The forward-thinking band Umphrey’s McGee will carve out new terrain in musical interactivity with their fans at the first “UMBowl,” an unprecedented 4-quarter evening-long concert on Saturday, April 24th, at Lincoln Hall in the group’s hometown of Chicago.
Umphrey’s, which has long forged a close bond with its national fan base through technological innovation, will explore fresh frontiers in the five-hour event, styled to emulate a football game with four “quarters” of unique musical performances that will actually be generated by audience input. Half the night’s music will be determined by text messaging on “gameday” itself.
The first quarter (Q1) will be an acoustic set entirely chosen by attendees; ticket holders will receive ballots and cast votes on the songs to be performed. Q2 will be a wholly improvised performance driven by bi-directional texting, sifted and delivered by “offensive coordinator” (and longtime Umphrey’s sound caresser) Kevin Browning to the band, which will then use the audience input to construct their jams. Q3 will be an all-request segment, with songs again determined by pre-balloting from the audience members. Fans will be able to vote not just on song selection but actually how those songs are arranged and varied from their original form. In Q4, the live audience will actually act as the group’s quarterback, “calling audibles” to direct the course of a free-flowing set via text messages sent to Browning in response to choices projected on an in-house screen.
The text-messaging element of UMBowl, powered by Mozes, was first employed by Umphrey’s McGee at their Stew Art (or “S2”) series, launched in fall 2009. Hosted as freestanding events before Umphrey’s shows in select tour markets, the series is a crowd-sourced improvisation experiment, in which all the music performed by the group on stage is entirely directed by S2 audience members. Sold-out crowds of 50 fans submit their ideas by texting descriptive words, phrases, and pop culture references to the Umphrey's mobile interface, which are then interpreted by the band.
Umphrey’s McGee had previously taken new approaches to delivering their music to the fans. Before their most recent studio recording, Mantis, was released in January 2009, the collection was made available for pre-order in an interesting way. The more Mantis pre-orders were received, the more free bonus content was received. Fans “unlocked” levels of content by getting more of their friends to pre-order the album.
The band was also among the first group of performers to offer songs at Rock Band Network. The much buzzed-about video game platform works with Xbox video game systems, and allows bands to offer fans a way to dig into their favorite group’s music in ways they have never been able to before.
UMBowl tickets went on sale last Friday and sold out in just minutes.
For the many out-of-town fans attending UMBowl, the band, together with long-standing travel partners CID Entertainment, offered travel packages for the event. Included in each package are tickets to UMBowl, luxury accommodations at the new Hotel Palomar in downtown Chicago, a drink package for the pre-party at the Umphrey’s hometown hang The Store, a personalized UMBowl jersey, gameday transportation, and more. For further information, go here.