Tag Archives: Jon Gutwillig

Getting DUMB in Atlanta

Umphrey’s McGee/Disco Biscuits
Masquerade Music Park
Atlanta, Georgia
June 30, 2007

 

The D.U.M.B. tour was all about contrast.  It brought together two completely different bands who play two completely different styles of music.  The tour was all about bringing these differences to the forefront to see just what might happen.

The Disco Biscuits (the D and B) and Umphrey’s McGee (the U and M) embarked on a five show/ five day mini tour in the Southeast from Charlottesville, Virginia to Pompano Beach, Florida in late June.  The fourth day of the tour brought them to the capital of the south, Atlanta Georgia, to play at Masquerade Music Park.  The bands showed just how good each can be separately, and finally, when they take the stage together.

To the surprise of many fans, there had not been any sit-ins or cross-pollination of the two bands leading up to the Atlanta show.  Given the history of the two bands, most were hoping that the two of them — on the same bill with the same amount of playing time — would bring the magic.

In theory, it should have translated into seamless set changes, choice covers (possibly some Brain Damaged Eggmen material), or some of the patented goofing around that these two bands are known for.  But no, through three shows, there had been nothing but stellar playing from each band, on its own.

As luck would have it, all these things did transpire in Atlanta, and made for one hell of a night.

 

The Biscuits

 
The Disco Biscuits opened this stop of the tour, outside under the stars (well, start were out by the end of the show at least) in Atlanta, and did so with a massive segue.  Starting off with “Digital Buddha,” they made their way into an inverted version of “Crickets.”  Eventually, after meandering through “Strobelights and Martinis,” “Mindless Dribble,” and “Voices Insane,” they ended up in “I-Man” and, at long last, the first sit-in of the run.

During “I-Man” a member of Umphrey’s, guitarist Brendan Bayliss, finally came out to play.  He led the ending jam, which had already traveled far away from the “I-Man” sound and actually was the force that eventually brought tDB back into their own song.

Bayliss then stayed on to play the ending to Guns N Roses’ “November Rain” which got a “let’s hear it for Slash!” comment out of Bisco’s Marc Brownstein.  While the first guest appearance of the tour was short but sweet, it was a sign of great things to come.

After Bayliss left the stage, Bisco finished up their set with “World Is Spinning” and “Save the Robots,” and then relinquised the stage for Umphrey’s.

 

Umphrey’s McGee

 
“Wizard Burial Ground” was a much requested tune coming into this Umphrey’s show.  This monster of a rock song – think And Justice For All-era Metallica with beautiful piano work in the middle – was debuted on UM’s west coast tour on June 14th to rave reviews.  Fortunately they opened the show with it because there’s a big metal scene in Atlanta, and a lot of them enjoy some UM.  This really sets the tone for the rest of evening and what was to follow changed the pace a bit, but got the crowd dancing hard.

“Walletsworth,” typically played similar to the album version, had a huge dance party jam in the middle with “Crazy Train” (Ozzy Osbourne) teases for close to four minutes, which led perfectly into “Nothing Too Fancy.”

By now it was getting dark out and Umphrey’s McGee’s light man Adam Budney was starting to shine and get into the mix more.  Seems he’s added a few more toys, adding to the already full-on Umphrey’s assault.

“40’s Theme” had its usually rocking ending, then the boys brought it down a notch with “Words.”  An obvious drop in energy happened but this allowed people to focus on the somber nature of this beautifully-sung Bayliss.

After a pointless glow stick war, a giant double-sided purple dildo was being hung in front of stage (a prank by tDB lighting guy) and a blowup doll was on stage.  Normally this would make everyone laugh, but the timing was weird during the emotional climax of “Words.”  Still, it gave everyone a good chuckle.

“Pay the Snucka” and “FF” were huge, as usual, and the segue back into “Nothing Too Fancy” was gorgeous with some great flute work by Bisco’s Aron Magner.  Then comes “Panama,” one of their most played covers, a great song but played to the point that most can do without hearing it ever again.

For the encore UM had tDB come out and play one of their own tunes, “Helicopter,” a nice change of pace and an obvious nod to the spirit of the D.U.M.B. tour.  They got the place dancing again and a full band switch ensued with UM coming out one by one and taking over their rightful spots on stage to close out the show with “Miss Tinkle’s Overture,” with some “November Rain” teases about halfway through.

