Have you ever had the pleasure of hearing the song titled "My Ding-a-ling-a-ling?" Some of its' lyrics are: "My Ding-a-ling..My Ding-a-ling..I want you to play with My Ding-a-ling!"
Switching hands, the lyrics of Umphrey's McGee make them known as a serious, respected mysterious band with "intriguing" lyrics (www.umphreys.com 2009.) The theme of their songs aren't as "straight up" as "I want you to play with My Ding-a-ling!"
For all you trivia buffs, Umphrey's McGee planted the seeds of their band in a small town in Indiana during 1997. These guys can say "I was born in a small town...I can breathe in a small town." Mega famous John Mellencamp and David Letterman are from little towns in Indiana as well. More precisely, Umphrey's McGee is from the home of Notre Dame and its' popular football team--Go Irish!
Anyway, the band has grown and flourished into being the improv-rock band that plays the highest amount of shows a year (a staggering 100 plus!) That's certainly a tall order for anyone, yet they also are notorious for playing 3-hour length shows every time out.
Not surprisingly, people deeply "dig" this down-to-earth, rockin' jam band to the extent their shows are frequently sold out.
I finally get to see the band at their December 30th show at the historic (only if their walls could talk) Aragon Ballroom on the north side of Chicago!
As I walked into the venue my bubble was burst a bit because I quickly noticed I was a "Ma'am" (old fart) in a sea of teen and young adult "hippies." To my eyes surprise, authentically clothed "tree huggers" were wearing everyday regular makeup, unlike their predecessors'.
Then, around 9:30 pm Umphrey's McGee riled up the crowd with their first song "Push the Pig" even more when they played "Miss Tinkle's Overture." I was in the front row and every direction I looked I saw a lot of guys and girls dancing, thoroughly moved and consumed with the tune. Red flashing lights went along with the beat of the song and none of them or their improvisations there after were "downers" or too long.
The band played upbeat melodies from beginning to end, putting several hard-to-wipe-off smiles on my face and those of other fans.
Cinninger gave lots of fascinatingly fast fingering improv-rock plus jazz riffs (and kind of spanked his guitar playfully like he would a girlfriend in bed?) Many of the riffs reminded me of of ones from Led Zepplin (which the band have listed as an influence of theirs), Hendrix and Joe Satriani.
Cummins brought jazz-funk keyboard whams to the stage, while Stasik's bass playing displayed a perfectly groovy flow to the show.
Meyer's excitement-building, volcanic mounting pounds and Farag's diverse percussive moves added more hues of colors to the band's captivating sound.
Bayliss's vocals were "right on," although he nor any other members of the band sang much, when they did most of the crowd sang along.
I was shocked when I witnessed the band "goof" and their playing nearly came to a complete stop during their first, and once again in their second set. But, they triumphantly regrouped and the outer-space-type dance party resumed. I looked around immediately after the band experienced an "oops" and I saw the majority of the fans so impressively entranced by the band's just prior jammin,' to give them a dirty what the "F" glance.
The climax of the show was when the band played The Beatles "Lady Madonna" with Jeff Coffin (saxophonist) for the first time. The crowd's applause soared even higher than just recently before--his rich textured trumpet roars seemed to cause somewhat self-conscious dancers to be freed of any cares or dancing explores.
Other exceptionally energizing moments were when the band performed "All Night Long," "Got Your Milk", "Jimmy Stewart" and when they had Mike "Mad Dog" Mavridoglou conducting them--Yeah!
In addition, it was extraordinary and entertaining to see such speed in an employee when it came to scooping up fan's brazier's in such a flash after they threw them on stage during the song "Got Your Milk!"
The band has a new album "Mantis," which began at riff level, when many of the band members presented each other with CDs containing hundreds of riffs they'd composed over the past dozen years. The best of these were painstakingly displaced, modulated, and shifted...growing from rough drafts into the elegant and emotionally fulfilling tracks on Mantis ." I my book, that alone deserves a big paycheck!
I don't think it was the numerous fans with dilated pupils, half-shut eyes or the guy in ecstasy, who kept asking strangers (whether it be a guy or a girl) for hug, that had fans praising the band about the show afterwards. The sober looking people I spoke with agreed it was "a sweet as hell show"--no disappointments whatsoever.
On an ending note, I did have a few flashbacks throughout Umphrey's Mcgee's performance because I thought their music was sort of similar to the first Revenge of the Nerds flick. To elaborate, it took me back to when one of the main characters "Buger'" had his "nerdy" clan wow and win over way more than one fan with their brilliant, imagination-driving, intergalactic-sounding, space-traveling-feeling, electric jam. Yet, that's not to say I don't love Umphrey's McGee--and, no matter how old I am!