Umphrey’s McGee: Ordinary Kids Doing Extraordinary Things (Relix Revisited)
Today, though, everyone agrees that Myers’ arrival is the best thing to happen to the band since Cinninger signed on. After his rocky start—“He was getting burnt,” says Cummins, “putting too much into it, trying too hard”—and lots of hard-earned advice about “road Zen” (e.g., the more you pack, the more you stand to lose), Myers has now become something of a musical mentor. Having never listened to the Grateful Dead or Phish, unlike the others, he holds little truck with directionless noodling, while boasting a wealth of technical drumming know-how and chops a-go-go.
Umphrey’s McGee was one of the first bands to hit the stage at the first Bonnaroo festival in 2002, and the qualitative leap between that afternoon show for some 12,000 fans and its more recent late-night extravaganza in front of an audience twice that size is remarkable. Even moe., who took over Umphrey’s instruments for a midshow mini-set in lieu of a set break, was just the glaze on the band’s all-night musical donut.
“We knew we had to make an impression at the first Bonnaroo,” Jake recalls. “We knew we had to play the best show we’ve played in our lives. That’s how we looked at the last Bonnaroo show, too, and it’s the secret to our success. We went into it like a football team, seriously strategizing but not enough to psych ourselves out.”
moe. guitarist Al Schnier observed a few years ago that “the band with the funny name from Indiana” was appearing at a lot of the same places moe. was. “You could see they were doing a good job,” he said recently, “and doing their homework, too, in terms of handbills and promotion. They obviously had their heads in the game.” Umphrey’s had even been covering moe.’s tricky “Rebubula” prior to Jake’s arrival, the first instance Schnier knew of another band doing their material. “They reminded us of us at that age,” he says. “But when we saw them live, I thought, ‘Oh no, they’re actually a lot better than we were at their age. They actually stayed sober and played a lot better than we did—and their skill exceeds ours even now.”
No twin-guitar attack quite compares to Umphrey’s. Jake, as formidable a shredder as has ever come down the pike, has inspired Brendan to rev up his own formidable Jimmy Page and Trey Anastasio-inspired chops. Moreover, the band has gradually acquired a vocabulary of some 30 visual cues that make their signature “Jazz Odyssey” and “Jimmy Stewart” improvs sound less like hippie-band jams than worked-out compositions.
“Jake will create a line and I’ll look at his hands and create a harmony right away,” says Bayliss, slouching on a sofa in the comfortable Lakeview condo he shares with his wife and cat. “Then we’ll change it.” A happy face signifies a major key, for example, while sad means minor. A step forward takes everybody up a half step, two steps forward a whole step, and vice versa. Holding up four fingers means drums alone, three fingers means drums and bass. A raised thumb tells one musician to stop and giving the raspberries tells everyone to stop. “We’ve gotten good at making our jams sound contrived,” Bayliss says dryly.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
Ron Sexsmith visits the Relix office to perform a tune from his latest record Forever Endeavor.
Crystal Bowersox stops by Relix to perform a song from her new album, All That For This.
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