Umphrey’s McGee, now a staple at RRX on Fourth of July weekend, lead an annual pilgrimage of rock fans to one of the best music venues in America.”
Pinch me, I’m dreaming.
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I now have so many friends in Denver that I can’t help but have a great time with the constant hugs and smiles I get daily. That, and three nights of the best prog-rock jam band in the land, Umphrey’s McGee, at the famed Red Rocks Amphitheater.
This is my second time at Red Rocks and my second 3-night run of Umphrey’s McGee in Denver in the last six months… I was also at the Fillmore in downtown Denver for the New Years Eve shows. Anyways, no matter how many times you’ve been to Red Rocks or seen Umphrey’s, it just never gets old. I absolutely love this place. If you haven’t been to Red Rocks, let me show you around. High up in the mountains you have a stellar view of Denver and the plains of Colorado. On your left and right are huge red rocks, angled and majestic. Above you are the stars and moon… a few fast moving clouds say hello on their way by. Below the city is the stage: a huge area for the band to perform, framed by more 20-feet tall rust colored stones. The spaces in between are filled with happy faces and fans ready to dance their butts off.
Dance parties at these hallowed grounds aren’t purchased, their earned. With each step taken in the 250-foot climb from the parking lots to the viewing area. I’m out of breath just thinking about it. It seriously takes us 25 minutes to get from the car up to security, and I think we stopped as a group to rest at least once. I scooped a shirt at the merch booth after security, arguably the best looking batch of Umph schwag I’ve seen in a while. The art is fantastic and I urge you to check it out on their website, I feel like we may have turned a corner. So, we enter the venue and Lotus already has the crowd groovin’. I really can’t catch which song we are in, there is so much going on, from traversing the gigantic steps to meeting friends and passing out hugs and high fives. All I can say about Lotus is that they did their job. The party is poppin’ by the time they are through throwing down their unique brand of funk.
Umphrey’s took the stage next. The moment I’ve been waiting for has finally arrived. “40’s Theme” is the opener and guitarists Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger lead a fast paced charge into the warm summer night. The mood is incredible as the band turns to “Intentions Clear.” UM’s lighting director, Jefferson Waful, takes the pace change as a chance to show off just how many lights he has at his command. I just saw them at the New Years Eve shows and instead of six of these new high intensity super bright lights, he now has ten to twelve of them. These lights have become a staple of the show and taken the place of the light catching pillars that seemed to imitate the stained glass windows at the Tabernacle in Atlanta. Gone are the pillars, and I am so pleased with what has become of this light show. The set up for Red Rocks has every fan feeling like they are right up on the rail. I love Waful’s use of the stage floor as a canvas rather than only working with the rocks behind the band.
“Proverbial” is awesome. Led by Joel Cummins on keys, he is constantly interrupted by Cinninger on guitar who seems to always want to take things up a notch. “Nothing to Fancy” and “Dark Brush” are also huge in this first set. The second set starts fast with Pink Floyd covers of “In the Flesh” and “Another Brick in the Wall” which have a “Rappers Delight” jam in the middle. Holy Crap! This goes straight in to “Stinkos Ascension” that has Bayliss giving us a tapping plus wa-wa sound on the guitar and bassist Ryan Stasik entertaining the crowd with huge windmills. This song is an elevator to the top and every time I think we can’t go any higher, the doors close and this group of “Stinkos” ascend even more! “Wife Soup” is up next and this slow methodical jam has the whole crowd singing like a choir, with their hands raised high and goosebumps freckling their arms and legs. The end of the set features a surfer sounding jam in the middle of “Mulches Odyssey” and a dark ending to the new track “Triangle Tear.” We receive a very well done “Divisions” for encore and are sent out into the night.
07.05.2018 RED ROCKS AMPHITHEATRE, MORRISON, CO, USA
Set 1: There’s No Crying In Mexico > 40’s Theme, Intentions Clear > North Route > Conduit > Proverbial > Conduit, Nothing Too Fancy > Dark Brush
Set 2: In the Flesh > Another Brick in the Wall > Stinko’s Ascension, Wife Soup > Miss Tinkle’s Overture, Triangle Tear > Roctopus
 with Rapper’s Delight (The Sugar Hill Gang) jam
 with The Star-Spangled Banner (Francis Scott Key) tease
with The Star-Spangled Banner (Francis Scott Key) tease before Wife Soup
last Proverbial 12.30.2014 (335 shows)
Umphrey’s always insists that we “Rage, Rest, and Repeat”… well, we have raged, and rested… and now, the repeat! Only this time we get to experience the lap of luxury, paying a small fee to ride in a party bus with my friends up into the mountains. The bus is rockin’ and rollin’ as we get hype for night two at Red Rocks Amphitheater. This time Papadosio is the opener and we get dropped off at the top! The view is so spectacular. We descend to our spot and are joined by so many cool people, including buddies I know from Florida as well as friends from Colorado and even others we met at the show last night! Umphrey’s shows are a great time to meet people! We all have “Similar Skin” and wouldn’t you know it, Umphrey’s opens the night with the title song of their 10th studio release. The jam is just nuts and it has an amazing build up to come back to the end of the song. We just got here and I think I need to go change my shorts.
