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Umphrey’s McGee
Greenfield Lake Amphitheater • 9/25 Doors 5:30 p.m. • Show 6:30 p.m.
$22.50 to $30

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU: At live concerts, Umphrey’s McGee creates a cycle of energy that flows between the band and the fans. Courtesy photo

Most bands mention the energy they receive from their audience, pushing them to play harder, faster, longer. The men of Umphrey’s McGee, however, excitedly describe the energy as a force that’s shared by the band, multiplying as it bounces between the fans and the musicians. “I’ve always said it feels like an ellipse, a self-propelling energy,” guitarist and vocalist Jake Cinninger says in “The Tabernacle (Part 1),” a YouTube video showcasing their 2010 sold-out show at the Atlanta venue. Forming an oval in the air with his hands, he continues, “It scoops around and hits us, and we throw it back out to the crowd.”

Formed at the University of Notre Dame in 1997, Umphrey’s McGee’s rock is an amalgamation of decades. From the classic guitar work of the ‘70s, to the robotic keyboard tunes of the ‘80s, straight through ‘90s grunge and the modern dubstep mash-ups of this decade—they all seem to be included in the sound that is Umphrey’s McGee. “Search 4” from their latest release, “Death by Stereo” (ATO Records) is heavy with guitar, mimicking the metal genre, yet relaxes to include soft bongo beats as Cinninger and guitarist Brendan Bayliss create vocal harmony reminiscent of 311. Pairing metal with Caribbean flair seems like an unheard of idea that could go horribly wrong for any ‘ol garage band. Yet Umphrey’s McGee makes jams like this work well as the listener is unexpecting of what will come next—although it’s most always an effervescent escapade.

With upbeat, powerful tracks like “Search 4,” “Death by Stereo” also includes slower instrumental pieces like “Dim Sun.” Here the guitarists are the main artists, and they evoke feelings of sad darkness, as the title would imply. “Hajimemashite,” meaning “Hello, nice to meet you,” in Japanese, starts like a lullaby but evolves. Light strummings are paired with lyrics that speak of enlightenment, until keyboard and drums are added to form a giant crescendo.

The band has recordings of every live show since its inception, when Cinninger and Bayliss joined with Andy Farag (percussion), Joel Cummins (keyboard), Kris Meyers (drums/vocals) and Ryan Stasik (bass). A self-described family, Umphrey’s McGee has sold nearly two million tracks online and collaborated onstage with the likes of Huey Lewis, John Oates and Sinead O’Connor. The most exciting aspect of their concerts, though, comes with their light show. Rock performances rarely come with tricks of the pop genre, but Umphrey’s McGee sets out to make it an experience for the audience. The lights pulse with the jumping crowd as the instrumentalists play well-known tunes, some covers (like Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You” and The Lonely Island’s “Dick in a Box”), and on-the-spot improvisation. They’ll bring such boisterous rock to Wilmington on September 25th at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater.

Although it will not be a part of the concert at Greenfield Lake, Umphrey’s McGee offers an interesting improv session called the Stew Art Series. Proving the band’s energy is something fans can and do control, the series allows the crowd to tell the band what to play. From pre-written cue cards to adaptable chalkboards to even text messages that show up on a giant screen, Stew Art attendees can determine, from descriptive words and phrases, what sort of feeling will be evoked from the band’s improvisation. The band’s “Sound Caresser,” Kevin Browning, gave this example on the Umphrey’s McGee blog, “The Floor”: “The word ‘skydiving’ morphs the…jam into a soaring, powerful piece of music that evokes the feeling of being airborne . . . until the phrase ‘without a parachute’gets tacked on, which changes the jam into something else entirely.’”

The Stew Art Series, combined with the band’s efforts to record every live performance, provide great shows and a blog and continuously demonstrates how thankful Umphrey’s McGee is for the energy fans give off. They engage all audience members to create unique concerts, which in turn lets the members enjoy every minute of their career—it all comes full circle. In “The Tabernacle (Part 1),” bassist Ryan Stasik closes it off:

“I can feel and hear the crowd, and it’s the most amazing thing in the world. ‘Cause when you feel it coming back at you, and you’re shooting it back, it’s a big circle. That cycle is one of the best feelings in the entire world.”

Advance tickets for the Umphrey’s McGee show are $22.50 for general admission and $25 for reserved seating, available online at or at Gravity Records. On the day of the show, prices go up to $25 and $30 respectively. Doors to the amphitheater open open at 5:30, and the show begins at 6:30.

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  1. Catherine

    September 21, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Sounds like a great show!

  2. Catherine

    September 21, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Sounds like a great show!

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