What an honor it was to see one of my favorite bands in one of my very favorite cities, and with some of my very favorite people. This year I traveled my way three hours to Chicago by car then by train to get to the Aragon Ballroom on December 30th, 2016 to see one my favorite bands of all time Umphrey’s McGee.
The last time that Umphrey’s played in Chicago was in 2010, I was there for that. We didn’t know that we were seeing the last New Year’s Umphrey’s would play so close to their home town, and not to mention in one of the best venues in the Midwest, the Aragon Ballroom. The Aragon is a very historic venue in Chicago. It was built in 1926 and was elaborate for its time. Its walls are filled with the history of great musicians. It once hosted 6-hour long rock concerts and was the place where Nirvana played their last show in Chicago. It really is only fitting for a band like Umphrey’s to call this place home. The history is so very rooted in the Midwest, as is theirs, and really my own.
The show on December 30th was a show unlike many of the Umphrey’s shows I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of Umphrey’s McGee shows. This show was made up of only originals songs from the band, something that is not often seen with this band. They are so widely influenced by other bands, and the history that surrounds rock music, they can’t help but let that leak into their music from time to time. But this show was one made completely of the history of Umphrey’s McGee. They played songs that took me back to my youth, songs like “Anchor Drops,” “Nothing Too Fancy,” and “Walletsworth.” These were all songs that sort of defined my youth, and reminded me of what it was like to be young, and wide eyed and bushy tailed. I couldn’t help but be pleased to be standing there with friends new and old, as I heard the familiar tunes of my youth, and watched the bright familiar lights grace the stage, and light up the familiar faces of the band that showed me what home was. I was there. Home in Chicago, under the starry Aragon Ballroom sky.
The second set was much like the first, a set that brought back feelings of nostalgia. It was short and sweet and still it was like a story that shared the band’s past, and brought it to the current. They played some more deep hits like “The Floor,” a song I heard at my very first Umphrey’s show and “1348” which I can’t even count how many times I’ve witnessed. But it wasn’t like repeating the past. Each incarnation of the song is different, and that’s what I love about this band. This version of “The Floor” was unique to this show, as it has been to each of the 207 times the band has played it. They are like lightning, or snowflakes, never the same thing twice, each as beautiful as the last. They closed the night with a single encore. A song that only a band like Umphrey’s McGee could write and play perfectly each time, and a song that I’ve seen and heard countless times, “JaJunk.” They ended the night with bright white lights, and screaming fans, and raging guitar riffs, in true Umphrey’s style.
I was sad to see the night end, but I am forever grateful to have witnessed this night, and every night I have seen Umphrey’s McGee. I am grateful for the things I have experienced in the past year, and I am happy to bring in the next. I am so honored to be writing and photographing for such an amazing outlet. Grateful Web has allowed me to see so many great shows, and to share that experience with as many people that want to see it. What a year 2016 has been, this world has seen so much but now it’s time to put that in the past. Here’s to 2017 being another year for the record books, and another year filled with great memories of great music. Until the next show. Stay Grateful and Happy New Year.