Umphrey's McGee | Red Rocks 2017 | Photo by Matthew Wright

LIVE REVIEW + PHOTOS: Three Nights of Umphrey’s McGee | Red Rocks, Morrison, CO | June 30 – July 2, 2017

by • August 8, 2017

My first visit to Colorado was last year during Umphrey’s Mcgee’s annual rager at the infamous Red Rocks Aphitheatre on Fourth of July weekend. Last year was the first time they played two consecutive nights at arguably the best outdoor venue in the country and possibly on the planet. As such, I can’t completely convey my excitement when I heard they would be returning this year for three consecutive nights (June 30, July 1 & July 2). I’m in Denver for five days this time; however, this trip would not be nearly as meaningful for me as last year’s trip was.

In the weeks leading up to the show, I’m slammed with work at my day job as well as various SIGT responsibilities. My itinerary has me flying out of Orlando to Denver on the Thursday morning of June 29th. My birthday is June 28th and consists of a full day of work and driving around town for meetings. My head was in a thousand places throughout the day and somehow I run out of gas on the Florida Turnpike… happy fucking birthday to me. I spend the evening of my birthday at home cleaning my house, doing laundry, and packing.

DAY ONE – THURSDAY 6/29

Naturally, I go to bed late the night before and sleep though my alarm, waking up somehow at 6:30am and hastily rush to gather all my things together and call an Uber to head to the airport, hoping not to miss my 8:30am flight. It’s nearly a twenty minute drive. I arrive just in time to make it on the plane and ten minuets later we’re rollin’ down the runway.

Unlike last year, I make this trip solo, although I have plenty of friends to meet up with once I get to Denver. I spend my first day with a bunch of Orlando buddies, some of whom have moved to Denver and others who were in town for the show. My first day consisted of: lunch at the Welton Street Cafe in the Denver Five Points area (bangin’ fried chicken and poppin’ jerk pork); a visit to Epic Brewery (I recommend the Blueski Lager); a trip back to the airport to pick up another Orlando friend flying in; a quick stop at House of Dankness Dispensary ($15 eighths on Monday and Thursday); a few beers at Cheeba Hut on Colfax Avenue (Thursday special is a coin flip to get your beer for $1 if you call it correct); and the night is capped off with one of the best hot dogs I’ve ever had (Alaskan Reindeer topped with Harissa roasted cactus, Malaysian curry jam, scallions, cilantro, and onions two ways) at Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs.

Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs | Denver, CO | Photo by Richie Williams

Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs | Denver, CO | Photo by Richie Williams

I make my way to my friend’s house in the Sloan Lake area on the northwest side of Denver and crash immediately. Day one, done.

DAY TWO – FRIDAY 6/30

Friday… Umphrey’s first of three nights at Red Rocks is later tonight. I decide I need to clear my head and unwind with nature before I rage out. I start my day waking up at 9:00AM and meet up with three of my friends. We make the hour and a half drive (including traffic delays) from Denver to Colorado Springs and spend the late morning & early afternoon hiking around Garden of the Gods. This place is absolutely incredible. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1971 and is filled with impressive red rock formations (including one formation that is basically a cock & balls, hahaa!). It is most definitely a fit place for the gods to assemble.

Garden of the Gods | Colorado Springs, CO | Photo by Richie Williams

Garden of the Gods | Colorado Springs, CO | Photo by Richie Williams

Even my buddy Naadir shimmied his way 50+ feet up a wall of rocks to his almighty perch.

Garden of the Gods | Colorado Springs, CO | Photo by Richie Williams

Garden of the Gods | Colorado Springs, CO | Photo by Richie Williams

After seeing all there was to see at the garden, we hightail it back to Denver, dealing with more traffic along the way, so that we have enough time to get ready quick and make our way to Morrison. My friends and I arrive at Red Rocks and spend a few minutes walking around the lot and taking in the scene. We make our way inside, grab some brews, and settle in on the left side of Row 48 about 13 seats in, our spot for the weekend (1348, get it?). Row 48 is high enough to get the optimal full view but too far back that you feel like your at nosebleed level.

