New Year’s Eve Report: Umphrey’s McGee

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.

30th Light Shot

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.

Marimba Shot

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.

Mad Dog's Filthy Little Secret

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.

You can see all of Tammy Wetzel’s photos from the run on Flickr: Here, here, and here.


December 29th, 2009 The Vic Theatre – Chicago IL
Set One
Andy’s Last Beer, Walletsworth, In the Kitchen, 40’s Theme, Front Porch*, The Floor, JaJunk
Set Two
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
Set One
Push the Pig* -> Miss Tinkle’s Overture, Got Your Milk (Right Here) > 2×2, All Night Long^, Resolution > “Jimmy Stewart”^^
Set Two
Wappy Sprayberry -> Spires > Hangover, Made to Measure$, Lady Madonna$$, Higgins** > Wappy Sprayberry > Bright Lights
All In Time
Z-Trip opened
* with Professor Wormbog teases
^ with Jake on percussion
^^ with Mike “Mad Dog” Mavridoglou conducting
$ with Jeff Coffin on saxophone
$$ first time played, The Beatles; with Jeff Coffin
** with Start Me Up jam

December 31st, 2009 Aragon Ballroom – Chicago IL
Set One
Cemetery Walk > The Triple Wide, Divisions, Red Tape^, Headphones & Snocones^^, Mulche’s Odyssey
Set Two
Jazz Odyssey* > “Jimmy Stewart”**, Hajimemashite, Ringo^, The Skunk, The Goose, & The Fly^, Bridgeless > Ocean Billy, Move Your Rug^$, 10th Avenue Freezeout^$$ > Bridgeless
Set Three
Much Obliged^ > Auld Lang Syne^, Hurt Bird Bath, Gulf Stream, Phil’s Farm, Turn & Dub^%, Can’t Keep My Eyes Off of You%%, Cemetery Walk II
1348, Reelin’ In the Years^&
Prefuse 73 opened
^ with Mad Dog’s Filthy Little Secret horns
^^ with horns; with Mike Mirro on Marimba and Jake on percussion
* pre-recorded composition played over the PA
** with band on electronics and drum pads at Front of House
$ first time played, Jeff Coffin
$$ 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

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