So I recently decided to go see Umphrey's McGee (my favorite band) in Denver for New Year's Eve. I started going through all the Umphrey's I have on my computer (quite a bit) and found a few highlights that I felt I should share with ya:
1. "Wappy Sprayberry"-Canopy Club-2/17/13-This show closer reveled in the deep, spacey groove of Ryan Stasik's bass. They really stretch it out from a slow, building stomp into a face-melting assault on your earballs. Oh, and they end it with a little Hall of the Mountain King. It's killer.
2. "Hajimemashite"-Aragon Ballroom-11/26/11-Always a crowd favorite, Brendan's huge ending vocal note wasn't the highlight it usually was, due mainly to ex-Cornmeal fiddler extraordinaire Allie Kral coming onstage to jam with Jake. The guitar and fiddle leads weave in and out of each other like a spiral to heaven, getting faster and faster as they go. Definitely a must-hear.
3. "Andy's Last Beer"-Riviera Theatre-12/31/10-My first Umphrey's show. This was one of my favorites, as the horn section provided just the perfect amount of spice and accent to what is already a great tune. Brendan and Jake's vocal harmonies are impeccable as well, and you can actually hear Jake acknowledge it with a quiet "That was good as f*&$."
4. "Cemetery Walk"-White River-8/16/13-One of the songs that got me into Umphrey's in the first place. They really tore into it at White River; faster than usual, it was filled with that splashy psychedelic crunch we all love until it segued back into the dance groove with Joel's keyboards cascading over the menacing outro. Brilliantly done.
5. "Mail Package"-Summer Camp-5/27/12-This is a song I thought I would never get to see, since it's only a bustout, and generally at special occasions. But I got it last year at Summer Camp, and it's easy to see why it's a fan-favorite. The back-alley creepiness, the wonderful harmonies and jazz solos, and of course, the hilarious lyrics about "stinky cheese and wine, or an implant for my behind" are what make this one special.
6. "All Things Ninja"-Peoria Riverfront-7/5/12-I was very lucky to be at this show. This is one of the songs that is truly a rarity, and I think has only been played a few times in the past several years. A crushing jazz-metal odyssey, it takes a real toll on you while they play it, as it builds and builds until it blocks everything else out. Oh, and the opening chords have one of the coolest sounds I've ever heard come out of a guitar.
7. "Phil's Farm"-Summer Camp-5/26/13-A staple of the Umphrey's repertoire, this one starts out blistering and almost punk, until it ascends into a straight up hoe-down. The bluegrass-tinged solos are the meat of this one, while Joel's bouncy piano keeps everything surging forward at breakneck speed. Definitely one of the songs you need to dance to at some point in your life.
8. "Eat"-Summer Camp-5/24/13-This is another one like "All Things Ninja". Played very seldomly, I didn't even know I had heard it until someone brought it up back at the campsite. It's a crazy song that starts out as chugging metal, then descends into '70's noodling with a frenetic pace that never quite stays where it started. It's truly a novel listen, and quickly becoming one of my favorites.
9. "Glory"-White River-6/25/11-From what might be my favorite Umphrey's show, this version of crowd favorite "Glory" features the typical soft, heavenward intro, but the solo, always a face-melter, is just off the rails on this version. Jake really lives up to his self-described position of "stunt guitar" in the band and takes you soaring through space on the back of a giant bird while he solos. Any version of "Glory" is good, but this is my personal favorite.
10. "Rebubula"-Summer Camp-5/24/13-Not actually an Umphrey's song, it's their cover of a song by Summer Camp co-headliners moe. However, when Umphrey's played it, they added that metal edge and their light show to what is already a spectacular song. This one is meant to be listened to at top speed over the ocean, the full effect hitting right when you plunge beneath the waves, enjoying the sounds of the sea.
All of these songs are available from livenation for like a dollar. If you want ten songs you won't be able to quit listening to, check them out. And don't forget to look into Umphrey's in Kalamazoo, MI, Milwaukee, WI, and Denver, CO among other shows coming up. Happy trails!