Mood Music

Umphrey’s McGee: Top 10 Covers Of 2011

Umphrey’s McGee: Top 10 Covers Of 2011

Chicago-based jam band Umphrey’s McGee is known for their improvisational, heavy prog-rock sound. They are always finding new ways to spice up live shows, and more often than not, a snazzy cover jam sneaks its way onto each prized set list. When it comes to choosing these remix gems, all genres are fair game.

Chicago-based jam band Umphrey’s McGee is known for their improvisational, heavy prog-rock sound. They are always finding new ways to spice up live shows, and more often than not, a snazzy cover jam sneaks its way onto each prized set list. When it comes to choosing these remix gems, all genres are fair game.

In 2011 alone, I saw the band turn out quite a roster of memorable remakes. Some, I was lucky enough to catch the on their debut night. Others were old favorites, but my first experiences seeing the songs live. Although there were plenty more great covers I didn’t witness, like the “Comfortably Numb” with Murph (STS9) in Boulder, I was able to sift through my personal stock for the ten that stick out as my picks for UM’s Top 10 Covers of 2011.

10. “Let ‘Em In” by Paul McCartney; 7/10/11: Cincinnati, OH

It’s always a special occasion when the band brings out Mad Dog on the trumpet to add some brass soul to the composition. This usually only happens on New Year’s Eve. However, in Cincinnati on a hot July night, we got an early treat. It was the first time the band played this song. It’s said they decided the night before they would give it a try when it came onto the rotation on someone’s IPod.

9. “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles; 10/19/11: Chicago, IL

At “Groupon Presents: Umphrey’s McGee,” the night got off to a late start, due to an unexpected power outage. However, that didn’t stop the band from giving fans what they wanted. Jake, Brendan and Andy came out and played a stripped down version of this song, only with limited power from a generator. 

8. “Bulls On Parade” by Rage Against the Machine; 7/10/11: Cincinnati, OH
   
This was a total RAWK SHOW. The first time I heard the band do a “Bulls” jam was at Summer Camp 2011. The one in Cincinnati was way more epic. They sandwiched it between “Conduit” and “The Hangover,” two of their original jams. Myers’ drums paired with his raspy cries and Jake’s flawless shredding got the crowd moshing for a few minutes.

7. “Dirty Love” by Frank Zappa; 7/10/11: Cincinnati, OH

I had listened to plenty of recordings of this song; however, I had never seen it played live. “It’s summertime, it’s time to get dirty,” Farag spoke into the mic before he started to sing the Zappa classic. The crowd did get mighty dirty that night as we danced in the July heat.

6. “Ain’t No Fun” by Snoop Dog; 11/5/11: Milwaukee, WI
First of all, who doesn’t love Snoop? I know I do. I also love when Farag pretends to be MC Pumpernickel and spits hot fire. “Do we look like the Disco Biscuits, you fuckin’ hippies?” Watch out, Marn.

5. “A Fifth of Beethoven” by Walter Murphy; 4/2/11: Chicago, IL

The band busted out this funky fresh gem at the second annual UMbowl. I was never at Studio 54, but I imagine it was very similar to Park West that night – disco balls and bass lines left and right. This cover was extra special for me because it was one of the songs I voted for prior to the show. *If you’re not familiar with UMbowl, it’s a totally interactive concert experience. Fans receive a ballot before the show where they vote for songs they’d like to hear, you can also text in requests during the show.

4. “Burning Down the House” by Talking Heads; 11/25/11: Chicago, IL

It’s a known fact (in my opinion) that Umphrey’s covers of Talking Heads are always good. This one has been in rotation for a while, and gets better with age. They played it toward the end of the first set, the first night of the Thanksgiving run at the Aragon. They had been “Burning Down the House” with flawless jams the whole set, and then they threw this fireball into the mix.

3. “Come As Your Kids” Mashup by Nirvana, MGMT, Dead or Alive (Mashup); 11/5/11: Milwaukee, WI

This super-mashup was adapted for the Hauntlanta Halloween show. They played it again a week later in Milwaukee. It’s a combination of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are,” MGMT’s “Kids,” and Dead or Alive’s “You Spin me Right ‘Round.” It’s definitely one of the better mashups I’ve heard. It was the encore of the night and got the crowd grooving one last time before we all went our separate ways.
   
2. “Can’t You See” Marshall Tucker Band; 11/25/11: Chicago, IL

I’ve always loved the original version of this song, and hearing their interpretation was amazing. Jake’s vocals were phenomenal because you could hear so much soul in them. Then, of course, it was pretty much guitar riff city. The whole band just brought the heat on this one. Joel’s wicked piano solo in the middle is what dreams are made of.

1. You Can’t Always Get What You Want”- The Rolling Stones; 11/26/11: Chicago, IL

One of best supporting acts I’ve seen Umphrey’s play with is the Chicago Mass Choir. The first time they shared the stage was New Year’s Eve 2008 at the Auditorium Theater. It was so successful, they decided to bring them back this year for the second night of the Thanksgiving shows. After an insane “All In Time,” the choir joined the band back on stage for the final song of the night. This track has always been one of my favorite Rolling Stones songs and it was complete bliss. It was also the first time they played this song live. I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to end an UMazing weekend.

Bring it on for New Year’s, boys!

Photo by Bo Bean Photography © 2011

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victor

November 30th, 2011

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