For the first time this decade, Umphrey’s McGee returned their end of the year celebration to their hometown of Chicago and rang in 2016 with several debut performances alongside old favorites. New year’s Eve 2016 was the band’s 2201st show together.
As has been typical for the band since the early 2000s, Umphrey’s McGee performed three sets of at least an hour each, beginning at 8:30PM and wrapping up closer to 1:30 AM. It did not take long for the venue to fill out – fans scrambled to find their spot up front or hoped for a decent sight line out of the balcony at the Aragon Ballroom.
When the lights went down for the first set, guitarist Jake Cinninger struck the opening notes of “Attachments”, a song that saw 30 plays in its debut year. Cinninger had been using a new blue Fender “Wallycaster” the entire run, but changed up his weapon of choice several times last. A “Partscaster” put together with Mike Wallace’s pickups and Wally Langle’s setup, giving Cinninger a wide palette of tones. They can be purchased exclusively at South Bend Music Exchange in South Bend, IN.
By the time they worked their way into “The Fussy Dutchman” however, the Wallycaster was back. A birthday requested “Puppet String” followed with a blood-pumping industrial jam and wiggled into the Anchor Drops track “Wife Soup”.
As if “Soup” was not grandiose enough on its own, the band perfectly squeezed an unpredictable “Dump City” between halves. Throwing the crowd for a loop (both “Soup” and “Dump” have tendencies for horns on nights like this), the band waited until the next song to welcome out trumpeter Michael “Mad Dog” Mavridoglou’s horn group Mad Dog’s Filthy Little Secret and special guest saxophonist Jeff Coffin.
“Cut Off” continued the practice of debuting new original songs with a backing horn ensemble on New Year’s Eve (a la “Bad Friday” or “Speak Up”) before transitioning into the set ending bust-out of “13 Days” – marking its only performance of 2016 and first since February 2015, or 180 shows.
Following a thirty minute set break, the band came out strong with a hair-raising booty-bouncing take on the Death By Stereo track “Booth Love”, complete with horns. It was a hot, heavy and horny performance for sure, but not because of the brass – Cinninger, guitarist Brendan Bayliss and keyboardist Joel Cummins were wrestling for the most attention without losing a step of passion. Check it out here and see if you can catch the Pink Floyd nod.
“The Triple Wide” made an appearance once the dust settled and a brief tease of Men Without Hats’ tune “The Safety Dance”, one of the only tracks in Umphrey’s quiver that traditional features bassist Ryan Stasik on vocals. He never made it to the microphone, but took solid control of the groove, providing a menacing framework for Cummins’ medieval keyboard renaissance. Cummins segued into “The Bottom Half” and maintained a strong lead throughout an impressive jam section.
“Mad Love”, the heavy handed creation from UMBowl V in Port Chester, NY saw its 30th performance since 2014 and gave way to a “Hangover”. While it was still a fun move, Umphrey’s McGee didn’t break out the booty wax on this one.
Mad Dog, Coffin and company returned for the final two songs of the second set, led by Cinnenger: “Comma Later” which appears on the 2014 album The London Session and the cover debut of 2016 Grammy nominee Sturgill Simpson’s “Call To Arms” to end the set. Check it out here.
The perennial favorite “All In Time” followed, complete with a huge showcase between the hardest working drummer in the music business, Kris Myers, and the unique flavoring of percussionist Andy Farag as they led a boisterous drum jam a la EOTO.
Following “All In Time” was the dance favorite “Day Nurse” that saw Myers and Cummins controlling the vibe and keeping the energy at a high level. Bayliss introduced “August” by reminding the crowd “this is a birthday party, too.” Bayliss faked out a return to “In The Kitchen” and instead the band dropped into George Michael’s “Freedom” for the first time since 7/3/00, ending the third set and a 2022 (!) show drought.
For the encore, the band returned almost immediately and ran through a standalone encore of “Bad Friday” before ending the show at quarter after 1AM.
2017 is the 19th year of Umphrey’s McGee, and we cannot wait to see what they have up their sleeve. Happy New Year!
Umphrey’s McGee | The Aragon Ballroom | Chicago, IL | 12/31/16
Set 1: Attachments > The Fussy Dutchman, Puppet String, Wife Soup > Dump City > Wife Soup, Cut Off > 13 Days
Set 2: Booth Love, Kid Charlemagne, The Triple Wide > The Bottom Half, Mad Love, Hangover, Comma Later, Call to Arms
Set 3: In The Kitchen > Auld Lang Syne > Golden Years > Partyin’ Peeps, All In Time, Day Nurse, August, Freedom
Encore: Bad Friday
 debut, original; with Mad Dog and his Filthy Little Secret horns
 with Mad Dog and his Filthy Little Secret horns
 debut, Sturgill Simpson; with Mad Dog and his Filthy Little Secret horns
 with Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ (Michael Jackson) jam; with Mad Dog and his Filthy Little Secret horns
 debut, David Bowie; with Mad Dog and his Filthy Little Secret horns
 with Mad Dog and his Filthy Little Secret horns and Steve “Britches” Britz on percussion with Andy
last Kid Charlamagne 03.13.2011 (595 shows)
last Freedom 07.03.2000 (2,022 shows)