SweetWater 420 Fest returned to Atlanta, GA’s Centennial Olympic Park on Thursday for a pre-party to kick off the beloved music festival’s first running since 2019. The single-stage schedule included performances by The String Cheese Incident, Umphrey’s McGee (performing an “All Night Wrong” covers set with special guests), TAUKing McGee, Spafford, and Empire Strikes Brass.
The lineup for this Thursday pre-party has remained in flux due to a number of unexpected incidents over the last several months. Following Chuck Garvey‘s stroke back in November, moe. ceded the performance to Gov’t Mule. Then, late last month, Mule cleared its spring tour scheduled after bandleader Warren Haynes injured his shoulder while on vacation in Costa Rica. Umphrey’s McGee took up the mantle, promising to lead TAUKing McGee and “All Night Wrong” sets prior to SCI’s headlining slot. On Wednesday, Umphrey’s announced that Jake Cinninger would sit out UM’s three shows throughout the festival, including a Friday late-night performance at Variety Playhouse. Then, on Thursday, Oteil Burbridge was forced to cancel his pre-party Oteil & Friends set and various other upcoming shows as he tends to his elderly father. Spafford was tapped to play in his place.
Despite the many lineup changes, the SweetWater 420 Fest 2022 kickoff delivered the action that Atlanta fans had been waiting for. After Empire Strikes Brass got midday bodies moving, Spafford offered the crowd the weekend’s first helping of jam with a ninety-minute set featuring a number of fan-favorite originals and a sing-along cover of Blind Faith‘s “Can’t Find My Way Home”.
Next up was TAUKing McGee, the Umphrey’s McGee/TAUK hybrid group known for its high-energy after-parties and late-night festival sets. While seeing the sun shining on this combo outfit was surely something new, the band pounded its way through Umphrey’s favorite “In The Kitchen” with late-night energy before rattling off covers of songs by Pink Floyd, Tears for Fears, Nirvana, Living Colour, Talking Heads, Foo Fighters, Jimi Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin.
As the sun began to set, a five-piece, Jake-less Umphrey’s McGee took the stage to continue the jukebox vibes set by TAUKing McGee with a special “All Night Wrong” covers set. After working through the selections by Band of Gypsys (“Power of Soul”), Pink Floyd (“In the Flesh” > “Another Brick in the Wall”), The Police (“When the World Is Running Down, You Make The Best of What’s Around”), and Radiohead (“Weird Fishes”/”Arpeggi”), Umphrey’s McGee welcomed out TAUK/TAUKing McGee’s Matt Jalbert to rain some guitar leads over a rendition of The Beatles (“I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”. From there, Empire Strikes Brass members Alex Bradley (trumpet), Pauly Juhl (saxophone), and Kyle Snuffer (trombone) jumped onstage to assist on Beck‘s “Debra” and Wang Chung‘s “Dance Hall Days”.
One of the evening’s biggest highlights arrived next when The String Cheese Incident’s Michael Kang and Kyle Hollingsworth took the stage to lead the band through the Grateful Dead‘s “Althea”, a cover recently added to the UM repertoire when the group was tapped as a last-minute replacement for Joe Russo’s Almost Dead at Suwannee Hulaween last fall. Kang and Hollingsworth stuck around to help close the set with Talking Heads’ “Making Flippy Floppy”.
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The String Cheese Incident finally closed out the first evening of 420 Fest with a full, two-set performance. Both The String Cheese Incident (Friday) and Umphrey’s McGee (Saturday) are due to return to the stage in Centennial Olympic Park as the weekend goes on.
Other artists set to perform throughout the weekend include Gary Clark Jr., Lawrence, Lotus, Too Many Zooz, Goose, Trey Anastasio Band, Big Something, Thievery Corporation, The Nth Power ft. Jennifer Hartswick, Snarky Puppy, Oysterhead, and more. Check out the full schedule here.
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Revisit a full-day Thursday stream from SweetWater 420 Fest below via nugs.net including Spafford, TAUKing McGee, Umphrey’s McGee’s “All Night Wrong” covers set, and The String Cheese Incident’s two-set headlining performance. View photos courtesy of Bahram Foroughi below, and stay tuned to Live For Live Music all weekend long for daily, on-the-ground coverage from SweetWater 420 Fest 2022.
SweetWater 420 Fest – Thursday Pre-Party – 4/28/22 – Full Video [Pro-Shot]