So our music writer has long been a wee bit obsessed with Umphreys McGee. The band came through Boston last night, performing at the House of Blues (a perfect venue), so I decided to tag along and see what all the fuss was about. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the band (likely most of you), after the concert I summed up their sound as a result of these influences; Pink Floyd, Weezer, Phish, Incubus, The Grateful Dead, Dave Matthews Band, and 311. They are primarily a jam band, and although they do change speeds, they mostly play faster paced music.
Some reactions to the concert: This band is made up of Matt Damon as the lead singer, Heath Ledger on the bass, your drunk Irish friend on the guitar, your 40-year-old cousin of the keyboards, and a rastafarian as well as on overly intense white dude on the drums. Many of their songs begin by sounding very much like other popular songs – they aren’t sampling most of the time but the influence was pretty obvious. Regardless of this, they would then take whatever the song was and make it absolutely their own as they gradually built up the jam and the speed. The vocals and the lyrics are relatively unexcitable and unoriginal, but that made little difference as vocals are few and far between. You don’t go to an Umphrey’s concert for the vocals, you go to watch a fantastic group of musicians.
As the concert went on, I did find my interest fluctuating a a bit. They were never bad, not even close, but they weren’t always stellar. That said, when they are at their best as their jams reach their peak and during guitar solos, they are absolutely fantastic. While one of the guitarists, Jake, is absolutely incredible, both of the guitarists in the band are awesome. The best parts of the show were when they were playing at each other just completely rocking out. Very cool.
As someone who played sports with some mild success when I was younger, I feel as though I can relate to what it must feel like to be a professional athlete dominating a game. I can imagine what it would feel like to grow a few inches, add a few pounds of muscle, and gain some quickness. While that will never happen, the experience of lighting up a CYO basketball game or pitching in Little League allows me to relate. What amazes me about musicians, especially when I watch guitarists of this caliber, is that I can’t imagine how cool it must be to be able to play like that. I have absolutely no musical talent (my rapping skills aside, obviously) so I can’t imagine being able to pick up a guitar and make it do whatever I damned well pleased. That must be awesome. Damn it mom and dad, why couldn’t you pass along some musical talent?
All in all, the Umphrey’s put on a great show. They get into it, and at their best, you’d be hard pressed to find a better band to jam with.