Some people missed the encore in order to wait in line for the Perpetual Groove, who later performed their own show inside, but it was their loss, as the encore was a definite highlight of a great evening of music.

All in all, both bands put on a fantastic concert in Atlanta, despite the hot-as-hell sweltering heat of an outdoor show in the South in the middle of summer.   Both bands continue to put on great shows and keep the audience guessing.  As long as this keeps happening, people will keep coming back for more from both acts.

 

Disco Biscuits:

Digital Buddah > Crickets > Strobelights and Martinis > Mindless Dribble > Voices Insane > I-Man* > November Rain*, World Is Spinning, Save The Robots

*w/ Brendan Bayliss

 

Umphree’s McGee:

Wizard Burial Ground, Example > Walletsworth > “Jimmy Stewart” > Walletsworth > Nothing Too Fancy > Alex’s House > 40’s Theme, Words, Pay the Snucka, FF > “Jimmy Stewart”* > Nothing Too Fancy*, Panama

Encore: Helicopters** > Miss Tinkle’s Overture**

*w/ Aron Magner

** Disco Biscuits started with Helicoptors, and one by one, Umphrey’s McGee came up and took over, segueing into Miss Tinkle’s Overture

 

Click the thumbnails to view more photos from the show by Brad Kuntz

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Berkeley’s Greek Theatre bids farewell to the Cheese!

 

String Cheese Incident
William Randolph Hearst Greek Theatre
Berkeley, California
July 21 & 22, 2007

 

 

After August 12, 2007, the String Cheese Incident (SCI), a beloved band 15 years in the making, will be no more.  But before that fateful day arrives, SCI will give many concerts in some of their favorite and most frequented venues across the United States.

Fresh off the plane after performing at the 10,000 Lakes Festival as the replacement act for scheduled headliner Trey Anastasio, SCI performed two shows at the William Randolph Hearst Greek Theatre.  Nestled into the lush green hillside of the University of California – Berkeley campus, the venue known locally as the Greek Theatre gives off a warm, welcoming energy to all who enter her gates.  Tall, venerable eucalyptus and pine trees surround the venue, which dates to 1903 and some college kids are even lucky enough to have a view inside from their dormitories.

 

Saturday, July 21

 

Upon entering the classic Roman outdoor amphitheatre mid-afternoon on Saturday, July 21, concert attendees noticed the unique open-air loading and equipment area on stage, the large combined capacity (8,500) of the floor, as well as seating and grass sections.  Opening acts the Disco Biscuits and Sound Tribe Sector Nine (STS9) were allowed rather long sets, filling in the floor area with their fans.

As SCI took the stage, an ethereal glow enveloped the area as the sun passed behind the columned background of the stage.  Thousands of ecstatic, colorful Cheese fans gave a loud welcome to the band as they began to play the jubilant Jean-Luc Ponty song “Mouna Bowa.”  The song was a perfect opener for the evening, complementing the ideal temperate climate and lighthearted energy of the crowd.

Bringing out the Stevie Wonder classic “I Wish,” SCI elevated the energy into a groove only a Stevie song could inspire.  Moving into bluegrass, Billy Nershi led the band with crisp, quick vocals on “Love is Like a Train” with Kyle Hollingsworth pounding out some saloon-inspired piano.

The very elegant Latin jazz influenced Hollingsworth song “MLT” was absolutely flawless (even with Nershi grinding the air with his hips) making the crowd focus on the quality musicianship of the band.  Giving Cheese fans a (figurative) dose of ecstasy, SCI played a ridiculously fast-paced version of the traditional bluegrass song “I Know You Rider” with percussionist Jason Hann playing a washboard, into Bob Marley’s “Stir it Up” and back into “I Know You Rider” to close the first set.

Unfortunately during the second set some audio-related problems could be heard randomly through the speakers, but by the end the problem had been resolved.  The first highlight of the second set came during “Desert Dawn” when Aron Magner and Jon Gutwillig of the Disco Biscuits joined SCI, adding electronica and distortion elements into the mix of the 15-minute version of the song.

