Words by Harris Sullivan
July 4th generally invokes memories of backyards, barbecues, friends and many, many…many beverages. There are other American aspects that should be incorporated such as bacon, apple pie, red-blooded rock n roll, and beverages…many beverages. Luckily, Colorado is more than covered when it comes to the ‘red blooded rock n roll’ as Umphrey’s McGee comes to Colorado for two headlining nights this weekend.
Friday’s show at the Boulder Theater is a celebration of America’s birthday amongst the band and 850 people that sold out within 2 hours, while Saturday’s headlining show at Red Rocks Amphitheater is on it’s way to being the band’s first official sell out in 8 appearances at the venue. UMerica was announced 6 months ago for a reason, because both the band and fans knew it would be a monumental weekend and because both needed sufficient time to plan…and as the band says in ‘Puppet String’ “are you prepared for what comes next?”
Fresh off a successful new album release Similar Skin under their new self-founded label Nothing Too Fancy Music and a 4-night run through the Midwest last week (Electric Forest x2/Kettering,OH/Milwaukee,WI), the band is firing on all cylinders. With tickets on their way to selling out Red Rocks Amphitheater for their first time (the band plays on Saturday, July 5th with Moon Taxi & The Motet to open), Umphrey’s McGee is spreading as quickly as the Black Plague did in 1348.
As the band gains national notoriety, they still take solace in playing special shows in smaller rooms, not wanting to lose that connection to their roots as they continue to grow. Friday’s celebration at the Boulder Theater (capacity of 850 people) and Saturday’s show at Red Rocks Amphitheater (capacity of 9,450 people, on it’s way to selling out) is the yin and the yang of their growth. The band will be working on new covers (or possibly even a new mashup, seemingly a Red Rocks tradition) along with fine-tuning premieres off of their new album (Educated Guess is due) which is all fine and dandy, but the Puppet Strings will be off all night at Boulder Theatre as UM can explore any avenue of improv they desire. In 2011, the 4th of July show featured sit-ins from David Murphy (formerely of STS9), Dominic Lalli (Big Gigantic, The Motet) and Michael Travis (SCI) as well America-ballads ‘America the Beautiful’ and ‘Glory’. This will be the band’s 4th time playing at the beautiful Boulder Theater and their 2nd 4th of July celebration at the venue, surely to be something special.
Saturday’s Red Rocks show features support from local-heroes The Motet and the budding Moon Taxi, with Umphrey’s McGee to hit the stage at 9:30PM CST and ending around 1:00AM CST. This will be the band’s 8th time at Red Rocks and as lead-singer Brendan Bayliss said last year about the venue, “it gets better and better each time people”. Expect a ‘Hangover’ after the previous night’s festivities, along with heavy hitters ‘Ocean Billy’ and ‘Mantis’…as far as anything else, that’s the Glory of it. Umphrey’s McGee thrives for the big stage and their slow but steady growth over the past 10 years is gauged annually at Red Rocks. This year, the band hopes to sell out the show with intentions of returning next year for two nights.
The past is a usually great indicator of the future, and with Umphrey’s history of holidays and Colorado, the excitement is high in Colorado for a reason. In case you can’t catch either of the shows live, the band has got you covered; they have teamed with TourGigs to offer HD live video streams with accompanying soundboard audio with the ability to download the shows afterward…and for Red Rocks, one of the 7 HD cameras being used will be attached to a flying drone above the crowd throughout the whole show.