Picture Show: Umphrey’s McGee @ Fox Theater

Umphrey’s McGee @ Fox Theater, March 17

Words: DaveO
ImagesLee Fenyves

It’s a long way to the top if you want to Rock and Roll. It’s been almost 11 years since Umphrey’s McGee made their first journey from the Midwest to the San Francisco Bay Area. In a little over a decade, UM has steadily grown from smaller clubs and mid size theaters, to multi-night runs at the Fillmore, which set the stage for a St. Patrick’s Day, Saturday headlining spot at Oakland’s Fox Theater. While the sextet can’t add another notch to their already impressive record of 2012 sellouts, The Fox certainly seemed as filled in as it does when bands like Wilco and My Morning Jacket pack the place.

[All photos by Lee Fenyves]

The Mother Hips, a California band with an even longer history in the area, took the stage for a 45-minute opening set that kept the attention of the early arrivers for the 7:30 ticket time. Their complex interplay was highlighted by Hips bassist Scott Thunes, whose resume includes playing with Frank Zappa for a majority of the 1980s.

Lighting director Jefferson Waful had an especially impressive night buoyed by fact the house lighting rig at The Fox is fully compatible with the already large number of lights UM takes on the road, resulting in one of the largest lighting rigs for an UM show outside of a festival or New Year’s Eve performance.

For the casual Umphrey’s fan who may only know a couple of songs from the band’s always-expanding original song repertoire, a show is often measured in the amount of covers played. While an instrumental performance of Bruce Springsteen’s I’m On Fire and the seemingly impromptu take on The Police’s Masoko Tanga thrown in the middle of UM original Miss Tinkle’s Orchestra might not have been enough to thrill the audience – judging by the roar of the crowd, everyone got behind the group’s nailed performance of Shine On You Crazy Diamond by Pink Floyd. Throw in one of UM’s original mashups containing elements of Nirvana, MGMT and Dead or Alive in the encore slot and those looking to hear solid takes on other bands’ hits got what they wanted.

For the fans that know the catalog inside and out, it was a well constructed mix of the old [like fan favorites Divisions and Tribute To The Spinal Shaft] and the new [the instrumental set introductions that Umphrey’s is employing most shows and the second ever performance of the Jake Cinninger penned Through The Cracks]. I must agree with keyboardist Joel Cummins who indicated that the lengthy improvisation inside The Bottom Half warrants re-listening.


Also in the tweet was a nod to HT contributor Wade “Wyllys” Wilby, who hosted an energetic late-night performance down the street at New Parish Music Hall that included both Cummins on keyboards and percussionist Andy Farag.

Here’s a full gallery of Lee Fenyves’ exceptional photos from the Fox…

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