Connect with KindWeb on Facebook
Connect with KindWeb on Twitter
   Welcome KindFolks!
Back to List of Reviews
Umphrey's McGee - 10/24/2009: Crystal Ballroom Portland, OR
Umphrey's McGee - 10/24/2009:  Crystal Ballroom Portland, OR
Photos by:  Brian Spady  [View More]
Concert Review by Max Filter on 10/25/2009   

The Crystal Ballroom is rife with anticipation. Today's S2 event has left the band as well as the fans ready to rock one of the most infamous venues on the west coast. McMenamin's Crystal has hosted rock shows for over 40 years, everyone from the Grateful Dead to the Roots. The room itself is something of an anomaly. The stage is tucked into a corner of the ballroom, the floor is spring loaded and moves with the crowd, the walls are plastered with murals containing secrets that only the best of conditions can reveal. This was my 4th experience with Umphrey's at the Crystal, my 8th in Portland proper. Umphrey's has yet to attempt a multi-night run in a Pacific Northwest city, though I suspect Portland would be a likely victim. As it was, we had to make due with 3-nights worth of energy packed into one convenient, single-serving evening.

The boys opened with 1348, the final track off of their 2009 release Mantis. Upon first hearing the album this was the song that struck me as the quintessential Umph tune, what I'd come to expect from their studio material. They played a true-to-form version of the song, no jams but technical proficiency in abundance. Next up was Uncommon from the album Anchor Drops, an amusing self-depreciating little ditty (“something about me stinks, something about me smells”). As the crowd was getting warmed up to the band, Jefferson Waful was getting his lights warmed up to the unique challenge presented to all lighting engineers who brave the strange architecture of the Rose City's oldest dance hall. Uncommon finished sans-jam making way for the Bottom Half and its mandatory “Jimmy Stewart.” Myers and Stasik started pounding out a lethal funk line that got the floors bouncing in a big way. The dual guitar attack danced back and forth between riffs worthy of a 70s porn and licks that would make most Hair Metal rockers proud. Cinninger got everyone going along with a little “soul clapping” before steering the improvisational odyssey right into the classic White Man's Moccasins, an opportunity to show off the groups ability to navigate strange and inconsistent time signatures. A prog rock anthem if I've ever heard one.

The heavy chunk-a-chunk of Push The Pig followed after a brief pause in which Bayliss took an opportunity to elucidate on the band's excitement about the show they were washing the crowd in (“we've been looking forward to this one for a long time people”). As if to validate, “Sound Caresser” Kevin Browning paced back and forth in the center aisle of the venue managing the soundboard from a remotely linked tablet PC making sure that our ears received the very best of treatments. Push The Pig housed a smooth hip-hop based Jazz Odyssey once again affording the audience the stable dance beat needed to get the floor rippling. After another brief pause the band launched into Miss Tinkle's Overture, a favorite of any guitar-virtuoso worshipper. The song thundered through a rocked-out jam before closing to explosive applause. Any other band might have seen this as a good place to take a setbreak but Umphrey's had other plans. A groovy 14-minute Much Obliged spiraled its way back into the remainder of The Bottom Half, bringing the curtain down on the first set.

Set two got right down to business with the fan favorite Divisions. One of the oldest Umphrey's songs, its soft string melodies have earned the band many a convert. It frequently serves as bookends for a set, being divided itself into two sections just as it was last night. The first portion melted away into a dark, metallic “Stew.” The rock horns came out in full force as the audience followed the band further down the rabbit hole of their improvisational creation, only to be bathed in the sunshine of a brief return to the first section of Divisions moments later. Leaving it unfinished still, the band segued right into a slow building 2x2. Patience payed off as the song reached its alternating soaring heights and dark valleys.

