South Bend, Indiana progressive rock band Umphrey's McGee has made quite a name for themselves in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area over the years. In the beginning the band played at venues like the Minnesota Zoo Amphitheatre and The Cabooze, building a reliable fan base that grew every time they returned to the Twins Cities. As they gained popularity, Umphrey’s McGee began to headline shows at the legendary First Avenue Nightclub, playing as many as three nights in a row to sold out crowds. July in Minnesota, however, is best viewed outdoors so Umphrey’s McGee took a trip back to their roots to play an outdoor concert at The Cabooze Outdoor Plaza.
Not a minute past seven o’clock the smiling faces of Brendan Bayliss and Ryan Stasik emerged from behind stage, closely followed by the other members of Umphrey’s McGee. The ever-growing crowd greeted them with a polite applause, no doubt still feeling the after effects of the 4th of July weekend. After all, celebrating the America’s birthday all weekend long will no doubt take its toll. However, It wouldn’t take the crowd long to get warmed up as Umphrey’s dove headfirst into “Phil’s Farm,” a classic tune off their 1998 debut album Greatest Hits Vol. III. A brief funk jam evolved but quickly dissipated, leaving the song incomplete for the time being. The funk segued into, “Ocean Billy,” a track that focuses on a building guitar riff that eventually explodes towards the end of the tune. Lead guitarist Jake Cinninger and rhythm guitarist Brendan Bayliss fed off each other, going back and forth on solos and performing double leads a-la The Allman Brothers. Keeping the set list old school, the band followed up with “40’s Theme,” which contained the always-popular “Shake Ya Ass” tease from Brendan Bayliss. As the sun began to set on Minneapolis the crowd, Umphrey’s McGee kicked things into high gear by closing the first set with a cover of the classic 1980’s hit “I Ran,” by Flock of Seagulls, which had everyone in the crowd singing along. It was the perfect end to a very respectable first set, and the growing crowd quickly scattered to grab drinks and meet up with friends before the nightfall consumed the evening.
After a short 20-minute set break, the boys returned to the stage to a much larger audience than they had left to. The stars we’re gleaming brightly in the Minneapolis sky, and the crowd had loosened up quite a bit since the first set. Brendan Bayliss grabbed his guitar and strummed the opening riff to “Wappy Sprayberry,” which made the plaza get wild. It was a faster version than most fans we’re used to, and seemed to pick up steam as the jam went along. After a semi-electronic jam that engulfed us with the synth sounds of Joel Cummins, the band transitioned fluently to one of their most classic songs, “Prowler,” off their 2002 album “Local Band does O.K.” It was now time for Jake Cinninger to show off his impressive shredding skills, and shred he ever. Fingers flying up and down the fret board, Jake blew the hypothetical roof of the Cabooze Outdoor Plaza. Umphrey’s McGee lighting Jefferson Waful was also in full-effect at this point in the second set, sending seamless patterns of strobe lights throughout the mesmerized crowd.
The highlight of the night came in the encore slot, a danced-out dirty version of “The Triple Wide.” Ryan Stasik brought the heavy bass lines and the crowd got down in disco-fashion. The momentum built until exploding into a vicious guitar battle between Bayliss and Cinninger, accompanied by Waful on the lights. It was the highest energy felt all night, and the crowd responded appropriately by getting down as well as anyone could after the 4th of July. The night ended with Umphrey’s McGee finishing the uncompleted “Phil’s Farm,” from way back in the first set. It was the right move for the right night, and the Cabooze plaza flooded towards the parking lot with smiles on their face.