Umphrey’s McGee is the musical equivalent of the fable concerning five blind men describing an elephant based on the different parts of the animal that they’re each holding.
If a group of people was told to pin a genre on the band based on a random snippet from a random song in Umphrey’s McGee’s extensive studio/live catalog, the end result could be as many answers as individuals involved in the exercise. Umphrey’s McGee shifts gears more than a NASCAR driver in the middle of the pack during a Winston Cup race; the band routinely incorporates and combines elements of Blues, Funk, Prog, Metal, Bluegrass, Jazz, Rock, Pop, Reggae, Electronica and Nepalese Throat Singing (that last one was just to see if you were still paying attention, although they might have actually done it somewhere along the line).
With a sonic quilt that crazy, it’s hardly surprising that Umphrey’s McGee has been ecstatically embraced by the Jam community. The band’s open taping policy is evident by the nearly 3,000 shows posted at the free-exchange website archive.org, a quantity topped only by the Grateful Dead and moe. Since Umphrey’s McGee formed at the University of Notre Dame 22 years ago, the band has blithely ignored prevailing musical trends in favor of doing whatever the hell they feel like doing and attracted a huge and fiercely loyal audience in the process.
Umphrey’s McGee released its 11th studio album, it’s not us, last January, and followed it with a remix version titled it’s not them and the companion album it’s you. Late last year, the band snuck another album out to the world without any advance notice; BeSides offered up seminal versions of songs found on it’s not us, along with various other bonus tracks, live renditions, demos and alternate arrangements. It’s all unearthed gold to the seasoned Umphrey’s McGee fan, who needs absolutely no convincing to line up for tickets when the band rolls into town. For the rest of you, do a little research, drink the Kool-Aid and find your Umphrey’s McGee bliss.
Almost exactly a year after their last two-night residency at the Taft Theatre, Umphrey's returns to Cincinnati to perform at the venue this Friday and Saturday (Jan. 18-19). Click here for tickets/more show details.
There's a good chance Cincinnati trumpeter Michael "Mad Dog" Mavridoglou will be sitting in with Umphrey's this weekend. Here's a clip from this past New Year's Eve in Atlanta, where Umphrey's was joined on a Miles Davis cover by "Mad Dog's Filthy Little Secret Horns," featuring Mavridoglou, Jeff Coffin and Josh Quinlann on saxophones and Chris Ott on trombone.