Stick Figure | Red Rocks 2017 | Photo by Richie Williams

Stick Figure | Red Rocks 2017 | Photo by Richie Williams

Stick Figure is the opening act for Night 1. Each night features a different opener, each with different genres & styles. Stick Figure’s dub reggae is the perfect opener for the weekend, setting the chill vibes and calmly warming things up. Cocoa the Tour Dog moseys around the stage per usual while they perform. Wish I could remember the setlist or anything they played, but alas I cannot. This was my fifth time seeing Stick Figure, if I’m not mistaken, and it was just as good as the last.

Stick Figure features guitarist/singer Scott Woodruff, a self-taught musician with a vibrant sonic soundscape. The newest release, Set in Stoneis his sixth album and was written, produced, and recorded by Woodruff–as were all of the previous releases. An intuitive and accomplished producer, Woodruff plays all of the instruments on each of his studio albums. He crafts authentic artistry from the foundation of roots-dub reggae with hypnotic rhythms and singable choruses that unify crowds. All in all, this set produced a joyful rhythm that you could sway to with your standing neighbor or wave your arms up and down to the beat.

Check out a clip of “Smoking Love” from our Instagram.

Stick Figure at Red Rocks @stickfiguremusic @redrocksamphitheater @thesobergoat

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Umphrey’s comes out and turns it up to 10 immediately. Highlights from the first set for me include that honorable “Higgins” jam, my favorite hoedown metal groove tune “Phil’s Farm,” and a cover of Tool’s “Forty-Six & 2” which was mind blowing for me to hear considering I listened to nothing but Tool on my flight from Orlando to Denver. It’s also the second time this year I’ve heard Umphrey’s play that (they played it earlier this year during the 3-night Atlanta run).

Umphrey's McGee | Red Rocks 2017 | Photo by Matthew Wright

Umphrey’s McGee | Red Rocks 2017 | Photo by Matthew Wright

I later saw on UM’s Twitter that “Attachments” was scratched from the first set, so I hoped to see it reappear on Night 2 or 3. Set 2 highlights for me were the “Nothing Too Fancy” set, opening with Fancy and coming back to finish it at the end of the set, but not before coming back to finish “Phil’s Farm.” Again, on UM’s Twitter, I see that “Comma Later” was scratched from the second set.

Check out a clip of “Forty-Six & 2” from our Instagram.

mm/ @umphreysmcgee @redrocksco #tool #46and2 #umphreys #showsigoto @thesobergoat

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Check out the official video for “Higgins” from UM’s YouTube.

Check out the official video for “The Triple Wide” from UM’s YouTube.

SETLIST 06.30.2017 RED ROCKS AMPHITHEATRE, MORRISON, CO, USA

Set 1: Goonville > Prowler > Upward, Higgins > Make It Right, Phil’s Farm > The Triple Wide, Forty-Six & 2

Set 2: Nothing Too Fancy > Divisions[1] > Ringo > Believe the Lie, Tribute to the Spinal Shaft > Phil’s Farm > Nothing Too Fancy

Encore: Resolution[2] > Divisions

[1] with Bittersweet Symphony (The Verve) teases
[2] with Norwegian Wood (The Beatles) tease

Support: Stick Figure
Purchase via UMLive: 06.30.2017, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, CO

DAY THREE – SATURDAY 7/1

The first half of my third day is spent resting and recovering at my friend’s house pretty much all day until time to head to the show. Saturday’s show is sold out and by the time we get to the venue, the parking lots are full and we have to park on the side of road heading to the lots. This proves to be somewhat easier getting out at the end of the night, bypassing all of the traffic leaving the parking lots.

Bokanté and Snarky Puppy are the openers for Night 2. We arrived too late to see the first opeining band, Bokanté, but they are a world music band and I wish I could have made it in time because South Florida’s own Roosevelt Collier is in the band and I love that steel pedal guitar playin’ fool. Oh well. We made it time for the epic jazz ensemble that is Snarky Puppy. The place is packed for this show and the entire place gives Snarky the love they deserve. They finished their set with the crowd participating chanting of their hit “Shofukan (We Like It Here).”

Check out a clip of Snarky from our Instagram.

