In our fifth installment of New Year’s Eve Report this week, we’re taking a look at the Umphrey’s McGee 3-night run that started with one show at Chicago’s Vic Theater and continued with two nights at The Aragon Ballroom.
It was “throwback night” at The Vic on the 29th as UM played a venue a little too small for their current draw and all the merchandise onsale reflected an older “look” that was also mirrored in the show poster. It also looked like the music might be from an earlier era as the first hour featured songs that were all at least seven years old, including the fan-favorite rarity Front Porch which clocked in at twenty minutes. But UM made it clear that this would not be a night of exclusively old material when they closed the first set with The Floor, a tune debuted in 2007.
This setlist segment may not make sense to a lot of you, but here is how the second set opened:
Preamble > Mantis Ghetts > Pay the Snucka > Mantis > Mantis Ghetts > Mantis > Pay the Snucka
Preamble is just a short pre-recorded ditty that always precedes the epic track of UM’s 2009 release Mantis when played live. Mantis Ghetts was a bonus track issued to those that purchased the album online, and it’s essentially this gangster remix of an instrumental section of Mantis. Gangster shit was a theme that would continue (really for the whole run) as the band dropped into Pay The Snucka, a band anthem that intentionally rips off it’s first section from Eminem’s Kill You. This section was well executed and extremely well received by the sold-out audience.
To close the second set UM performed one of their original mashups from this year’s Halloween Las Tortugas Festival in Yosemite Park. This one combines sections of Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls, Led Zeppelin’s Good Times Bad Times, and UM original Nemo. Basically it starts with just the Queen a capella vocal intro. Then there’s the hits from the GTBT intro, then UM starts playing the guitar lines from Nemo as keyboardist Joel Cummins sings the first verse of Fat Bottomed Girls. A straight verse of GTBT follows next before the Nemo vocals kicks in while the guitars still play GTBT. And so on, and so on.
A debut cover of Steppin’ Razor written by Joe Higgs but popularized by Peter Tosh rounded out the show nicely.
Click here to view UM’s official blog on the preparations for the 12/29 show.
READ ON for the review of the shows from the Aragon and more photos from Tammy.
The December 30th show at The Aragon Ballroom was definitely what I call a fan show, in that there was a lot of extended improvisation in unexpected places. UM’s most played song 2×2 clocked in at over 24 minutes. At the end of the first set Mike “Mad Dog” Mavridoglou, the trumpeter who leads the annual New Year’s Eve Horn Section came out to conduct the band much like he did in 2007.
The band brought back their cover of Lionel Ritchie’s All Night Long that had been missing since 2005 as well as debuted their cover of The Beatles Lady Madonna with the help of Jeff Coffin on saxophone.
Click here to view UM’s official blog on the preparations for the 12/30 show.
And then there was the New Year’s Eve show. With Umphrey’s, you always know what you’re getting on the 31st. There is always a horn section and there is always a slew of new covers and some old gems busted out. Two years ago UM celebrated their 10th anniversary and a lot of people expected a lot of old tunes and friends to come out. UM went a different direction by debuting a new song each night and the only real nod to their history in 2007, was a video retrospective that was projected for the audience before the show started.
This year the fans got a real treat when the band welcomed back former drummer Mike Mirro to play marimbas on a forgotten track from the band’s 2002 release Local Band Does O.K.. The song is called Headphones & Snowcones and had been played just once before, in Chicago back in 2002. The band also brought back a long dormant Tower Of Power cover titled The Skunk The Goose and The Fly, last played on New Year’s Eve 2001. Kris Myers handled the lead vocal duties for this cover, the lyrics of which are just all about getting fucked up, fitting for New Year’s Eve.
The cover debuts all came from the 60′s and 70′s with horns playing on all of them. There was Jake Cinninger’s spirited take on Bruce Springsteen’s 10th Avenue Freezeout in the second set. Ryan Stasik (listed on UM’s official website as: bass, no vocals) shocked the crowd with his surprisingly on point vocal stylings on Frankie Valli’s Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You. And finally in the encore slot, Brendan Bayliss supplied a fitting cover to start off UM2010 with Steely Dan’s Reelin’ In The Years.
