Umphrey's McGee | Oakland, CA | Review

Article Contributed by Joshua Huver | Published on Sunday, March 27, 2016

Umphrey’s McGee, the sextet from South Bend, IN returned to the East Bay of Oakland, CA for their fifth consecutive appearance in as many years at the famed Fox Theater Friday night, March 25th.

One night from the official wrap of the Winter 2016 Tour, Umphrey’s McGee proved they have not lost their bag of tricks, nor is it even close to being empty.

The Bay Area has always been kind to the boys since they first made their way out west, and even though the shows have been few and far between in recent years there is no question as to the effort put forth for the fans.

Featuring a solid mixture of classic tunes and freshly composed nuggets, they boys came in hot from Tahoe with a tight 8:30 PM start beginning with “You Got The Wrong Guy”. A smooth transition into the next song followed. “Speak Up” saw its debut on this most recent New Year’s Eve and has been in heavy rotation since – this Fox performance being its ninth appearance in less than three months.

A heated “JaJunk” fell into a jam over bass player Ryan Stasik’s swinging salsa-style bass riff led by guitarist Jake Cinninger. The heat continued to grow until the melody broke into the distinct opening chords of “Hajimemashite”, one of the first songs Stasik and guitarist Brendan Bayliss wrote together.

Following the sing along, a heavy load bearing “Higgins” came through the speakers like a runaway freight train. The main jam section started shrill and clean, with a fast tempo and upbeat groove, the tone of the situation escalating with Andy Farag and Kris Myers’ pulsating drum beats and cymbal crashes before coming full circle to the end.

Before the show, the band members and old school fans alike shared a moment of victory as the Notre Dame Men’s Basketball team advanced in the March Madness tournament, surpassing Wisconsin in the final seconds of the game.

“This next song goes out to anybody in here that has any association with South Bend,” dedicated Bayliss.

The familiar crashing of the “All In Time” intro followed, creating an eruption of cheers and lights courtesy lighting director Jefferson Waful. One of the oldest and most frequently played songs in the band’s catalogue, “All In Time” made its 487th appearance.

The tune segued into the ethereal funk of “Day Nurse”, as Joel Cummins’ layers of synth blanketed the crowd and keeping the evening danceable amid the stylized hippie-metal evolution of sound that UM has come to define.

Following “Day Nurse”, the band turned heads left and then right with a downright entertaining acoustic section as Cinninger, Stasik and Bayliss traded in for the lighter instruments. Beginning with “Susannah”, an original song Bayliss penned with Jeff Austin for their 30db side project before moving into a unique take on Led Zeppelin’s “Bron-Y-Aur”. Although both tunes were recently performed at the most recent Brendan and Jake Holiday Acoustic Show at Chicago’s Park West, they have been hard to come by from the whole band.

“Susannah” was busted out for the first time since 2014’s appearance at Ravinia in Highland Park, IL and “Bron-Y-Aur” for the first time in 8 years –  since 4-02-2008 – and only once a year for the three years leading up to that one, to boot.

The end of the “Bron-Y-Aur” drought happily coincides with the heavy rains El Nino has been dumping across California, and to further drive home to point of proper replenishment, while Cinninger and Bayliss dueled out the melody (it’s only a two guitar song anyway) the remaining four members refueled on-stage with their own banana. Yes, Farag, Myers, Cummins and Stasik nommed on nanners while Brendan and Jake tore up some Zeppelin in a truly surreal twist of stage antics.

Following the banana break, the whole band joined together for the fifth all-time performance of the acoustic ballad “Gone For Good”, another recently debuted tune, from the 1-1-2016 screening of the “Real To Reel” documentary directed by Jefferson Waful. They ended the set with electric “Make It Right”, a tune that debuted less than a year ago at UMBOWL VI in Las Vegas last year.

Yesterday was, in Catholic tradition, Good Friday. Three years ago on Good Friday, Bayliss was at home and his young son accidentally tripped a preset keyboard tone, inadvertently creating the intro to the fan favorite “Bad Friday”. It is called ‘bad’ in the Michael Jackson sense of the word, a nod to the date of its conception. Bayliss added lyrics that were originally intended to be for the tune “The Linear” and the rest is history.

Fittingly, the band opened the second set with a hot-fire standalone “Bad Friday”. The long-form live epic “Ocean Billy” off of 2006’s Safety In Numbers followed, sandwiched around the original conception of “Cut The Cable”, one of Umphrey’s most versatile songs. The alternate version as it is now know crawls in comparison to the other versions, but such wide measures allowed for a solo Cinninger classical shredfest back into “Ocean Billy”.

From versatility they moved into “In The Kitchen”. An original with arguably more reach and recognition than any other in the band’s catalogue, “Kitchen” originated as an improvisational, on-stage composition known as a “Jimmy Stewart” and has continued evolving over the 14 years it has been around.

“Preamble” > “Mantis”, the focal piece of 2009s studio album Mantis featured Waful heavy on the wash and plenty of the signature declarative moments of big guitars and a pumping rhythm as the epic peaked and reconciled.

An 11 minute, heavy version of “The Linear” continued the pulsating groove into the second half and ending of “All In Time” to close the second set in true, blistering arena rock fashion.

For the encore, the band scrapped Men At Work’s “Down Under” to continue the heavy rocking theme of the evening that had been garnering such a positive crowd response with ZZ Top’s “Cheap Sunglasses” instead, and closed the show by finishing the “JaJunk” they started in the first set.

Oyster Bay, NY instrumental quintet TAUK opened the show with a rowdy, hard rocking get down that touched on multiple themes and genres of music. Kicking things off with “Battle Without Honor or Humility”, better known as the theme to Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill movies, they moved into crowd favorites like “Afrotonic” and “In The Basement Of The Alamo” which featured teases of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” amid a theme from an overly sexualized 1980s era cop drama blockbuster.

TAUK opens again for Umphrey’s McGee as they close the 2016 Winter Tour at The Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles, CA. In a few weeks the band will be back at it in the southern states including a very special performance coinciding with the PGA Masters tournament in Augusta, GA in early April.

Umphrey’s McGee returns to the southwest in May for the second consecutive hosting of their fan-directed UMBOWL at The Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas.

2016-03-25 Umphrey’s McGee at The Fox Theater, Oakland, CA

Set I: You Got The Wrong Guy > Speak Up, JaJunk > Haji, Higgins, All In Time > Day Nurse, Susannah*, Banana Bron Y Aur Stomp*, Gone For Good*, Make It Right

Set II: Bad Friday, Ocean Billy > Cut The Cable& > Ocean Billy, In The Kitchen, Preamble > Mantis, The Linear > All In Time

Encore: Cheap Sunglasses^ > JaJunk

*Brendan and Jake on acoustic
$Just Brendan and Jake
&alt. version