Pier Six Pavilion, Baltimore, MD (July 15, 2016)
Umphrey’s McGee, Umph, UM, or just simply \mm/. Whatever you prefer to call them, the progressive rock sextet has been synonymous with rock & roll for almost two decades. Widely believed to be the best live band currently on tour, there is no such thing as an “off night” for these guys. Friday, July 15, 2016 was no exception. The band’s last trip to Baltimore was on the very same stage, Pier Six Pavilion, last summer, at which they played to a packed house, leaving faces drooping to the floor. As the early crowd filed in for the highly anticipated opener, The Main Squeeze, eager patrons emphatically expressed their excitement for this year’s UMBaltimore experience. It was a hot July evening, but the sun was out, the sky was clear and blue, and the view from Pier Six Pavilion overlooking the Harbor was as breathtaking as ever.
The Main Squeeze wasted absolutely no time kicking us into gear. The band urged us to dance and sweat with them, and their high-powered funk-rock made that request an easy one to fulfill. While my past experience with The Main Squeeze is somewhat limited, it seems to me that they have drastically improved over the last couple of years, honing their talents both as individuals and as a unit. Founding members Max Newman and Ben “Smiley” Silverstein drive the band, pushing the music to new heights in a live setting. Bassist Rob Walker and drummer Reuben Gingrich lay down the funk, making up the pulse of the band, and vocalist and frontman Corey Frye lays the icing on the cake with his energy and character, not to mention a beautiful voice.
The Main Squeeze quite literally brought the heat to Pier Six Pavilion with their signature blend of funk and rock & roll. The stoked early crowd danced the sun down with them as Umphreaks gradually filled in the Harbor-side venue. One thing I always love about UM shows is the continual air of excitement, from opening band all the way to encore. That air was most definitely present in Charm City.
Umphrey’s took the stage to their usual roar from the Baltimore crowd, all of whom immediately jumped out of their seats
in anticipation. The band played it a bit safe in the beginning (safe for UM that is) with a couple of rockers, “Educated Guess” and the funky “Professor Wormborg.” Lighting designer Jefferson Waful wasted no time blowing our minds with his talents, lighting up the pavilion even before the sun was down. Baltimore Umphreaks swayed in the groove as guitarist Jake Cinninger led the euphoric intro to “2×2.” Guitarist and singer Brendan Bayliss belted out the chorus with a fierce passion as the crowd bobbed their heads, raised their glasses and/or strummed the air guitar, as Cinninger took over with a blistering solo. The band spread their wings a bit as they sandwiched “Speak Up” in the middle of “2×2” which featured a jazzy solo from Cinninger that led the band on an expedition into the ether. As they ramped up the pace into an all-out rager, the band finally came back to reality and blasted back into “2×2,” leaving our minds reeling and clamoring for more. A quick band introduction, and then it seemed we were entering a new chapter of the set with “Blue Echo,” which led us into some weirdness as the crowd began to settle into the evening. A funky, fan favorite “Mail Package,” during which keyboardist Joel Cummins got his chance to show off a bit, followed by a brief run through “Uncommon,” and then an epic first set closer in the form of “Hurt Bird Bath” left the crowd in a daze and the sun at its last glimmer of light.
Set 2 kicked off with a scorching “All In Time,” as the crowd rushed back to their seats or spots on the lawn from the beer line. The sun was now all the way down, and a cooling breeze drifted off the Harbor into the pavilion. Waful’s lighting was now in full force, and the band seemed to be one unit with the crowd as a wave of energy flowed from the stage all the way back to the lawn. The band tactfully dropped the pace to a lull, and Cummins’ synth chords laid the groundwork for the transformation into “The Pequod.” And then, out of nowhere, the first cover of the night blasted from the stage. Led Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains the Same” lit up the crowd, spinning our heads into a frenzy. Bayliss took a quick moment to address the audience, informing us that the whole band went to see Guns ‘N Roses the previous night as a “corporate experiment” as he referred to it. He told us that it inspired them all and that it reminded them of why they love to play music. From then on, the show was an absolute onslaught of pure Umph. The proceeded to tear the roof off of the pavilion with “In The Kitchen” that turned the entire venue into one mind-shattering dance party, followed by a rockin’ “Mulche’s Odyssey.” The band addressed the crowd once more to thank us all for supporting live music before heading into a passionate and fitting “Mad Love,” letting us all know that they have mad love for a beautiful crowd on a beautiful Friday night. “Wappy Sprayberry” led into a scorching end to “All In Time” to close the set. Finally, the beautiful “Glory” and a nice cover of Bob Seger’s “Hollywood Nights” made up the encore.
This band just continues to amaze me every single time. The band continues to take risks, stretch out and strive to provide the most epic live music experience possible. Now sneaking up on almost 20 years of Umph, it is truly refreshing to see them still having so much fun on stage and pushing themselves and their audiences to new heights. If you still haven’t hopped on the Umph train, now is as good a time as ever, and if you are already an Umphreak like me, I hope you will continue to help these guys continue to rise up and cement their legacy as one of the greatest live bands in the history of music.