Umphrey’s stepped things up a notch and blew the gates wide open on Night 2, starting with the classic fan favorite and one damn good set opener, “40’s Theme” which was superbly segued into one of my top 5 favorites, “Wappy Sprayberry.” The first lines of Wappy always strike me hard and I’m reminded of the one person that wasn’t there next to me…

I can’t stand to be away from you, Cause I’ve been around enough to know I’d lose. I don’t believe but I believe in you, And who could deny that pull.”

Matching that intensity, they opened the second set with heavy hitter “Jajunk” and then played “Haji” (w/ special guest Rosie), followed by “Push The Pig” (w/ Jake on keys) which is the anthem of my Orlando crew known as The Ham Fam. The middle of the second set featured a 30-minute fireworks display set from a mile behind the stage, possibly near Dinosaur Ridge, and provided a second light show to accompany Jefferson Waffle’s stage show.

Umphrey's McGee | Red Rocks 2017 | Photo by Matthew Wright

Umphrey’s McGee | Red Rocks 2017 | Photo by Matthew Wright

Umphrey's McGee | Red Rocks 2017 | Photo by Matthew Wright

Umphrey’s McGee | Red Rocks 2017 | Photo by Matthew Wright

The encore “Floor” was a nice subtle surprise leaving us wanting more for Night 3. I later saw on UM’s Twitter that “Floor” was supposed to be the end of Set 2 but it got pushed to the encore, which was supposed to be “Mulche’s Oddesey.”

Umphrey's McGee | Red Rocks 2017 | Photo by Matthew Wright

Umphrey’s McGee | Red Rocks 2017 | Photo by Matthew Wright

Umphrey's McGee | Red Rocks 2017 | Photo by Matthew Wright

Umphrey’s McGee | Red Rocks 2017 | Photo by Matthew Wright

Check out a clip of “Wappy Sprayberry” from our Instagram.

SETLIST 07.01.2017 RED ROCKS AMPHITHEATRE, MORRISON, CO, USA

Set 1: Le Blitz > 40’s Theme, Wappy Sprayberry > Crucial Taunt, Yoga Pants > White Man’s Moccasins, Remind Me, Bad Friday[1]

Set 2: JaJunk[2], Hajimemashite[3], Push the Pig[4] > 1348, Mail Package, Draconian

Encore: The Floor

[1] with Chris Bullock on saxophone and Mike Maher on trumpet
[2] with Robert “Sput” Searight and Nate Werth on percussion
[3] with Roosevelt Collier on steel guitar
[4] with Jake on keys

Support: Bokanté and Snarky Puppy
Purchase via UMLive: 07.01.2017, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, CO

DAY FOUR – SUNDAY 7/2

Today’s recuperation meal is at Rupert’s At The Edge across the street from Sloan Lake. This locally owned breakfast/brunch/lunch hub serves up the most tasty homemade plates around. If you sit outside there’s a nice view of the lake and park across the street, but it was kinda packed and warm outside, so I sit at the small bar inside. My friend orders the country fried steak and I order the steak and eggs, both were supremely scrumptious and with a steady flow of bottomless mimosas, coffee, and water, recovery status was rising.

Slowly but steadily, we prepare to get into rage mode one more night. Prepartying and traffic have us in line walking up the rocks shortly after Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers. Once inside, “The Way It Is” starts playing and it’s the perfect background song as we climb our way once more to Row 48. Hornsby ‘s set is a collective mix of bluegrass, jazz, and jam rock highlighting a summation of his decades-long journey to become a purveying icon.

Bruce Hornsby | Red Rocks 2017 | Photo by Matthew Wright

Bruce Hornsby | Red Rocks 2017 | Photo by Matthew Wright

I’m all warmed up after Hornsby’s set and ready to Umph. “Nipple Trix” is a good builder of an opener to start the show off and seque into a killer “Get In The Van.” The band then told us to “Speak Up” as we all conversed with manic movements and stank faces. Being at Red Rocks with 10,000 other Umphreaks, I can certainly feel the passion and respect bouncing of the walls, it’s like I’m sitting in a booth of love, albeit I’m without my love. The slow smooth vibes of “Booth Love” always gets the bodies movin’ whether you have a love with you or not. Then “Wizard Burial Ground” shows it’s wicked face and I just want to run around in circles around people while headbanging and waiving my fist.

