Whenever there is a jamband-y show at the Charlottesville Pavilion, the pedestrian mall leading up to the venue gets taken over by swarms of hippies. This amuses me to no end. You can see the look of terror on locals’ faces as they’re dining at the outdoor cafés and are suddenly engulfed in a sea of tie-dye, dreadlocks, and patchouli. It’s one of the few times and places where you witness the awkward, and hilarious, intermingling of the hippies and the squares.
Sadly, I didn’t have time to take all that in like I usually do. I was running late, and my bladder was about to explode. I rushed through the hippie promenade and got to the Pavilion just in time to hear Umphrey’s take the stage. I still hadta pee, and let me tell you, the bathrooms are such an upgrade from the porta-potties that used to be there. Also, LADIES, some really generous female fans of Umphrey’s McGee (a group called 2nd Self) came up with just about the greatest idea I’ve ever seen. They placed baskets of feminine products, hand lotion, condoms, mints, etc. next to all the sinks. How extremely sweet and much appreciated!
I grabbed my first beer and weaved through the crowd. I counted at least 4 Tool shirts on my way to the front, confirming my theory that Umphrey’s is the Tool fans jamband. I made it to the stage at the exact moment they started into the second song of the evening, a long-time favorite of mine, “Jimmy Stewart.”
Plunger > “Jimmy Stewart” > Plunger > The Fuzz > Partyin’ Peeps, Wizard Burial Ground, Thin Air, Great American > Got Your Milk (Right Here), All In Time, YYZ
The crowd was visibly sluggish from the muggy heat, but “Partyin’ Peeps” got everyone moving and getting their groove on. ♪ The beat is kickin’ in, we’ve got a second wind ♪ Brendan Bayliss’ voice has a quality that breaks into my brain and captures me, very similar to the effect of Incubus’ Brandon Boyd. This is not to diminish the impact of the other band members, since 4 out of the 6 of them are equally active and talented with the vocals. The tightness of the ensemble is impressive; everything they do is gleaming. If they were ever out of step, I didn’t notice it. They improvise and jam, but they serve up their noodles al denté. In one song, they are playing synchronized runs that conjure images of the Allman Brothers, in the next song, they sound like Iron Maiden. Their newest, “Wizard Burial Ground,” was heavy and totally bad ass. Then Joel Cummins brings this jazzy piano solo, paving the way for the percussionists to infuse yet another genre into the mix – bongos + steel drum = Caribbean. Towards the end of their set, Bayliss reenacted Chappelle’s “Tyrone Shuffle”, which seemed to go unnoticed by everyone but me. Brendan, if you read this, I saw that and I cheered! They closed out with a stellar cover of Rush’s “YYZ” (teasing “Spirit of Radio” at the end) which left me even hungrier for more. They’re playing in Norfolk, VA tonight…damn this day job! As the roadies set up for the Disco Biscuits, I found myself wishing that it wasn’t a co-bill. Bisco is alright, but they just don’t do it for me like Umphrey’s McGee.PS: A thanks to my special friend who made this evening possible