The fourth and most industrious (to date) UM BOWL took place April 26, 2013 at the Park West in Chicago – it was UM BOWL IV and it was spectacular!
The musical hosts were local favorites Umphrey’s McGee, that obviously set out to fill the audience’s plate with large servings of prog/jazz/fusion/metal/folk/classic/instrumental rock. All kinds of rock music was served up, assaulting the senses in an amazing light and sound extravaganza.
Brendan, Beatles and more
During the four “quarters” of music, lights and videos, the humble, hard working group of guys dish up generous portions of outstanding talent and diversity.
Ryan Stasik, UM’s bassist, announced to the aromatic and extremely enthusiastic crowd that Cliff Burton (Metallica) and Paul McCartney were two of his favorite bass players before Umphrey’s McGee went into a Beatles’ Abbey Road medley that included “Polythene Pam,” “She Came In Thru The Bathroom Window” and “Golden Slumbers.”
The irony of Brendan Bayliss’ vocal stylings is that he found his “voice” more and more as he plowed through the covers of the world’s most famous lads from Liverpool.
In comparison, I have seen Beatles tribute bands Liverpool and many others perform the Abbey Road selections, and while it was certainly enjoyable, it is UM’s spot-on musicianship that sets their renditions of classics apart from the other bands.
Channeling the inner Zep
During the second quarter, Umphrey’s McGee put their own spin on Led Zeppelin’s “Hey Hey What Can I Do?,” where Brendan Bayliss, with mandolin in hand, sat down for part of the song to concentrate on his part and render his best baritone-laden Robert Plant-esque vocal.
UM is like Led Zeppelin in the way that they bring shades of light and darkness to the stage and studio. They are also similar to Rush and Dream Theater in their precision and technical abilities, and they can bring presence of anger akin to Metallica on some of their instrumentals and cover songs.
A family affair
Brendan and all the members really connected, as they always do, with their audience. The crowd is much more than a group of fans, it is a community, a “family” and perhaps the most loyal and devoted bunch of folks since Grateful Dead or Phish in their prime.
This has obviously spelled great success for UM and each individual member, deservedly so.
Some fans have seen Umphrey’s McGee over one hundred times. At this show, a young man drove ten hours to come to Chicago for this year’s UM Bowl. The fans are more than a bunch of people that make up a sold-out crowd – they are like an extra player that gives the band that extra push and edge.
In a recent interview with singer/guitarist Brendan Bayliss, he talks more about the powerful connection between band and fan.
Musical, visual feast
Musical highlights of the evening included Metallica’s “Orion,” and a couple acoustic tunes featuring Brendan and Jake “Bullhead City,” and “Two by Two,” along with an instrumental “Beach Boogie” and Jackson Browne’s “Runnin’ on Empty.” The entire interactive show’s set list can be viewed here.
Umphrey’s McGee are like Pink Floyd in their array of lights and majestic sounds which sooth, stimulate, and minister to the soul of the listener. They are similar to Phish, Dave Matthews and the Allman Brothers in their ability to lose themselves in the jam.
Two outstanding examples of UM doing what they do best, dazzle the eyes and ears, can be found on this video link from the April 2013 Park West show.
Sweet moments, stunning beats
Andy Farag on percussion, who donned a Chicago Blackhawks t-shirt, works really well with drummer Kris Myers, whose skills are reminiscent of Matt Cameron from Pearl Jam. Myers really shined on the PJ cover “Porch,” and throughout the entire show, as his drums expertly filled in the spaces, ala John Bonham’s off beat, trademark time signatures.
Jake Cinninger shared a sweet moment when he held up a photo of his child, beaming with pride as many daddies do. The picture, along with a mini vintage jukebox and a Star Wars toy, all sit on top of Cinninger’s amp. These charming touches only reaffirm an intimate connection, as the band creates a fun, warm environment for the crowd, whenever they perform.
As cool as these touches are, it’s Cinninger’s vocational “toys” (his guitar pedals at his feet) that really impress, as the guitarist strums, shreds and flays away for hours.
The jam-packed Park West concert goers were also treated to the glorious bass of Ryan Stasik, whose pounding thumps can be felt throughout your entire body. Stasik has become more and more confident of his abilities, radiating a strong stage presence and confidence on the stage.
Hungry for more
Like a great meal, Umphey’s McGee satisfies on every level, leaving you with just enough hunger for the next triumphant musical course.
Robert Levy has a diverse background in the arts and has had the pleasure of interviewing professional actors, musicians, producers, and civic leaders. In addition, Robert is a Chicago-based musician and artist who has produced several CDs and been featured and interviewed on “Chicago Acoustic Underground,” “Chic-A-Go-Go,” and WLUW.