NEPA Scene Staff

Peach Fest prog rockers Umphrey’s McGee return to Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe on March 21

Peach Fest prog rockers Umphrey’s McGee return to Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe on March 21
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From a press release:

It was announced today that Chicago progressive jam band Umphrey’s McGee, regulars at the Peach Music Festival in Scranton, will return to Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe on Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 7 p.m. with Big Something.

“The Wax On, Wax Off Tour rolls on with a new batch of 2019 tour dates. Umphrey’s McGee has the distinct pleasure of beginning – and ending – our March tour at two of the most beautiful indoor venues in the country – the fabulous Fox Theater in Oakland and the acoustically unmatched Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Sandwiched between, a streak of rock shows along the left coast and rust belt round out the tour,” the band posted on their website.

“Ghost-Note, a percussion-heavy rotating cast led by Snarky Puppy’s ‘Sput’ and Nate Werth, will accompany UM for the bulk of our West Coast dates. Back east, our brothers-in-arms Big Something rejoin the tour in Jim Thorpe, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland.”

Tickets, which are $27 in advance or $32 the day of the show, go on sale this Friday, Dec. 7 at 1 p.m. at all Ticketmaster outlets, the Penn’s Peak box office (325 Maury Rd., Jim Thorpe), and Roadies Restaurant and Bar (325 Maury Rd., Jim Thorpe). Penn’s Peak box office and Roadies Restaurant ticket sales are walk-up only; no phone orders.

The music of Umphrey’s McGee unfolds like an unpredictable conversation between longtime friends. Its six participants – Brendan Bayliss (guitar, vocals), Jake Cinninger (guitar, vocals), Joel Cummins (keyboards, piano, vocals), Andy Farag (percussion), Kris Myers (drums, vocals), and Ryan Stasik (bass) – know just how to communicate with each other on stage and in the studio. A call of progressive guitar wizardry might elicit a response of soft acoustic balladry or a funk groove could be answered by explosive percussion. At any moment, heavy guitars can give way to heavier blues as the boys uncover the elusive nexus between jaw-dropping instrumental virtuosity and airtight songcraft.

The conversation continues on their 11th full-length album, “It’s Not Us,” released on Jan. 12, 2018 via Nothing Too Fancy Music.

“It represents the band because it basically runs the gamut from prog rock to dance,” says Bayliss. “We’ve mastered our ADD here. The record really shows that.”

“No matter what you’re into, there’s something on ‘It’s Not Us’ that should speak to you,” agrees Cummins. “This is a statement album for Umphrey’s McGee. The sound is as fresh as ever. The songs are strong as they’ve ever been. We’re always pushing forward.”

It is also how the band is celebrating its 20-year anniversary. Instead of retreading the catalog, they turn up with a pile of new tunes.

“It’d be easy to play the hits from our first five or 10 years,” continues Cummins. “We’ve never been a band to rest on our laurels, though. New music is key to our continued development. We’re known as a strong live band, but we take so much pride in our writing. This album distinguishes us because the focus is on that writing.”

Their camaraderie shines through in their inimitable interplay, which finds them at the pinnacle of their craft and groove as a band. That chemistry defines the approach, which sees Umphrey’s McGee hone their songwriting to its sharpest point to date.

“I feel like we’re getting better and better at writing succinct, concise musical pieces,” Bayliss elaborates. “When we started out, we were trying to figure out how to fill time. We didn’t have much of a catalog, so we had to extend things and repeat parts in order to make up space. Since our catalog is so big now, we don’t feel the need to make everything 10 minutes long. We’ve really trimmed the fat. Everything seems to be the right length.”

With over 2,200 gigs and five million tracks sold, they’ve enjoyed countless milestones. 2002 saw them perform at the first-ever Bonnaroo and sell more CDs than any other act on the bill. They became the “first group to launch its own single artist streaming service” with, which houses recordings of every gig since 2005. The service has since grown and now lives on through, which is used by the likes of Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, and more. They recorded 10 tracks in one day at Abbey Road for “The London Session” in 2015. Notably, 2016’s “Zonkey” mashed up the strangest of bedfellows into a critically acclaimed collection that unites Radiohead and Beck, The Weeknd and Fleetwood Mac, Talking Heads and Bob Marley, Metallica and Gorillaz, and more.

That adventurousness extends to their legendary audience immersion experiences. From their initial bar gigs in 1998 to three nights playing to packed crowds at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre in 2017, the group has simultaneously remained intensely committed to their fans. Beyond intimate backstage encounters and ski trips with their most diehard fans, Umphrey’s McGee instituted the groundbreaking “Headphones & Snowcones” program, granting fans access to professional headphones and a soundboard-quality mix at shows. At their UMBowl, they empowered the audience to vote on the setlist in real time and choose favorite improv themes via text message. In 2017, they stepped into another realm altogether by integrating themselves into the VR platform Endless Riff.

Most recently, Umphrey’s McGee dropped a 10-track surprise album, “It’s You,” on June 15 that serves as a companion piece to “It’s Not Us.” The band’s virtuosity and encyclopedic knowledge of diverse styles is front and center once again, punctuated with snarling guitar riffs and teeming with crisp acoustics. By harnessing the world-class musicianship and energy of their live performances into the precision of their studio craft, “It’s You” encapsulates a range that is rarely found in a single band. From the fresh and vibrant opening single “Triangle Tear” to the AC/DC-inspired rhythm chiming through “Attachments” to the iridescent personal tune “Push & Pull,” the album offers something for Umphrey’s McGee’s legion of fans and newcomers alike.

“It was almost like we had two of everything,” Cummins notes. “I feel like ‘You & You Alone’ [from ‘It’s Not Us’] and ‘Push & Pull’ [from ‘It’s You’] are these kind of nice, more pastoral, acoustic-based songs. We have ‘Dark Brush’ [‘It’s Not Us’] and ‘Nether’ [‘It’s You’], these sort of heavier, more aggressive pieces of music. Once we got to the point where we decided we were gonna do two, we felt like we wanted to break these up so that there was a balance between the two albums. ‘Speak Up’ [‘It’s Not Us’] is something that’s a little bit funkier and dancier. I don’t know if we really have something that goes along with that on the new one, but with ‘Hanging Chads,’ you can tell that we’re having a good time being ridiculous in the studio. It’s just nice that there’s an element of levity there. This is 20 years into Umphrey’s McGee, and not only do we have one new album of music, we have two albums of music. We’re more fired up than we ever have been about the stuff that we’re putting out.”

“There’s something uniquely Umphrey’s McGee that could never be mistaken for another band,” Cummins concludes. “I hope it makes people think a little bit or shed a tear or two. Maybe you smile or laugh. Life is hard. We still believe music can heal and motivate.”

“We’re here,” Bayliss leaves off. “We’re not going anywhere. We’re starting to find our identity. I think if you give it a chance, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”