Words & Photos by Gin Majka
Walking up to the line of people outside the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom waiting to see Umphrey’s McGee instantly filled my heart with glee. I was ready to dance wildly among a sea of weirdos. The night before I had felt out of place in a dead-headless Nashville crowd. As a result, I was beyond ready to watch and partake in frantic dancing amongst hippies. My immediate observation of a man in a chicken hat verified my expectations and established a sense of belonging. Although (surprisingly) never having seem Umphrey’s Mcgee before, due to word of mouth, I had high dancing expectations.
The first song, Dark Brush, immediately summoned a heavy sounding beat. This was my first introduction to a unique asset in this band’s playing style. By the end of the first set, UM transitioned from How Many More Times to Immigrant Song, two of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs. They captured the Led Zeppelin essence flawlessly. Everyone was singing along. The last time How Many More Times was covered was in 2014. I feel fortunate to have caught this song. This may be the only jam band that can cover Led Zeppelin while maintaining the authenticity of hard, head-banging, rock and roll.
The second set’s catchy funk and aggressive fast tempo jams had fans stomping. By Phils Farm, I was smiling and dancing wildly just like the majority of the crowd. In attempt to frantically catch up to one another, the guitars dualed while the rest of the band echoed. There were fans kneeling and dancing on the ground as the guitars conversed. The instruments spoke more than the lyrics did. I understood the music as the bass, percussion, and keys joined the dual. While the band energized the crowd, my exhaustion from traveling faded. My dancing expectations were met. Although I did not partake in kneeling and rolling on the floor, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the dedicated fans
UM is a wonderful slap in the face in comparison to your generic jam band. Their focus is the hard rock ear popping jams. Their underlying heavy metal influence instills a craving for wild dancing. I can understand why UM has such a faithful fan base.
Set 1: Dark Brush, The Triple Wide, The Fuzz with Third Stone from the Sun (Jimi Hendrix) tease), Walletsworth, Comma Later, Crucial Taunt, Much Obliged, How Many More Times, Immigrant Song
Set list via allthings.umphreys.com