Key Club, West Hollywood, California
Umphrey’s McGee play what they want for as long as they want, and a live setting is a great showcase for their free-flowing musical jams that have more in common with progressive rock than the Grateful Dead. The sold-out show at the Key Club was a perfect venue to see the band up close.
The crowd was very easygoing and happy to be out dancing. They were comprised mostly of college kids and some grown-ups who are aware that the phrase carpe diem covers weekdays. As my pal Mike and I were standing around waiting for the opening band, a long-haired gentleman was kind enough to offer us dessert in the form of chocolate mushrooms, a very tasty treat I’m sure, but Mom always told me not to take candy from strangers. Besides, this was my first UM show, so I had no idea how long it would last and wouldn’t want to be heading out into the streets of West Hollywood while I was peaking. That didn’t stop others, though. I overheard a guy who couldn’t stop grinning or make eye contact talk about being on mushrooms at the Particle concert two weeks earlier.
I only recognized a few songs from their current release Anchor Drops, the title track, “Wife Soup,” and “13 Days,” but I discovered some wonderful gems like “Prowler,” a major percussive assault that is sandwiched around a jazz piano interlude and for those with stamina they played the 23-minute epic “Der Bluten Kat.”
The best moments of the show were when they played covers: Pink Floyd’s “In the Flesh,” Led Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains the Same” and Guns n’ Roses’ “Paradise City.” The crowd went absolutely wild during these nearly flawless covers, but that’s to be expected and not a slight against UM. They can’t yet compare to those legendary bands because they haven’t had the time to establish that deep of a rapport with people, but they are well on their way.
The weakest moment of the night was the encore, a song entitled “Nemo”; it didn’t match the energy of the earlier performance and didn’t get much reaction out of the crowd. They might as well have turned on the lights, which they did immediately after.
The opening band, Ohm, a three-piece jazz-fusion combo reminiscent of Cream, was so good that they have to be mentioned. When UM thanked Ohm, they made comments that Ohm “was ridiculous” and that it was “hard to play after stuff like that.” The major force of Ohm is Robertino Pagliari, a master of the six-string fretless bass. He was astonishing and at times I was scared about the siren-like effect he had on me. He made such compelling, unusual sounds from his bass that I had to consciously think about looking at the other players, guitarist Chris Poland and drummer Kofi Baker, to break his spell. Both are very talented in their own respect, but Pagliari is a whole other animal, a modern-day Pied Piper. Watching him must be on par to those back in the ‘60s who discovered Hendrix in small clubs. If Ohm had been playing another set at another club that night, I would have followed.
Umphrey’s McGee is Joel Cummins (keyboards, vocals), Brendan Bayliss (guitar, vocals), Ryan Stasik (bass), Andy Farag (percussion), Jake Cinninger (guitar, Moog, synthesizers, vocals) and Kris Myers (drums, vocals).
Set One: Dump City, Anchor Drops, Prowler > Wife Soup, Der Bluten Kat, 13 Days, In the Flesh
Set Two: Bridgeless, The Fuzz, The Song Remains the Same, Nothing Too Fancy > Ocean Billy, White Man’s Moccasins, Andy’s Last Beer, Ringo > Paradise City > Ringo
To hear the show for yourself, click here to downloaded it legally and free. If you listen close, you can hear me screaming.