Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Umphrey's McGee...I Got It *Finally*

There are 3 bands, in particular, that I remember listening to and wanting to like them, but at the beginning I didn't completely get it. These 3 bands today are my favorite bands but it took a little effort to get to know them.

Those bands are: Phish, Radiohead, and Wilco.

I didn't really fully *get* any of these bands at first. I will never forget the first 5 times I listened to A Live One, Ok Computer, and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I will never forget it because in each instance I was driving around Central Texas thinking "WTF is this shit? I know ______ likes this, but this is just weird."

Somewhere after about 5 listens, there was a change. I remember the instant I finally got into the guitar riff in Paranoid Android and was yelling gibberish along with Thom. I remember finally appreciating the "nirvana" secion of YEM. I remember finally loving the delicate beauty and chaos in the songs on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. It took a few listens, but something finally *clicked* and I became a fan.

Up until now, I have never really cared much for the Chicago Prog-Rock-Metal-Jam-band Umphrey's McGee. They never seemed to *click* with me. There were other bands to see and like. Umphrey's didn't get me right away. I was surrounded by friends who thought they sucked so I never made an effort to get into them.

This has changed recently.

Over the past few months several of my friends I met through Phish and Jam Cruise talked about how much they love Umphrey's. When I see some of my friends enjoying something musically, well I want to get in on that action too. I let my new friends know that I wanted to like Umphrey's, but didnt know where to start. I got some help.

I got a couple of "good" Umphrey's live shows and listened a few times. I went to the Saturday Denver Fillmore show with other friends that liked them. Before the show I was hopeful and open-minded, but I still wasn't sold. The first set was good, but I wasn't yet a fan. In the second set - somewhere in the crazy Wappy Sprayberry> Miss Tinkles Overture - I found myself dancing and fist pumping and yelling with the guitar peaks. I *got* it. Finally.

Now I'm not saying that Umphrey's is as good as Wilco, Radiohead or Phish. That is for a different time. Im just talking about myself and how I realized this weekend sometimes certain bands and styles of music have grown on me and taken some effort to get into.

Maybe you like Phish, Radiohead, Wilco, Umphrey's...maybe not. They are all good bands to like- they challenge the listener in different ways and are good to the fans. I guess you could say I love these bands...Well I don't yet love Umphrey's the way some of my friends do or the way I love Phish, but I had a great time on Saturday.

I'm using the word love for a reason. I've found myself pondering the reasons we talk about love and music. Both can catch you off guard in an instant. Other times we wait for years until the timing is right. In both cases my experience has been the affairs I put the most effort into are the ones that are the most fulfulling.


BTreotch said...

You managed to avoid/not hear "The Bends"?

the joker said...

of course i love "the bends"...but ok computer was the album that really really really made me love radiohead. similarly i had been aware of wilco before YHF, and aware of Phish before ALO, but it was those moments I talk about where i really was pushed over the cliff.

the joker said...

...just like ive seen umphreys 7-10 times before the sat show but now i think i *get it* and want to dive in deeper.

jonas0tt0 said...

"Now I'm not saying that Umphrey's is as good as Wilco, Radiohead or Phish."

That's good because we might not be able to hang out any more if that was the case.

BTreotch said...

you're spot on about the timing of it all.. For YHF, I had borrowed the DVD about the album only hearing a few tracks in a crowded automobile.. The next day it rained, so I popped in the DVD and it seem to capture/inspire so many things about how I was feeling at the time..

I'll have to hit some more Umphrey's shows.. I may have seen them twice.. not sure

dwblogs said...

sooo, what was it that clicked? i saw them at the belly up tavern years ago and thought that the jams were mindless and never really seem to go anywhere. like you, ive got friends who are into them and i want to like them but haven't "gotten it" yet. it took me 6 Panic shows before those guys clicked and they clicked in a big way. same for Phish...it took me nearly 3 years to get them, but im glad i did.

Angela said...

Awesome!!! I saw them in 2002 at ROO first.. loved it.... tried to look out for when they were coming to town but never got a chance to catch them... then it happened, my phish cd's were held hostage and I was told I needed to listen to Local band does OKlahoma.

Congrats.. there is alot for you to catch up on! You also got my wizard burial ground sandwich i've been waiting a long time for. Jealous! =)

gatorphish said...

Those moments of the music capturing and taking you deeper is what it's all about. Sounds like Jamcruise had many of them.

Looking back I can not believe that I missed UM play the House of Blues in LA, the night before Fest8. Sounded like a great show.

-TAH said...

Please let me know if there's any UM I can send your way. I have plenty of good 'starters' for you.

Always enjoy the read. Keep it up...

the joker said...

i would love to hear some more classic UM shows...havinagoodtime44@gmail.com


zippyhybrid said...

I had a similar experience after seeing the Denver Fillmore show....went to the show an open minded but casual listener and by the end was very much a fan. Anyone know if a good recording is up somewhere yet? Didn't see one on etree last I checked.

the joker said...

zippy- email me and ill send you some links...havinagoodtime44@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Last paragraph = ditto on the feeling.

Perfect description.

Smell the Glove- Denver Kickball said...

^^^^ What clicks with UM is the recognition of just how tightly they play. They are some of the most talented musicians on the scene. Don't be scared to love hard rawk!
Fillmore show was killer!!!

bobbyluv said...

I must admit, it took several shows for UM to click for me, but once it hit me, it was all she wrote.
I love the different themes of their music, but most importantly, I love the fact that they NEVER take a night off.

Colin said...

Hey man, I'm a regular reader of your blog... you guys have a great thing going here!

I was elated to read this post about you "getting" Umphrey's. I got them in 2005, albeit after a few live performances, but since then I go see them whenever they come close. I just moved out to Colorado from the Midwest so they were pretty easy to catch several times a year there.

I was also at the Saturday night show and thought it was particularly hot... easily one of the top 5 (of 30) shows I've been lucky enough to see. If you're interested at all I'd love to share some of my favorite pieces from them... atomicpow@gmail.com

Hope to see you at a CO show sometime! Enjoy the UM!

Ziggy Stardust said...

"Now I'm not saying that Umphrey's is as good as Wilco, Radiohead or Phish."

That's good because we might not be able to hang out any more if that was the case.

Jonas, ftw.

-one of those friends you've been hanging out with the last few years who thinks they suck.

No really, that's fantastic Neil. I've tried, and I just can't pull it off. Maybe I need a non-festival show. Maybe it's just not for me. I had fun listening and drinking beer just outside the gate at trancegression though.

Henry Holland said...

One thing I always tell people is that UM are NOT a jam band, though they play in that scene; they are a prog rock band, through and through. They don't just lay out a Eb-F groove and jam over it.

Joker, did you catch the hand signals thing? If not, if you see them again, watch Jake. They'll be jamming and he'll hold up two fingers: D major. 24 bars later, three fingers pointed down: F#m etc. It's a way to improvise but not get stuck in repetitive grooves and harmonies. They do this so fluidly it seems like composed sections.

Great band, seen 'em 6 times and was blown away each time. Jake is a truly incredible guitar player, I just wish Pony would get his shit together in terms of his bass sound.