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Umphrey's McGee - Brooklyn Bowl: 9-6-2011 - 9-9-2011
Concert Review by Jason Kopelman on 9/28/2011   

For any band touring over 120 shows a year, life on the road is tough. It’s a rare occasion when they get to put up residence for a week in one place. And, for anyone who knows how to let loose, there is no better town to do this in than the city that never sleeps, New York City. Umphrey’s McGee and a handful of fervent fans spent four straight nights rampaging the Big Apple’s very own Brooklyn Bowl.  The Brooklyn Bowl is a bowling alley in Williamsburg that has fused music with bowling and even serves fantastic food (including their famous fried chicken).  Bowling lanes adjacent to the stage and a live video feed of the show on huge screens all around the venue provide a great vantage point from anywhere in the house.  It is an experience any music aficionado is not soon to forget. To top off the whole event, the band also performed a special 10 year anniversary Stew-Art (S2) event, a first time in-store performance at the SoHo Apple Store, two double encores, a myriad of special guests and freshly debuted material; all in celebration of their newly released album Death By Stereo.

The Stew-Art Series is an original Umphrey's McGee invention that allows the band to show off their cohesiveness as a group and jam off requests from the crowd. The limited crowd of 150 watched very intently as they were also the conductors of the show. Each attendee could text in themes, covers, mashups, or anything else they want to see performed.  The Umphrey’s machine, including Jefferson Waful, respond to the requests with excitement and precision. In between the three 15 minute sets there are 2 Q & A sections and afterwards, a meet & greet with the band. This is one of the cooler ways they are able to give back to their most die hard fans.

To further promote their new album, Umphrey's McGee played an hour long set inside of the SoHo Apple store.  They performed a range of material from new tracks of DBS to an acoustic guitar driven 30 db favorite, Sussanah.  For the final song Brendan Bayliss exited the stage and, on a large backdrop projection screen, rejoined the group virtually via Apple’s Face Time. The 50 seated and 100 standing got to see close up how the band communicates during performances.  After 1000+ shows together, even the band was surprised to be able to experience such a creative new possibility.

Umphrey’s McGee kicked off their first set of the week with a bunch of classics and a synth-filled cover of Talking Head’s Making Flippy Floppy.   As the music began, women’s lingerie could be seen flying towards the stage to the delight of Brendan Bayliss who held up a bra and said  “This is fucking awesome!  It says glow sticks with a line through it.” In reward for the crowd ‘getting it,’ as Brendan puts it, the audience is introduced to track 2 off of DBS, “Domino Theory.” 

For those paying attention, an extra microphone is brought out during set break and one very special guest is getting ready to come out to lead us into this next set. Sure enough, Bob Weir from the Grateful Dead strolled out on stage, upping the ante with a Dead classic Not Fade Away.  Weir, now 63 years of age, rocked the house for a bunch of comparative youngsters and was taken by surprise at the abundance of voices belting out the lyrics with him. The band +1 and their choir of attendees gave a shiver inducing rendition behind the faithful Captain Weir before flowing smoothly into Jake Cinninger’s soul wrenching guitar fury: Glory.

Day 2 began and the band immediately went into Catshot, a newly fan-named Jazz Odyssey jam. Umphrey’s has always thanked their crowd for being the best in the world and they showed how much they cared during Wednesday’s performance by taking a series of requests from one Umphreak who was celebrating her 100th show. Ryan Stasik’s bass reverberated through our bodies as they grooved their way into Wappy Sprayberry and the bowling alley morphed into a crazed dance party, the likes of which the building had probably never seen.  Brendan Bayliss sang The Beatles’, I’ve Got a Feeling, giving the crowd witness to the pure emotion of his soaring voice.  Changing the pace, the band debuted their new song Miami Virtue, a radio-friendly hit off Death By Stereo.  It was brought to everyones attention that Brooklyn Bowl’s faithful owner, Pete Shapiro came out to celebrate his birthday and he had one very awesome wish.  The band didn’t even know about until the end of the show, but he not only requested the band to come back out after their encore, but also made the request to hear some Led Zeppelin. After moments of deliberation they burst out with a rampaging cover of “Song Remains the Same.”

Jefferson Waful, who calls Brooklyn his home, filled every inch of the walls in the bowling alley to capacity with exotic colors and trippy shapes. Waful had a wider range of moving lights rigged up for this extraordinary 4 night run, consisting of 10 Martin Mac III, 6 Mac 101, 7 Mac 700(6 of which were on the bowling lanes lighting up the wall to the right of the stage) and 6 Technobeams. A jumbo disco ball hung over the crowd and, without fail, Waful used all of his lights to ignite the shimmering ball, filling the room with a range of colors from solid white to rainbow strobes.

Umphrey’s McGee, amped from the S2 performance, was unusually early for their Thursday night show, walking out at 8:26. The surprised half filled room erupted when without warning, Kris Myers led us right into Nipple Trix. The music made its way outside and the waves of fans in waiting flocked to the stage. While performing Pink Floyd’s Shine On You Crazy Diamond, lighting guru Jefferson Waful engulfed the entire venue with a magnificent white shine.  Club owner Pete Shapiro stepped back on stage to announce his second birthday wish from the night before: for Umphrey’s to play some Steve Miller Band.  A further surprise to take his request over the top: hip hop pioneer Biz Markie would be leading the band in fulfilling this request.  His booming voice was a classically unexpected end to another magical night as he carried the crowd through The Joker.

Umphrey's McGee kicked off this last night of music with their raging “UM Bowl Intro” affirming our beliefs that that night would be unforgettable. The party kicks with the mutant tango tune Prowler and the set is blazing all the way through the Pay the Snucka which featured a grooving jam into Van Halens’, Hot for Teacher. They ended the set with the tale of an epic battle between musical gods, Wizards Burial Ground. With a quick time warp back to the 90’s, TLC’s Waterfalls  was sandwiched into the Front Porch encore before Umphrey’s exited stage for the last time that week.  The crowd broke out into a chant of “one more song" that was barely contained by the walls of the Brooklyn Bowl.  After this momentous week of music, there was nothing they could have done but come out and melt the crowds faces with the conclusion to All In Time.

By the end of the week, all that was left of Brooklyn was a pile of ladies unmentionables center stage. Umphrey’s McGee came to New York to play and they shot a perfect 300 game. The 8 sets, an S2 event, and a live Apple store performance made for 10 strike out frames of music.

Photos by: Jake Plimack and Brian Spady  
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