Sunday, March 6, 2011

Umphrey's McGee comes to Billings

Didn't think Billings would ever make the Umphrey's McGee circuit, but here they are, playing two nights from now at the Babcock. Montana Headlines may just have to send a cultural critic to the concert to see if they are all they're cracked up to be by jam band aficionados.

Any band that claims King Crimson, early Genesis, and Led Zeppelin as major influences is bound to be serious. Their approach to presenting their music -- few albums, lots of live shows, and encouraging people to record their music in concert and distribute it for free on the internet -- has been unique and for the most part brilliant.

They are doing pretty well for themselves, and while playing as many concerts as they do has to be hard work, it can't be a whole lot worse than slaving in the recording studio and kowtowing to record company executives.

Anyway, we're glad to see someone in Billings got us on the tour, and hope to be able to report on the concert. Oh, and for the record, as far as jam bands go, Umphrey's McGee is to the String Cheese Incident what Johnny Cash is to Kenny Rogers in the country music world. This observation is based on watching and listening to extended video of the concerts of each.

When they go into a "Jimmy Stewart," it takes improvisation to another level. One critic puts it well:

This is what, in essence, sets apart Umphrey's from the major jam bands who've come before them; those cues keep the players on the same page even as they're freely improvising, a clear distinction from the aimless hippie jams of old.

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