Umphrey’s McGee – Live at the Wiltern

For the last several years Umphrey’s McGee has made Los Angeles their home over St. Patrick’s Day weekend, and this year was no exception. But I had been so focused on the excitement of Mike Gordon coming to town in March, that Umphrey’s had totally slipped my mind. The night before the show my boyfriend got a text from a friend asking if we had heard of any Umphrey’s shows coming up. Realizing that St. Patrick’s Day was approaching, I quickly whipped out my computer to double check. I couldn’t believe that I would actually let an Umphrey’s show slip by. But sure enough, when I checked the schedule, they were playing the Wiltern the following day! I certainly wasn’t going to let the one opportunity I have a year to see Umphrey’s live in Los Angeles slip by! Luckily there were still plenty of tickets available. Although that was a great thing for us late comers, I think it’s sad that Umphrey’s couldn’t even sell out the Wiltern in Los Angeles. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I have no idea why it is so hard to get people to go see fantastic live music! If you don’t regularly attend concerts, you don’t know what you’re missing. You can’t experience true rock ‘n roll on your iPod. You need to see it live to really “get” what great musicians have to offer. And Umphrey’s McGee is a perfect example of that. Their live show is off the hook.

The following evening we jumped on the Metro Purple Line and made our way to The Wiltern in eager anticipation of some unplanned live music! Now, neither my boyfriend nor I are very big drinkers. But in our celebratory mood, we took advantage of the fact that we were taking public transportation and started the pre-party a little early. I guess the vodka was in full effect by the time we arrived at the Wiltern because the security guards didn’t like the way my boyfriend was walking, or should I say swaying, into the theater. Right after I got through the gates, they pulled him aside to examine his sobriety. I was a little afraid we were going to denied entry, but the security guard was cool and told him to go get a cup of coffee and come back in an hour. With a big sigh of relief, we hit the Micky-D’s across the street, and about 45 minutes later tried our luck again. This time they let him. Whew!

Luck was on our side because by the time we got into the venue the opening act had already wrapped up, but Umphrey’s had just started. From the moment I entered the theater my eyes were accosted by lasers pointing in every direction in a cacophony of colors. “JaJunk” was the first song we heard and from the first note I couldn’t keep my body from moving, and it didn’t stop for the entire show! “No Diablo” was a new one for me and I liked it a lot. It’s very catchy and extremely danceable! The entire first half was full of funk. It ended with a perfect cover of Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds, which in my opinion was better than the original. It’s tough to pull off a song that so many people know and love but they have the perfect sound to not only pull it off, but blow it out of the water. It was the highlight of the evening for me.

During set break a full brass band danced their way into the smoking area, keeping the funk vibe alive. I felt like I was transported to New Orleans where brass bands breakout on every street corner. I think I danced harder during set break than I did during the show! The second half had a completely different feel. It was more hard rock-ish than funk. Although equally as good technically, I wasn’t feeling it the same I did the first half. I’m a sucker for funk.

Overall I give the concert an A-. It would have been a solid A or even an A+ if the second half matched the sound of the first half. But all and all it was a killer time. Bands that are as talented and who put on as good a show as Umphrey’s are few and far between. I can probably think of only 3 or 4 other bands who are even in the same ballpark as Umphrey’s McGee. I wish they hit the Los Angeles area more often. But if the future is anything like the past, at least I can count on great live music every St. Patrick’s Day weekend!

These photos were taking by someone who posts on an Umphrey’s Mcgee message board. I thought I’d share them because they came out really great. http://prgphotography.com/live-music-photography/umphreys-mcgee-wiltern/

If you’re not familiar with Umphrey’s, check out this video of them playing “Women, Wine and Song”, live in Alpharetta, GA – 2013-08.24