South Bend, Indiana-based jam band Umphrey’s McGee came out to New York City’s famed Beacon Theater for three nights this past weekend as part of their It’s Not Us tour in conjunction with the band’s 20th anniversary, and it just so happened that night three of this love affair marked the band’s 20th birthday, so despite not being old enough to drink, they managed to smuggle in some of their own IPA backstage for after the show to wash down their birthday cake. Yes, there was an actual birthday cake backstage after the show.
We covered Umphreys last summer when they took to Central Park for the city’s annual Summerstage concert series on a night where their second set was played in a downpour, and seeing how great their fans are made me a bit skeptical about a seated show at The Beacon, but both the band and their crazy fans delivered on expectations, as the band would go through 20 songs from the last two decades over two sets and an encore, taking everyone on a trip through time and into Umph Love history, but the birthday celebration was what this night was really about as the crowd broke into a chorus of happy birthday more than once.
In the history of jam bands, there are only a few which stick out in the minds of anyone who has ever listened to one. I never liked Phish, I still don’t like Phish and I typically hate jam bands in general, but Umphreys McGee is one that I can say is worth every minute of the time spent watching them perform. They’re not a band I want to listen to on an album because a lot of what they’re about is live performance and improvisations as they go, and of course the light show they bring with them, which is part of what makes an Umphreys McGee show worth seeing. They’re a fantastic jam band and one I could easily see over and over, and to be part of their 20th-anniversary celebration on the actual night of their 20th “birthday” was pretty special on top of being treated to an excellent performance.
Maybe next year we can buy them shots?