Umphrey's McGee | Red Rocks 2017 | Photo by Matthew Wright

Umphrey’s McGee | Red Rocks 2017 | Photo by Matthew Wright

Umphrey's McGee | Red Rocks 2017 | Photo by Matthew Wright

Umphrey’s McGee | Red Rocks 2017 | Photo by Matthew Wright

I find out the next day that there were two guys dressed as wizards up in the front rows, as if they were predicting something. I’ll have to think of a creative song title costume idea for the next show… like Day/Night Nurse? A puppet? I provide some decent backup vocals on the ‘Ooohowoohoooo” parts of “August” and the set finishes with “Cut Off” into “Ocean Billy.”

Umphrey's McGee | Red Rocks 2017 | Photo by Matthew Wright

Umphrey’s McGee | Red Rocks 2017 | Photo by Matthew Wright

Set two starts with a bang… there’s that “Attachments” that was scratched off of the setlist from the first night. A dark and sexy “Night Nurse” is just what the doctor ordered. I was so satisfied to hear “2nd Self” which was so good it practically put me beside myself. Special guest Jennifer Hartswick is welcomed on stage and everyone is hoping for the Zonkey mashup “Electric Avenue to Hell” but the boys, and girl, throw a Rush cover debut at our faces, “Red Barchetta.” Again, a previous night scratch off appears, this time it’s “Mulche’s Odyssey.” The chorus screams to me from somewhere, and I’m once again reminded of the one…

I couldn’t see that you and me, We couldn’t get our shit together. I don’t believe the future needs, Another end to the forever.”

Ultimate classics “Slacker” and “Plunger” close out a stellar second set, or so it seems until Hartswick is welcomed back on stage for, yep, you guessed it, “Electric Avenue to Hell.” This brilliant Eddy Grant and AC/DC mashup feels like the best thing ever to hit the road to. Last year, Umphrey’s started the first night with “Glory” > “In The Kitchen.” This year, the encore of the last night has another “Glory” up its sleeve and its sandwiched between “Puppet String.” So good.

Umphrey's McGee | Red Rocks 2017 | Photo by Matthew Wright

Umphrey’s McGee | Red Rocks 2017 | Photo by Matthew Wright

SETLIST 07.02.2017 RED ROCKS AMPHITHEATRE, MORRISON, CO, USA

Set 1: Nipple Trix > Get In The Van, Speak Up > Booth Love, Wizard Burial Ground, August, Cut Off > Ocean Billy

Set 2: Attachments, Day Nurse > 2nd Self, Red Barchetta[1], Mulche’s Odyssey, Slacker, Plunger, Electric Avenue to Hell[2]

Encore: Puppet String > Glory > Puppet String

[1] debut, Rush; with Jennifer Hartswick on vocals
[2] with Jennifer Hartswick on vocals
Support: Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers
Purchase via UMLive: 07.02.2017, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, CO

Umphrey’s McGee: Red Rocks Recap 2017

DAY FIVE – MONDAY 7/3

After all this raging, resting, and repeating, I rest most of the day and have dinner with a cousin who lives in Denver. We meet up at Avanti Food & Beverage in Denver’s LoHi neighborhood. Avanti is a bi-level shipping container-style restaurant with a variety of food vendors plus awesome beers and cocktails, and a rooftop bar with one of the best scenic views of the city. Our dinner turns into several after-dinner drinks and I get back to my friends house after midnight. I crash on the couch immediately (even though I had a bedroom with a bed) and naturally wake up at 6:30AM and make my way to the airport, right on time. Check ya laterrrr, Denverrrr. We’ll see if I make it back next year. See ya soon, Otown. \mm/ 

Mama, Mama I’m coming home.” -Ozzy Osbourne

The next day I saw Metallica at Camping World Stadium, capping off a pretty damn good birthday week. 

PHOTOS – RED ROCKS NIGHT 1

PHOTOS – RED ROCKS NIGHT 2

PHOTOS – RED ROCKS NIGHT 3

Umphrey’s McGee Live Review by Richie Williams. Photos by Matthew Wright.

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