Umphrey’s McGee at Water Street Music Hall, October 18th

Water Street Music Hall is one of those venues on the outskirts of the heart of the city of Rochester; it stands apart as the giant looming entity that it is. We parked on one of the bridges overlooking the Genesee River and trudged down the eerie street in the light rain until we were in a crowd of warm faces all eager to see Umphrey’s McGee.

The show started off on The Club side with The Bright Light Social Hour, a group from Austin, Texas. This band is more pop rock/ rock & roll than jam, but they definitely got the dance party started. They reminded me of an 80’s hair band with a good blend of funk, pop, and psychedelia. The Umphrey’s fans were already in rage mode and eating it up. As soon as the main room opened the crowd poured in to stare at the impressive set-up of sound gear and percussion instruments on stage and wait.

Umphrey’s McGee started off their first set with “Out Of Order”. As I was snapping away and taking it all in I got to thinking, “What is it people love so much about jam bands like this?” It seems I’d always just taken it for granted. I had a new mission for the night: to pin point the reason why people love these shows. Meanwhile, my camera had not seen this much of an awe-inspiring light show since Pretty Lights came through here.

As the show began to peak and the crowd began to swell, they opened up the VIP balcony section to anyone and everyone, something I hadn’t seen Water Street do before. Back to my question about why people love jam bands, I decided to ask the fans sitting next to me who had paid extra to sit in the VIP section why they love Umphrey’s. Geoff Haller said, “Well you want to be able to go to a show and rage and you want to hear songs that are different every time and that’s what you get here.” His sister Laura chimed in, “Yeah, it’s really beautiful” presumably referring to the lightshow and the music.

Well, we all know the Umphrey’s slogan, “Rage, Rest, Repeat.” These kids want the party to keep going and going and going, and that’s what these bands have the capability to do. They play two long-winded sets, which showcases their talents and allow for them to explore new territory with each of their songs. Umphrey’s is great at bringing a fresh sound to their fans through their live shows and their push into various new genres with each new album. At one point my boyfriend turned to me and said, “Whatever that sound is, is one of the greatest sounds that has ever come out of a guitar” referring to the quivering, melodica type sound we were hearing. Who isn’t impressed by someone that can do something for a long time? Sure you can play a guitar, but can you do it for three hours straight and sound this good the entire time?

So jam bands are not just about the music, but the experience of the music. People get tired of experiencing the same thing over and over, especially in today’s day and age where we are all ADD talking on our cell phones, driving, writing a to do list, eating a slice of pizza and getting directions from our GPS to figure out where the hell we are even going, all at the same time. We thrive on constant stimulation. So people go to an Umphrey’s show to hear the songs they grew up listening to played a completely different way, to get a completely different experience and maybe just to see a couple of guys have the most fun on stage they have seen in awhile. A snarky political comment had to be made with the presidential debates having just been on TV, Joel Cummins said something along the lines of you are entitled to your own opinion, vote however you want, and Brendan Bayliss responded, “Yeah but you can make a bad decision…or the right one”, which was followed by an eruption of laughter.

With all this said Umphrey’s did not disappoint, giving us Van Halen’s “Running With the Devil” to sing along to, and showing their versatility through a stellar rendition of Soul Food II with P-Funk’s “Bring The Funk” mixed in, to open up the encore. I felt satisfied that I’d gotten my answer and at the very least I’d stopped to think “what it this all about?” Just when you think you’ve heard it all, they take you somewhere else. Here’s to Umphrey’s McGee and all your favorite jam bands, thanks for keeping the world an interesting place to live in.

Set List
Set 1: Out of Order, Blue Echo>Andy’s Last Beer, Spires, Night Nurse>Partyin’ Peeps

Set 2: Deeper>Eat, Bridgeless->#5->Bridgeless, Running With the Devil, Miami Virtue>Get in the Van

Encore: Soul Food II>Booth Love

Download Lenny Stubbe’s recording of the show here

Photos by Sara Tiberio

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