They were all there. All of the things that make a show great. Not just the music but the people, the atmosphere, the place, the time. It’s a unique time to be taking part in Musical history. Electronic music rules the club, the theater, TV and everywhere in between. The era of the D.J. I’ve heard it called. However there is another group of people. Not rebelling against culture, not fighting the times, simply being different for difference sake. This comes to mind with groups like TAUK, Papadosio and Umphrey’s McGee. No angst, no agenda except fun and meaningful music. We all came to Red Rocks to start the Fourth of July weekend off right.
TAUK started things off, immediately setting the pace for the rest of the night. Blending a deep groove, with spacey melodies the first tune “Friction” hits that place in between heavy and jazzy that you can’t help but bob your head to. TAUK continued to push that high level of energy throughout their set. Concluding with a jammy, Dream Theater-Esque “Collateral” TAUK promised to return to Colorado in the fall.
The amphitheater filled in quickly for Papadosio. Changing vibes to a more relaxed feel “Direction Song” was filled with light and airy lyrics, vocals and improvs. It became clear that emotionality would be a theme and each member showed a clear commitment to the performance. “Snorkel” quickly elevated the music into the ethereal and entheogenic realm. With the bellies full of beer and minds full of music the sun set and the anticipation set in.
There’s a lot that can be said about Umphrey’s McGee and a lot that can’t. Self-described as “Improg” or progressive improvisational music Umphrey’s bends the musical envelope. You can find elements of every kind of music in a single set. Rock, jazz, Latin, metal, progressive, jam, are the usual suspects in an Umphrey’s set. These descriptors do not do justice. It’s like describing paintings to a blind person. Just as they must touch a painting, one must listen to an Umphrey’s show to understand.
Setting an immediate tone of foreshadowing “In The Hall of The Mountain King” set the stage for an epic evening of face shredding rock. Launching into “Puppet String” was an instant crowd pleaser. Mysterious and filled with life observations that we all ponder. “It’s not like there’s a book for this” wails Bayliss. The first set was filled with lot’s of intense moments that can only be categorized by the “Improg” label. Umphrey’s jams can get insanely technical and we all love it.
Second set started on more of a soulful note with “Ringo>Cut The Cable>Shine On You Crazy Dimond>Ringo” with “Shine On You Crazy Dimond” being a true highlight as both band and crowd sung at the tops of our lungs.
One must also take note of the lighting production that goes into an Umphrey’s show. Both form and texture of the music is infinitely enhanced with lighting that reflects it. Kudos to legendary lighting designer Jefferson Waful. We all envy his work.
What makes a good show? All of the above. When good people get together with good music something magical happens. We transcend the pettiness of daily life. We become whole people again and with luck we take that bit of grace and carry it with us wherever we go.