Up next, Waful flexes his lighting powers in “Hurt Bird Bath,” painting a stage beautifully with complimentary colors, giving the band a stellar setting from which to play. The highlight of the set is easily the “Phil’s Farm” with impromptu lyrics on a sexy dance session in the middle. This song is a cross breed of heavy metal and country pickin’. The battle between the two in the song is always good, but the jam in the middle approaches jazzy yacht rock as lead singer Brendan Bayliss serenades the crowd with his falsetto lyrics promising to “make you scream.” I’m suddenly surrounded by love birds and doves cooing back to the stage, swooning and swaying, they whistle and cheer with approval for this rare and sexy moment. The boys of South Bend weren’t finished impressing us just yet and also let loose a “Come Closer” mashup of the Beatles “Come Together” and Nine Inch Nails “Closer” to end the set. I’m awestruck as a grown woman in the crowd next to me turned into a little girl, screaming with joy for this favorite: “I wanted to be here for ‘Divisions’ last night, but this is way better,” she says.
Set two features a bunch of cool moments. First, I love when they play “Does it Matter,” it has synchronized guitar playing that is unreal. Also, they debuted “Australian Lullaby” from their Reel to Real DVD inside of the devilish “Plunger.” Fan favorite “Higgins” is on point as usual and the band has been working up a really good vibe when out of no where a guy pukes behind me. I grimace as I can feel tiny flecks hit the backs of my ankles. Nope! No! I’m out! I escape the row and down the steps, four at a time, I race away from the scene, never looking back. I take a moment in the bathroom to check out the damage: minimal. A quick wipe down and a water refill and I’m back to enjoying the show. Just then, UM starts playing their patriotic rendition of George Michael’s “Freedom.” Red, white and blue lights surround us and all is right in the world. I stand with my arms out wide, catching the breeze on the side of a mountain! “1348” is the encore and the band is on fire. Hot rock-n-roll erupts from the stage as Cinninger’s playing leads them from one section of the song to the next, like hot lava pouring down the mountain. The music ends and all that is left is smoke and melted faces in the amphitheater. I can’t believe that even after so many shows (44) they continue to impress me.
07.06.2018 RED ROCKS AMPHITHEATRE, MORRISON, CO, USA
Set 1: You Got the Wrong Guy > Similar Skin, Half Delayed > Hurt Bird Bath, Ride On Pony, Phil’s Farm, Den, Come Closer
Set 2: The Silent Type, It Doesn’t Matter > The Linear > Plunger > Australian Lullaby > Plunger, Higgins, Freedom! ’90
 “Jimmy Stewart” with lyrics
 debut, original
It’s the final evening of what has already been a splendid run. I’m ready to get back to Red Rocks and soak in all the sights and sounds one last time. The Record Company is up first. Their rock and blues sound is great! The crowd is up and moving and enjoying the music as the band shouts out to their birthday bassist, Alex Stiff. Slide guitarist and harmonica player Chris Vos was impressive with playing and singing. They play a track off their new album All Of This Life as well as a 30-year anniversary salute to the Grateful Dead with “Easy Wind.” These guys kind of remind me of the Black Crowes!
On to Umphrey’s! They start with “Dump City,” a song that feel like its full of trap doors. Ending over and over again, this song is a favorite of mine because of its intricacy. “Women, Wine, Song” is led by Joel on keys next, but Cinninger won’t relent and continues to escalate the situation no matter where they are in the song. Waful sets a beautiful scene during new song, “Seasons.” Umphrey’s raises everyone from the depths of the sea with “Ocean Billy.” People leave their hands up in the air long after the music stops and the house lights come back.
The second set is the big finish for the weekend. No fireworks in the sky, but certainly plenty on the stage. They start with the heavy “Hindsight” and quirky “Wappy Sprayberry.” After moving into “Ringo” and calling us a bunch of “greasy animals” they cover a little bit of “Sweet Emotion” inside of “Utopian Fir.” The next song we see Andy Farag on percussion highlighted at the end of its jam. “You have yet to witness our best” is my favorite line from this signature song, “Slacker.” I’m starting to believe them. My nipples are so hard I can feel my shirt ripping at this point. Jennifer Hartswick joins the band on stage to sing and play trumpet for Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Bliss. Pure and total happiness. “I fuckin’ need you tonight!!” No, she didn’t! Then, the show and 3-night run comes to an end with an amazing “All In Time” encore that features a Van Halen “Hot For Teacher” inspired jam sesh in the middle of the song.
07.07.2018 RED ROCKS AMPHITHEATRE, MORRISON, CO, USA
Set 1: Gurgle > Dump City, Maybe Someday, Women Wine and Song > Example 1, Rocker Part 2, Seasons, Ocean Billy
Set 2: Hindsight, Wappy Sprayberry > Ringo, Utopian Fir, Slacker, Total Eclipse of the Heart
Encore: All In Time
 with Sweet Emotion (Aerosmith) tease
 debut, Bonnie Tyler; with Jen Hartswick on vocals and trumpet
Support: The Record Company
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