As I sat in my seat at Umphrey's McGee at Red Hat Amphitheatre on Friday night, I had an epiphany. We were in the very back of the seats, where that section comes to a point against the lawn. I watched all the fans walking around us to make the turn at the point. There were young fans who looked like they just finished guarding the rail before a Bassnectar show (stop doing that please, y'all), middle-aged rockers like myself who clearly just got off work and met the babysitter in time to make it to the show, and older hippies who were intently comparing this amazing light show to that of Candace Brightman's work with the Grateful Dead. During my observations, the soundtrack grew to increase the noises of a passing train who blew their horn for us, much to the crowd's delight, and rumbling traffic and motorcycle engines. It occurred to me that I sat in a whirlpool of music genre fans and urban noises and this all really represented Umphrey's McGee perfectly: the convergence point of so many rhythms and grooves and fans within the jam band scene.
But, can you even define UM as a jam band? With random covers such as "Black Water" in the first set and a heavy lean towards metal in the second set, UM continues to defy stereotypes and genres. Not ordinarily much of a headbanger myself, I was cursing Umphrey's on Saturday when my neck was aching. Pretty sure I can attribute this pain to the Mantis>Mulche's Odyssey>Mantis sandwich, which was actually part of a larger Dagwood sandwich that basically engulfed the second set in awesomeness. I might've been hurting the day after but rocking out to music like this, that's harder and different than the downhome-banjo-feelgood tunes I usually crank, is worth it.
Just as we were finally catching our breath and I had convinced myself that maaaaybe I wouldn't suffer a heat stroke due to the oppressive humidity of the rainy evening, Umphrey's broke into an encore of "In the Kitchen". I may dance myself into a heart attack one day, but if it happens after a night like this one, it will be worth it. What better Friday night than boogieing your heart out with all the various and sundry freaks of the Triangle, while the Cree Shimmer Wall glitters its giant oak limbs above you and a silver train darts through downtown? Things may get weird, but like the UM album says, there's "Safety in Numbers".
Story by Erika Rasmussen
Photos by Jerry Friend