer were parked out front of the venue signaling it was time to rage.

When the doors opened at 7:15 p.m. the UMphreaks were lined up and ready to catch the warm-up set by Break Science, the Brooklyn-based livtronica, made up of Borahm Lee on keys and Adam Deitch on drums. Deitch is a legendary drummer, whose performed with Pretty Lights, Lettuce and even Umphrey’s McGee, just to name a few. Kris Myers, the drummer from UM, admitted during the show that Deitch has been a major influence on his own style and technique. Break Science laid down thick tracks from their latest album, Monolith Code. The crowd enthusiastically poured in to Jannus Live as they heard the bass drop from Break Science’s beats. Being that UM is a multi-genre band, the pair’s fans are as diverse as their sound. They are proficient in everything, from hardcore metal to cool island reggae, so it’s an eclectic mix of old school tie-dye hippies, flat brimmers, wooks, audiophiles and former Midwestern frat boys and sorority girls. The 45-minute set was the ideal length, and a hot appetizer for the face-melting in store.   

Aside it being UM’s first time at Jannus, as well as it being the band’s 15th anniversary tour, there was one other element that made this final show of the Florida run special. UM has dubbed a new and experimental event within the tour called, “Snowcones and Headphones,” which allows 18 fans to pre-register for a set of studio-quality Audio Technica wireless headphones powered by Senheiser.  The headphones are worn during the live show, connected directly to the soundboard, which meant that the lucky fans could hear exactly what the band heard while on stage.  The new and innovative technology was only used six times prior to Saturday night’s show, and created a unique experience of perfect sound for a select few at the live venue, in real time. 

Jefferson Waful, Umphrey’s McGee’s longtime lighting designer, took his post behind the sound booth and lighting console around 8:30 p.m. The three-tiered custom rig came to life and illuminated the stage with cool blue lighting.  The electro sounds of UM’s intro song, “Gurgle,” seemed to match the electricity and excitement in the venue. As the band began to play, the lights flickered and swirled to coordinate perfectly with each of the musician’s solos. It was clear Waful knew the band inside and out, and complimented the artists’ style quite nicely with his innovative lighting design. UM started out with a few of their more mellow tracks including “Deeper” and “White Man’s Mocassins,” with its dissonant chord progressions that sound super psychedelic.  After five songs, they went in to “Ja Junk,” which brought the progressive and improvisational style that they are known for. Jake Cinninger, shred guitarist and vocalist for the band, showcased his world-class harmonic fret taps and hits on the axe with precision and accuracy. Another rare live music moment followed, as Adam Deitch from Break Science was brought on stage to sit in with the band on drums for “White Pickle,” a UM classic. The boys closed the first set with “Pay the Snucka” and went right back in to “Ja Junk” to finish with high energy.

The set break lasted about 30 minutes and gave the UMphreaks time to check out the band’s merchandise booth and grab an adult beverage or two. The band had some fresh and attractive new merch, and the most popular items seemed to be some albums newly available on vinyl. UM’s motto has always been “Rage, Rest, Repeat” and it was time to prepare for that third element with the continuation approaching.

The second set out firing with “Bright Lights, Big City” in to “Puppet Strings,” two of the band’s most well known tracks.  The third song was an epic version of  “The Triple Wide,” which the band cleverly mashed up (in true UM style) with Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” the beginning of four cover songs that UM played. Each was a perfect representation of the most well known impromptu moments the band has had in the past decade and a half on the road. One of these said moments soon followed with a song UM cleverly titled, “Come Closer,” a truly ballsy and unique mash-up of Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” and the Beatles “Come Together.” The crowd was elated to hear the rare tune and sang along enthusiastically.  The reggae vibes of the song “Partyin’ Peeps” was next, and then straight in to the heavy metal riffs of “Go to Hell.” The incredible mix of styles and sounds made the second set a true testament to what Umphrey’s McGee is all about. Progressions, pushing limits and rocking out in a way no other jam band can – these are the reasons all continue to hail mercilessly to the crafty musical idols that have created a cult of dedicated, hardcore, loyalist UMphreaks, and rightfully so.

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Photos by Melodysiac © 2013

victor

April 18th, 2013

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