McNear's Mystic Theater in Petaluma, California was the first sold out show of the west coast tour to my knowledge. With a capacity of 550 and a proximity to San Francisco of some 40 miles, it's easy to understand why. Umphrey's was definitely feeling the energy last night as they proceeded to rock out and have what looked like, from my spot on the floor, a whole lot of fun.
The show began with an ethereal build into a stock Walletsworth. Prowler came next, blazing in glory to heights of guitar riff ecstasy before transitioning abruptly into Turn and Run. This combination was actually the beginning of my 2009 tour season in Tulsa and I have to say I rather like the sound of it. It's almost good enough to make me forget the Prowler > Africa that I heard at my first Umphrey's show ever way back in 2004. Turn and Run featured a little bit of jamming but nothing noteworthy. August, however, set the room on fire. At least that's what one would have thought with the massive clouds of smoke billowing forth, affording Waful his favorite kind of canvas to show off the lights. The band launched into a very tight funky-pulse “Jimmy Stewart” that carried the song to its conclusion. Cinninger took a minute to introduce the members of the band, just in case anybody in the venue had forgotten where they were.
A very nasty Search 4 followed the brief pause for band intros, showing off the band's precision and dexterity more than their improvisational skills. The boys really do a good job of balancing their progressive rock tunes and their jammed out ones in a given set. Tribute to the Spinal Shaft helped to bring that contrast into sharp focus, as it housed a hot dance-beat wawa-pedal “Stewart” as if to offset it's own rocking roots. Some heavy bass jamming from Stasik led right into a solid rendition of The Floor to end the second set. I love getting Search 4 and The Floor close to each other. To get them sandwiched around a Tribute...well, that's just awesome.
A relaxed set break gave everyone a chance to catch some fresh air outside of the cozy little theater. Although there was plenty of dancing room (despite the sell-out), the air inside had become decidedly hazy. When we had all spent enough time gibbering to each other about how good the first set had been, we returned to our posts to feed some more off the sonic assault that is Umphrey's McGee Live.
Set two opener was a whopping 17 minute Ringo, complete with a complex and well delivered “Jimmy Stewart.” Starting off as a kind of disco rock riff, it transitioned into a whirlwind solo from Kris Myers that was reminiscent of something Animal the Muppet might play. The whole thing became a pretty heavy metal jam before settling down into the ending of Ringo. Sparking back up from a dead stop, Believe the Lie appeared out of the midst of this dark build. You could tell the band was having fun with this one, jamming out within the structure of the song but not really planning on taking it anywhere. Keeping the light-hearted mood going Cinninger launched into a brief but cheerful rendition of the countryesque Good Ol' Boys, a rare treat.
Then came something new for me, and it surprised the hell out of me because I haven't heard anyone else talk about Umphrey's playing it before. The played Breathe, which I knew they had in the past but had never heard. However, they played it the Easy Star All-Star's Dub Side Of The Moon way rather than in the style of the Pink Floyd original. And it was absolutely amazing! Not just Breathe but the 15 minute raging dance party jam that was sandwiched inside. I believe I have a new favorite Umphrey's Jam.
Breathe segued into Spires, one of the better versions I've heard. It seems like the Mantis songs continue to improve every time they are played. I can get behind that trend. The set closer was Sociable Jimmy which, after a brief hiccup (“This is what's called we f*#&ed up” exclaimed Bayliss before starting over), went off without any further problems. That's Ok. I'll accept a slip up on an intro now and then as long as they keep delivering the energy and talent that make shows like last evening's so incredible. A good encore of Miss Tinkle's Overture with a little dance party reprise of its own closed out the night and sent us all home, sleepy, smiling, and satisfied.
Set One Walletsworth, Prowler > Turn and Run, August, Search 4, Tribute to the Spinal Shaft > The Floor Set Two Ringo, Believe the Lie, Good Ol' Boys, Breathe* > Spires, Sociable Jimmy Encore Miss Tinkle's Overture