In what has become a staple of the yuletide season, Umphrey’s McGee guitarists Jake Cinninger and Brendan Bayliss will host their Ninth Annual Acoustic Holiday Show at Chicago’s Park West on Saturday, December 10. Beginning in 2003 at the Bottom Lounge, the yearly event means a night in Chicago packed with acoustic takes on Umphrey’s tunes, new covers, a few guests and a healthy dose of holiday vibes. In 2004 the show moved to the cozy confines Schuba’s Tavern with 2005’s show held at the Park West. It grew to The Vic Theatre in 2006 and 2007, before returning to its home at the more intimate Park West where it’s stayed since 2008.
While living in Chicago from 2004 to mid-2010 I made it a point to attend these shows knowing I was guaranteed an evening filled with fun, friends and some damn fine musicianship and never was I disappointed. Whether it’s an acoustic run through of In the Kitchen as winter literally wraps around Chicago, a killer Led Zeppelin cover bust out, or pulling former Lighting Director Adam Budney to sing a silly back-of-the-bus-penned-tune, Bayliss and Cinninger always mange to put on an entertaining and fresh show. There’s also the always fun aspect of getting to watch a nervous Bayliss play piano in front of a packed house or seeing Jake break-out his vintage bass guitar. If history is an indicator, expect UM percussionist Andy Farag to log a good deal of stage time and the rest of the UM crew to pop in as well.
Also as usual, this year’s show will again support a music education charity, with The People’s Music School of Chicago getting proceeds from the event. Those that get there early will also be able to check out the pre-show Umphrey’s McGee Garage Sale of discounted band merch.
The Annual Acoustic Holiday Show is one you don’t have to be a die-hard Umphreak to thoroughly enjoy. It’s the type of concert you can bring any music appreciating friend to and it makes for a good introduction to the mostly welcoming Umphrey’s scene. If you’ve never been it’s time to make this year the first in your annual pilgrimage to the Park West because once you go you’re going to want to include this show in your holiday traditions.
For a sample of what you can expect, here’s a cover of Going To California from 2009: