Words: Ryan Mannix | Photos: Tara Gracer Photography
After a change of venue from Thursday, night two of the UM NYE run got underway with hard rocking “Mulche’s Odyssey”, somewhat of a staple opener. Some reggae-inspired jamming followed that included some “Dopeman” by N.W.A. lyrics spouted off by Brendan. The song, and the performance, set the tone for the whole evening: heavy songs with unique jamming.
“Speak Up", a song never among my favorites, finally won me over with it’s ability to be a jam vehicle. The funk workout saw the band building an intricate progression around the lines of bassist Ryan Stasik.
Relative rarity, “Anchor Drops” followed and segued into the bluegrass stomper, “Phil’s Farm”. The energy in the Aragon was about double of what it was at the Riv. The crowd was dancing, stomping, clapping, and generally giving it everything they had throughout the show. Bayliss’ solo was particularly inspired in this “Phil’s”, but he was on fire all night.
The lucky, holiday crowd was treated to the debut of a new tune, “North Route”. While not a stand out upon on first listen, that might just have to do with how great all the material surrounding it was.
The boys decided to finish off the “Nothing Too Fancy” from night one, but not without Jake Cinninger leading them through some impressive key and dynamic changes. I thought that had singaled the end of the set, but instead the guys went for the rarity “Kula”, and brought Kris Meyers out to the front of the stage for his best Zach De La Rocha impression as we headbanged our way through “Bombtrack”.
The second set began with another headbanger, perhaps to acknowledge that their material can be has heavy as Rage, with “The Floor”. The always welcome “Much Obliged” lightened things up a bit, and the jamming was about as patient as I’ve ever seen.
In fact, most of the songs they jammed out (which there were a LOT of) were really fluid and conversational. “Hurt Bird Bath” followed, taking my pick for favorite improv of the night. The perpetually dark jam got even more out there than usual with Jake eventually signaling for two chromatic buildups that exploded back into the song structure.
“Conduit” featured some fun bounce back jamming, always a favorite of mine. It was a treat to see the band build two separate progressions and create something totally unique on the spot. There were some miscues in this form however, and I don't think they really got the improv back the level of the first set and beginning of set two.
The set was a success regardless, making me appreciate that these are just guys up there and they play very risky music night after night. And even with the jamming not working as well, Umphrey's are still able to melt faces and play any of their great original tunes.
“1348” is a freaky shredder in part one, but moves into mellow singalong for the verse. “Slacker” is another archetypal old school tune with odd time signatures and weird lines that has Bayliss slyly remarking, “In the end I must confess, you have yet to ever witness our best”.
Few tunes can perfectly wrap up an Umphrey’s show like “Jajunk”. Another tune that has all the elements of a good Umph song, including a feel good prog rock peak at the end, where Jake can blow off any extra steam he has left over. This concluded easily the longest (over three hours) show I’ve ever seen them play.
Not all Umphrey’s shows are created equal, and this one definitely rises to the top of my list. With stellar improvisation, unique covers and setlist picks, as well as a high energy vibe between the crowd and the band, it made for an experience like no other. I can’t wait to see what they have cooking up for tonight.
 with Dopeman (N.W.A.) quote
 debut, original
 completing 12.29.2016
 with Dave Watts on drums, Kris on vocals
last Bombtrack 01.29.2011 (620 shows)
Support: The Motet