Waful continued to burn retinas with his lights, having gotten himself more than comfortable with the shape of the room. It paid off for the 17 minute disco-beat throw-down that was, is, and always shall be known as Wappy Sprayberry. While the name leaves something to be desired, the pumping rhythm leaves nothing in its wake but sweaty bodies grooving down. The endning slid seamlessly into an energetic rendition of Fussy Dutchman, fingers flying as Bayliss and Cinninger passed the noodled core riff back and forth. Cummins did an excellent job of matching their speed and dexterity as he sounded off on the keyboards, fluttering lightly behind the distorted facade. I was particularly happy with the choice to include Gulf Stream as the next song on the setlist. I left Portland 6 months ago after calling it my home for 5 years. An Umph show at the Crystal is as good a homecoming as I could ask for. As the lyrics say, “All my friends are here right now, this is what we came to do.” Couldn't put it better myself. Spirits climbed alongside guitars, peaking with a pitch-perfect cover of the Who's Baba O'Reilly (“you're all fucked up!”, screams Bayliss). Reaching the end of the set, a quick little jaunt through Kabump took us back home to the triumphant conclusion of Divisions. Arms spread to the sky, it was accepted as though it were a blessing from the Rock Gods.

As the band returned to the stage for an encore, we were given a rare treat. Andy Farag climbed out of the pit that is his percussion world, Ketel One in hand, to rock the mic on Snoop Dogg's Ain't No Fun. Absolutely priceless. Following this encore, the band left the stage as usual but the house lights did not come up. Bass guitar champion Ryan Stasik walked out, asked if we wanted another song, and received his answer with the crowd's full intensity. The rest of the boys returned to the stage and finished with fervor, unleashing the title track from their new album, Mantis. This is definitely a song that has grown and developed radically over the past 10 months of road experience. Like Divisions before it, Mantis will surely help to cull the interest of a new plethora of Umphreaks. This show followed up a private jam session held earlier that day at the Crystal, the second installment of Umphrey's Stew Art (S2) series. I would suggest that the band's opportunity to interact with a portion of the evening's audience prior to the main event contributed heavily to the quality of the evening's performance. Look for a full review of the (S2) event with pictures early next week.

Photos by: Brian Spady  
Previous   -   Next
Featured eCards
Have Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead send an eCard for you Have Your Message on a Billboard
Featured News
Travelin' McCourys announce fall tour, New Years plans, and first ever recorded music  9/16/2016
Jeff Mattson and Rob Eaton of Dark Star Orchestra to Sit In with New Riders of the Purple Sage at the Grateful Get Down  7/27/2016
Deep Roots Mountain Revival Announces Initial Artist Lineup  4/29/2016
Dumpstaphunk Kicks Off Spring Tour with Dates Across the South  4/7/2016
Yonder Mountain Sets Their Sights On the South with Dates in Texas and Louisiana This Weekend  3/29/2016
The String Cheese Incident Announce Summer Tour / New Music  3/8/2016
Phish Announce 2016 Summer Tour  2/5/2016
The Werks Host STS9, Lettuce and more at The Werk Out Music & Arts Festival  2/4/2016
Dark Star Orchestra Host Yonder Mountain String Band, Hot Tuna Electric, Leftover Salmon and more at the Dark Star Jubilee, May 27-29 at Legend Valley  1/14/2016
String Cheese Incident Announces March Madness Tour  1/7/2016
FARE THEE WELL: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Grateful Dead by Jay Blakesberg Released December 1, 2015  11/17/2015
The String Cheese Incident Release Three-Disk Set, Rhythm of the Road: Volume 2, Live in Las Vegas  10/9/2015
Art Outside Publishes 2015 Stage Schedule  9/25/2015
Keller Williams Trio Announces New Years Eve in Telluride, CO  9/2/2015
Don't Miss The Aquarium Rescue Unit's 26th Anniversary Tour  8/12/2015
Bears Picnic Finalizes Schedule and Gets Ready for Perfect Weather with Special Guest Stopping by Through the Weekend  8/5/2015
Get Ready for Art Outside 2015, a Fall Festival Not To Miss  7/8/2015
Postcard Giveaway at Grateful Dead 50th Anniversary Concerts Aims to Spur 10,000 Socially-Conscious Actions  6/29/2015
Suwannee Hulaweeen wave 1 line-up announcement  6/29/2015
All Good Music Festival and Flying Dog Collaborate to Make 'All Good Ale' A Reality  5/20/2015
...view more news...
KindWeb Merchandise
 Advertising Information  •  Contact Us  •  How To Get Reviewed  •  Link To Us  •  Mailing List  •  Privacy Policy  •  Meet the KindWeb Family
1998 - 2018   All Rights Reserved.