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My Very Umphrey Day Part 1 (Street Date Studios Performance)

I had been excited about seeing Umphrey’s Mcgee at the Nokia Theater for a few months. The band didn’t make a stop here on their last pass through the great north east, so I considered myself lucky to be able to see them this time around. Apparently I’m much luckier that I had realized…

I opened my e-mail Tuesday afternoon to see a message with the title ‘Congratulations, You’re Seeing Umphrey’s Mcgee LIVE!’, to which my reaction was ‘yes, I know, I’m seeing them Thursday night, but thank you anyway random spam in my inbox’. Still for some reason I was compelled to open the e-mail instead of tossing it directly into the archive. However, instead of seeing the usual ‘don’t forget to go to your concert, and also here’s 50 other concerts you should pay us to go see’ e-mail Ticketmaster sends out before shows, I was greeted with a pleasant message informing me that I had won a pass for myself and a guest to see Umphrey’s Mcgee perform at CBS Radio’s Street Date Studios the afternoon before their Nokia Theater show. After I stopped cheering, messaging everyone I knew about my luck, and singing ‘I’ve Got a Golden Ticket‘, I calmed down and responded, thanking the contest organizers and telling them I would be attending. Thus, two short days later…

My guest and I arrived at Street Date Studios fairly early, and after meeting the other golden ticket winners and bullshitting about the band for awhile we were ushered into a waiting area where we bullshitted some more as we waited for the the band to set up. Due to the giant block of ice and snow that had fallen from the sky over night the band was running a little late, but after about an hour of waiting we were ushered into Howard Stern’s former studio (to think I was standing next to the same couch where so many naked porn stars had sat before me was a moment I’ll never forget. No, I didn’t touch the couch) to view the performance. I wasn’t sure exactly what the set-up was going to be before now, and I imagined we were going to be behind a window or something watching the band play. As it turned out we ended up being IN THE STUDIO with the band, no more than 20 feet from the closest member. The studio wasn’t really set up to hold any kind of audience however, so we all huddled in a large corner by the door. As the tallest person there I ended up standing in the back, but I was able to snap some pretty good pictures which you can see below. Thank you in advance to the band and their management for letting us take pictures basically the whole time, and thank you to my roommate for letting me steal his camera:

The band getting ready. Kris's face has already started melting.

Launching into "1348". Jake was standing in a dark corner the whole time, and I wasn't able to use my flash for any of the photos. Who knew a radio studio wouldn't be properly lit for photography! The union will hear about this.

A poorly lit Jake solo...

and a well lit Brendan solo!

The only good photo of Kris that I got all day, with some Stasik and Bayliss thrown in.

Joel, being old

The band being interviewed after the performance. Yes, we were very close.

Stasik dreaming about one day taking a shower as Kris listens to the music in his head

The studio setting created a very interesting vibe of controlled energy. The band started out with a great version of 1348‘, probably their proggy-ist tune from their latest album Mantis, and they certainly performed it with the spirit you would find at any of their live shows. At the same time you’d probably able to convince me that I was listening to the album version of the track if I closed my eyes. I got the impression that the performance was a unique opportunity for the band, where they could feel comfortable in a closed setting while at the same time tap into the strength that they gain by playing in front of their fans.The result was a very special experience for the fans who were present, seeing the well oiled jamming machine that is Umphrey’s functioning at full capacity in an atmosphere that reminded me more of a coffee house than a raging concert.

Made to Measure‘ was next, which was also stellar. Some of the vocal harmonies at the end didn’t fit perfectly but it was still thoroughly enjoyable to witness. It was a bit of a shame that they were so strapped for time because I’m sure they would have loved to extend this song a little more, but the format and the weather dictated that they keep things brief. Lastly they busted out a cover of ‘Reelin in the Years‘ by Steely Dan, which they also covered at their New Years Eve show this past December in Chicago. Umphrey’s covers (which there are a LOT of) always have a way of deepening your appreciation for a song, or even turning you onto a song that you would not have otherwise enjoyed. Maybe a guitar line sticks out more, maybe the new vocal texture adds something, or maybe you just hadn’t heard the song in awhile. Whatever the case is, on this day the entire studio was rocking and it was difficult to keep from cheering at the end of the song until we got the signal from the sound board that we were clear to make noise.

Afterward the band did a quick interview with the radio station where the stereotypical questions were asked about their lives and their writing methods. I would have loved to ask the band some questions myself but we were ushered out quickly after that. I guess I’ll have to wait till I’m a legitimate music journalist before I can pester bands for a living. Departing the studio, I knew I had seen something really unique and felt lucky as all hell that I was able to witness the performance. We were told as we were leaving that we’d receive links to the recording of the performance (not sure if it’s going to be audio, video, or both) so as soon as I receive that I’ll have it up here for all to enjoy.

So concluded part one of my very Umphrey day. Part 2, their performance at the Nokia Theater only a few hours later, will be up in the next few days. Stay tuned!

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