After three days of being showered with rain, covered by clouds and fog, Oregon bid us a sweet, sunny farewell as we crossed back into the promised land of California to take part in day four in a row of the Umphrey’s McGee 2009 West Coast Tour. The entire journey was a dramatic, mountainous blanket of massive trees, sometimes climbing straight up nearly vertical mountain walls with many single lane areas of curvy switch backs through tunnels of lush green. Despite the beauty of this trip, after the madness that ensued at the Crystal Ballroom show in Portland the night before, the drive was an agonizing six hour marathon accompanied by a car wide lingering hangover. Needless to say, arriving in Eureka felt like a blessing.
The audience at the Eureka Theatre was intimate and small, as might be expected for such a tiny town on a Sunday. However, as Umphrey’s took the stage for the first set of music, it was clear that they weren’t going to let that affect them. They kicked things off with a lightning hot Bridgeless which was left unfinished to zoom into a funky metal dance party “Jimmy Stewart” improvisation. The energy in the room followed each twist and turn with every body on the floor gyrating in time. Without pause, the band dropped into the much lighter Roulette, again given the treatment of a “Stewart” led by guitar guru Jake Cinninger followed closely by a short but sweet 13 Days.
With the majestic tree lined scenery of the drive down, it became clear to us that the band would definitely be breaking out the Cinninger composed Utopian Fir which, in fact, came next. This monster of a song starts with an eerie intro that leads into a reggae verse before taking off on an adventurous, bounding instrumental section before returning back to the reggae verse. In the middle of this rendition, the boys followed Ryan Stasiks low end thumps into a monstrous Dub improvisation that shook the building, followed closely by a jam of Bruce Springsteen’s I’m on Fire. A slow, but soulful Uncle Wally came next segueing fluidly into the aggressive end of Bridgeless to finish the set.
The second set of the Eureka Theatre show was a little disappointing, but I don't think that the blame lies mainly on the band. They opened with Jajunk, which contained a sustain-filled “Jimmy Stewart.” It was interesting, but the band seemed to be getting distracted by an audience member who was occasionally throwing glow sticks at the band. They wrapped up the “Stew” and left Jajunk unfinished, moving into an album-accurate version of Alex's House. The Crooked One followed, containing a “Stew” that was more focused than the first. The band had gotten their concentration back but it didn't quite seem like their heart was in it anymore. Smell the Mitten was, again, played with technical proficiency but no real flair. Then a surprising choice for a cover, Nirvana's In Bloom got the audience riled up again. An audience member again threw a glow stick at the band and hit Kris Myers during the the course of the song. He continued playing, but the rest of the set was relatively short. An 8 minute Red Tape featured a hot solo from Jake Cinninger on his new Moog guitar, but transitioned quickly into a set ending Jajunk closer. The second set clocked in at 1 hour, a full 15 minutes shorter than the first set. Wife Soup closed the night at 11:30. It was unfortunate that the band felt it necessary to cut the set short, but the few disrespectful members of the audience seemed determined to hassle them. Hopefully the night off will afford the band an opportunity to forget about the trouble and prepare for their Tuesday show.
Umphrey's McGee at the Eureka Theatre, Eureka CA - 2009/10/25 Set One Bridgeless > Roulette > Visions of Parin > Roulette, 13 Days, Utopian Fir > I'm On Fire > Utopian Fir > Uncle Wally > Bridgeless Set Two JaJunk > Alex's House, The Crooked One, Smell the Mitten, In Bloom, Red Tape > JaJunk Encore Wife Soup