Umphrey’s McGee: House of Blues, Hollywood, CA 3/16/12

It has been printed that Umphrey’s McGee best describe their music as “heavy, not hippie”. After their most recent trip to Southern California, where they played at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, their music might best be described as “acoustically heavy, not hippie”. Two weeks prior to Umphrey’s annual trek in Southern California, they announced a performance different and unique: an early acoustic show for 120 lucky fans, titled “True Hollywood Stories”.

This acoustic set seemed to have a bit of everything: acoustic music, improvisation, fan favorites, stories, and also a session where fans could ask the band questions. Some of the highlights from the acoustic set included:, “Plunger”, “In the Kitchen”, “Conduit”, “Words”, and “Hajimemashite”. In an emotional moment, the band explained how “Words” has been a difficult song to play ever since the untimely passing of a close friend of the band following a recent New Year’s Eve run in Chicago. Everyone in attendance relayed their enthusiasm once the early set had concluded.

It was now time to “rage, rest, and repeat” as stated on Umphrey’s McGee’s 2012 tour shirts.

Following the matinee acoustic show, Umphrey’s played their normal two-and-a-half-hour electric rock show. Expectations were running high with a sold-out show and the fans were anxious for the show to start. Arriving on stage around 9:30 p.m. after an enthusiastic set by the opening band, The Mother Hips, Umphrey’s McGee let the faithful in attendance know that they were going in a different direction than their quieter acoustic set. After a loud and upbeat version of “Jekyll and Hyde” they rushed into a song from their new album Death By Stereo called “Domino Theory” which offered up a striking metal tone, played by Jake Cinninger (guitar/vocals) and distorted vocals by Brendan Bayliss (guitar/vocals).

Next up was the major improvisational moment of the show with the songs “Resolution”, “Mulche’s Odyssey”, “2×2”, and “All in Time”, which put Joel Cummings (keyboads) on center stage. One of the highlights of the first set (and the show) was during their song “Resolution” when Umphrey’s did a “Manteca” jam (Dizzy Gillespie) which, coupled with Jefferson Waful’s psychedelic light show, had the audience flowing with excitement. Following their classic “All In Time”, they closed out their first set with a fast and rockin’ version of the song “The Floor”.

For set two, the band gave a pretty standard opening with the popular keyboard-focused song, “Triple Wide”, which always offers lots of open improvisation space for Umphrey’s to roam. They quickly moved towards the shorter song, “Puppet String” that didn’t seem to offer the energy the crowd was searching for. Quickly, things got interesting with the trance filled “Booth Love”, which the band jammed-out quite a bit and segued right into the meat and potatoes part of set two. As Umphrey’s changed into a higher gear, the crowd took one last deep breath as the band launched into “1348” > “Baba O’Riley (The Who), “Partyin’ Peeps” > Hajimemashite” > “1348” , “Push the Pig” > “All in Time” (reprise). As the band exited stage right, the crowd seemed to be enjoying the final countdown to St. Patrick’s Day with smiles and glasses full.

Set One:
Jekyll & Hyde > Domino Theory, Resolution > Mulche’s Odyssey, 2×2, All In Time > The Floor
Set Two
The Triple Wide > Puppet String, Booth Love, 1348 > Baba O’Riley, Partyin’ Peeps, Hajimemashite > 1348, Push the Pig > All In Time (Reprise)
Wizard Burial Ground

Photos by Rodney Schuster

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