Umphrey’s McGee returned to the beautiful Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, MI for their third-ever performance last Sunday August 9, playing to a sold out crowd.
The opening setlist on paper reflected an early start time, almost resembling a daytime festival slot set. Lots of Southern twang was peppered throughout, beginning with a wide-open “Mullet (Over)” to start the party in hoedown fashion.
With the crowd loose they launched into “No Diablo”, a still relatively new song that has seen many reworks both live and in the studio since its UMBOWL IV debut in 2013. Last night was the first time the song was really opened up and given the Jimmy Stewart treatment on stage as well as a tease of Yes song “The Fish”. Despite the reworked variations, the entire crowd seemed to know and belt the lyrics right back to the stage.
The boys kept the song selection light, transitioning next into the soft instrumental ballad “End Of The Road”, an appropriate precursor to the Crosby, Stills and Nash cover “Southern Cross”. Brendan Bayliss donned an acoustic guitar for the track for its second time ever making a setlist appearance.
The highlight of the first set came next in a filthy fun 17 minute “Phil’s Farm”. Some of the most exploratory jams of the night can be found in this track, from a well-placed start-stop hard rock guitar crunch to a soaring, uplifting feeling and into some booty shaking funk before finishing Phil’s. One thing was clear: the boys were tight on Sunday for sure, the heat of the last song even started the sky sweating as a light rain picked back up during the intro to “FF.” But things cooled off and the rain quit as quickly as it started while keyboardist Joel Cummins took the song into deep, spacey territory before segueing into “Resolution.”
“Resolution” gave way to a lyrical stew out and wrapped up with a sexy smooth transition into “Booth Love” to close the first set. An “Xxplosive” by Dr. Dre tease and some onstage audio difficulties appeared to squash the jam before it really took off, leaving the crowd hungry as ever for the next set of music.
The second set was night and day difference from the first, and the fact that it was going to be a hell of a rock show was made obvious with the set opener “Go To Hell”.
New original “Remind Me”, a Raw Stewage debut from UMBOWL VI in Las Vegas earlier this year, was next and heavily jammed out in epic fashion before transitioning into the heavy hitting call and response riffs of “Gents.”
The weight of the second set kept growing heavier as “Gents” gave way to the ending section of “Pay The Snucka.” Cinninger shined as the second set climax recovered enough for the rhythm section to lay down a tight groove in the opening bars of “Wappy Sprayberry.”
One of the downfalls of such an early show outdoors is the limited amount of night skies lighting director Jefferson Waful is able to utilize, but by the time the band broke into “Wappy”, the sky and stage were being wrapped up in synchronized lights that have come to define the live experience for many fans, old and new.
Following the epic dance party that is all things Wappy the crowd found itself careening in on the arching guitar and synth opening section of “Robot World.” A straightforward yet ultimately deep groove rendition of the song was well received and by the transition into “Miami Virtue,” even the hardest of critics found themselves surrendering to the flow of the music.
“Miami” was given the extended jam treatment to close the set, resulting in cutting the funk track “Full Frontal” from the end of the setlist. “Full Frontal” made its debut as a bonus track from cutting room floor of the Similar Skin recording sessions and released as a bonus track with the Hall of Fame 2013 digital download last year.
For the encore performance the boys channeled London punk rockers The Clash for an incredibly danceable version of “Rock The Casbah” and straight into a simple, beautiful no frills rendition of “Glory” to end the show in truly glorious fashion.
Of the three performances Umphrey’s McGee has made at Frederick Meijer Gardens, last night’s performance is the most diverse and solid throughout, lending yet another sliver of truth to the jam band commandment: never miss a Sunday show.
Words by Josh Huver, Photos by Kristine Condon Photography. Full gallery below.
Setlist: Umphrey’s McGee at Frederik Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids, MI – 8/9/15
Set 1: Mullet (Over), No Diablo > End of the Road, Southern Cross, Phil’s Farm, FF > Resolution > Booth Love
Set 2: Go to Hell, Remind Me, Cut the Cable, Gents > Pay the Snucka, Wappy Sprayberry > Robot World -> Miami Virtue
Encore: Rock the Casbah > Glory
 with The Fish (Yes) teases
 with Brendan on acoustic guitar
 “Jimmy Stewart” with lyrics
 with Xxplosive (Dr. Dre) teases
 part III only
 with Crazy Train (Ozzy Osbourne) jam