But it wasn’t just cover madness on New Year’s Eve. The band performed a jam at the Front Of House area located near the sound and light board on a gigantic 6-man Wurlitzer keyboard they purchased. The band also debuted a live arrangement of Turn & Dub, a remix of their original Turn & Run that was produced by Michael G of the Easy Star All Stars. The groove in old-time UM original Phil’s Farm was a show-improv highlight.
Click here to view UM’s official blog on the preparations for the 12/31 show.
The one poor bit of planning this year was the support acts that UM brought in. In previous years they had great bookings with: Buckethead, Keller Williams, Los Lobos, Tortoise, The Wailers, and even Taj Mahal. In 2007 they did the DJ thing and it worked great and The Aragon was warmed up and ready to rock. In 2008 their were no openers but they hired the help of Joshua Redman, Buddy Guy, Stanley Jordan and Koko Taylor. This year’s openers, Z-Trip on the 30th and Prefuse 73 on the 31st, both failed to fire up those in attendance. I’m a fan of Prefuse 73′s work, but myself and everyone I spoke to just sort of scratched our heads at his aggressive raw set that was also just way too fucking loud.
No rest for UM. Ever. Most bands take January off, but these guys hit the road again January 14th with a string of shows out west and are already heavily scheduled through the end of march.
Finally, Umphrey’s has done a really good job of keeping their blog current this year, I’ve linked to three separate posts with preparations for each show, but there was also a post from December 28th, and a final recap post that you should check out.
December 29th, 2009 The Vic Theatre – Chicago IL
Andy’s Last Beer, Walletsworth, In the Kitchen, 40′s Theme, Front Porch*, The Floor, JaJunk
Preamble > Mantis Ghetts > Pay the Snucka > Mantis > Mantis Ghetts > Mantis > Pay the Snucka, Partyin’ Peeps > Nothing Too Fancy**, Nemo’s Fat Bottomed Good Times
Nopener, Steppin’ Razor$ > Nothing Too Fancy
* with Little Drummer Boy tease
** with Don’t Fear the Reaper tease
$ first time played, Joe Higgs (Peter Tosh)
December 30th, 2009 Aragon Ballroom – Chicago IL
Push the Pig* -> Miss Tinkle’s Overture, Got Your Milk (Right Here) > 2×2, All Night Long^, Resolution > “Jimmy Stewart”^^
Wappy Sprayberry -> Spires > Hangover, Made to Measure$, Lady Madonna$$, Higgins** > Wappy Sprayberry > Bright Lights
All In Time
* with Professor Wormbog teases
^ with Jake on percussion
^^ with Mike “Mad Dog” Mavridoglou conducting
$ with Jeff Coffin on saxophone
$$ first time played, The Beatles; with Jeff Coffin
** with Start Me Up jam
December 31st, 2009 Aragon Ballroom – Chicago IL
Cemetery Walk > The Triple Wide, Divisions, Red Tape^, Headphones & Snocones^^, Mulche’s Odyssey
Jazz Odyssey* > “Jimmy Stewart”**, Hajimemashite, Ringo^, The Skunk, The Goose, & The Fly^, Bridgeless > Ocean Billy, Move Your Rug^$, 10th Avenue Freezeout^$$ > Bridgeless
Much Obliged^ > Auld Lang Syne^, Hurt Bird Bath, Gulf Stream, Phil’s Farm, Turn & Dub^%, Can’t Keep My Eyes Off of You%%, Cemetery Walk II
1348, Reelin’ In the Years^&
Prefuse 73 opened
^ with Mad Dog’s Filthy Little Secret horns
^^ with horns; with Mike Mirro on Marimba and Jake on percussion
* pre-recorded composition played over the PA
** with band on electronics and drum pads at Front of House
$ first time played, Jeff Coffin
$$ first time played, Bruce Springsteen
% first time played, original (re-mix by Michael G of Easy Star All Stars)
%% first time played, Frankie Valli; with Ryan on vocals and Jake on bass
& first time played, Steely Dan