Known for melding covers together to make genre-bending songs, in addition to playing two full sets at each show, unconventional jam band Umphrey’s McGee will keep the melodies flowing at The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater on April 28.
Since their formation at the University of Notre Dame in 1997, Umphrey’s has achieved festival rock royalty and broken a couple of rules. They’ve miraculously kept mainly the same lineup as well. The six-man band has a dedicated legion of fans, dubbed “Umphreaks,” who in September 2016 flooded the “Saturday Night Live” Facebook page with comments urging Lorne Michaels to book the band on the comedy show. They’ve been recording under their independent label, Nothing Too Fancy (N2F) Music, since 2014, and they have a hefty tour ahead of them, including 24 tour dates this year and their first triple-header at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, CO). Their 2016 release, Zonkey, is their first collection of mashups, which have been performed many times live but have only just been recorded in the studio. They’ve managed to combine songs by Radiohead, Gorillaz, The Weeknd and, yes, even Phil Collins.
The band’s progressive rock, funk, metal and jazz influences set them apart from more traditional jam bands such as Phish and the Grateful Dead. Their psychedelic light shows and instrumental improvisation leave audiences bobbing heads and longing for more once they’ve walked off the stage. Fans in Miami will be able to see that each of the musicians flow well with each other: Guitarists Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger produce some mean licks while keyboardist Joel Cummins provides excellent piano accents.
In a May 2016 interview with Pop Matters, Cummins said that when it comes to band’s improvisational style, “listening is just so important, whether I’m leading or following, a lot of times we’re creating sections live… It’s just a constant process of challenging each other to come up with new ideas and also being able to listen and react to what’s happening.”
In a century when electronic influences are gracing many genres of music from pop to jazz, UM has managed to stick to good old musical prowess and keep their fans hungry for more slick guitar riffs. It’s about time some jam hit Miami Beach again.
Umphrey’s McGee will perform with special guest Big Something at 8pm Friday, April 28 at the Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater. 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. $27.50. umphreys.com.
~ Olivia Feldman