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Umphrey's McGee at Crofoot Festival Grounds, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Wednesday, May 26, 2021

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The COVID-19 pandemic has hit all touring acts hard -- but Umphrey's McGee harder than most.

Like others in the "jam band" category, the sextet, formed 24 years ago in South Bend, Ind.is a stage concern first and foremost. It records, and there's more music on the way, but Umphrey's McGee lives for the stage and the improvisation-heavy shows that have earned the band its reputation and a die-hard following.

So the reopening of venues and opportunity to be back out on the road is good news indeed for the band, and it plans to make the most of it, and make up for lost time, in the coming weeks...

During the past 14 months Umphrey's McGee has done some livestreamed as well as drive-in concerts. "Safety and the COVID protocols are paramount, trying to follow everything as safely as we could," bassist Ryan Stasik says by phone from his home in Charleston, S.C. "As a band that relies on touring so much, that was quite difficult. And the shows...were a little weird to me. I'm the type of person who wants to smell the front row. I like the kind of energy you get when you can look people in the eyes. So it's been pretty different for awhile."

Nevertheless, Stasik, 44, found the time away from the road "amazing for the most part," using it to upgrade his home studio setup and also to have time with his wife and two young daughters. "It's been a very interesting kind of flip of the switch. My wife is an interior designer, and construction and interior design actually accelerated as the musicians shut down. So I had the appreciation of being a stay-at-home dad, home schooling the kids and doing those duties while she was the workhorse. That was interesting after being on the road for decades."

Umphrey's McGee, meanwhile, was "very productive" according to Stasik, getting together occasionally at drummer Kris Myers' studio in Nashville and guitarist Jake Cinninger's in Niles, Mich. to record. "We finished two records for Umphrey's. One's all instrumental, one's all knew songs. I don't know anything about our strategy or release of those records yet or how we're going to go about it, but it was great to be playing together again. We got a lot done."

As for what the new music sounds like, Stasik says, "I find that difficult to say with Umphrey's, because I think everything is always a new direction with us. I think like a wine we become a little more tasteful, a Littlemore mature as we age. When people listen to it they'll probably have a different reaction, but to me it seems to be much more mature. The songwriting is improving, the group efforts are improving. We've been with each other so long now, listening and complementing each other, it works out well. I guess I'd say mature, but I wouldn't put a specific genre on it."

The challenge of returning to touring, according to the basis, is "getting back the stamina part. In some ways it's like riding a bike; You never forget how to do it. But after all this time (off), getting back to it like we did before is interesting. You've got to work yourself back up into that shape."

Umphrey's McGee performs, Friday and Saturday, May 28-29, at the Crofoot Festival Grounds on Municipal Parking Lot 9 in Pontiac. Doors open at 6 p.m. for both, with tickets starting at $200 per pod of four people. COVID-19 protocols will be in place. 248-858-9333 or thecrofoot.com.

Web Site: www.thecrofoot.com

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