The second highlight came with fan favorite “Way Back Home” into the instrumental “Birdland,” which displayed Hollingsworth’s abilities on keys, Keith Moseley’s steady funky bass rhythms, and Michael Travis’ perfect time on drums.

Up on the highest level of the amphitheatre – the grass area – another world opened up to fans.  Backlit by the silver shining crescent moon, dozens of hula hoopers displayed their graceful dance.  The band played tribute to their friend and sometimes musical guest Keller Williams with a solid performance of “Best Feeling,” which blended back into “Way Back Home.”

During both sets, Hann was all smiles, bursting with positive energy and making a real connection with the crowd.  SCI ended the show with the fan favorite “Search” displaying Michael Kang’s mastery of the violin.  The crowd couldn’t have been more satisfied, giving loud applause and shouts of approval, but then again, most in attendance were also looking forward to the next show.

 

Sunday, July 22

 

Showtime on Sunday, July 22, was much earlier with the contemporary bluegrass group Hot Buttered Rum String Band (HBRSB) taking the first opening slot around noon.  Nershi came on stage with his acoustic guitar for the band’s final two songs, “Honkeytonk Tequilia” and “Cumberland Blues.”

The floor area filled as the seasoned second opener, Railroad Earth (RRE), took the stage following HBRSB.  The band, with their heartfelt lyrics and delicate bluegrass sound, always touches audience members in a rather unusual way.  Nershi, on his electric guitar, joined RRE on their last song, “Mourning Flies.”

The sun was high and the air was hot as SCI took the stage on Sunday afternoon.  The energy of the crowd and band was intense and quite different than on the previous evening.  Murmurs of hope for a bluegrass-focused show could be heard amongst the crowd.  SCI opened with the mellow “Shine,” allowing the crowd and the guys a chance to ease into the glorious day.

Cheese fans were treated to some of their favorites such as “Jellyfish,” “Black Clouds,” and “Farther” during the sets.  Throughout the show, SCI invited members of the opening bands and later the entire bands up to share the stage with them, heightening the onstage energy to a level most in the crowd had never experienced before.

Watching each band member’s mutual adoration and appreciation of one another’s talents was almost enough to make onlookers tear-up.  The culmination of the show and various collaborations came at the end of the second set when SCI announced that they were going to have “A Hot Buttered Railroad Incident.”

SCI couldn’t figure out where HBRSB members had disappeared to saying, “No, it’s the Hot Buttered Guys who are all drugged out and wasted.”  Once they emerged, the never-before-seen Incident played a bluegrass version of the classic Christian tune “Whiskey Before Breakfast” about which Nershi commented, “This is what you call a cluster pluck.”  The intense breakdown jam at the end was too fast to keep up with dancing.

The Incident went right into The Carter Family tune “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”  With so many people onstage, Nershi or Kang signaled to the individual musicians for their solo parts.  The multi-vocal harmonies and insane interweaving of instruments proved that a huge group of immensely talented musicians can come together with precision.  SCI thanked the other bands and played “Smile” as the second encore of the show.

SCI was much more in touch with the crowd on Sunday night.  Before the second encore, Nershi gazed out at the crowd as the fans stood in disbelief at what they had just been part of and witnessed.  As the night concluded, the crowd felt overjoyed when he said, “You guys seem to think we’re pretty cool. But … watching all you guys just let go and dance your asses off, you are the true heroes.”

 

7/21:

Set One: Mouna Bowa, I Wish, Love Is Like A Train, Sometimes A River, Turn This Around, MLT > Drums > Rain > I Know You Rider > Stir It Up > I Know You Rider

Set Two: Eye Know Why > Looking Glass > Desert Dawn*, The Way You Do The Things Yo Do > Way Back Home > Birdland > Best Feeling > Way Back Home

Encore: Search

* with Jon Gutwillig and Aron Magner (Disco Biscuits)

 

7/22:

Set One: Shine, Little Hands > Dudley’s Kitchen, I’ll Fly Away*, The Walls Of Time*, Black Market > Jellyfish > Black Clouds

Set Two: Piece Of Mine > Bumpin’ Reel, Farther, Long Way To Go^, Sweet Melinda^ > Lovelight Jam > What A Day That Was > It Is What It Is

Encore One: Whiskey Before Breakfast*^ Will The Circle Be Unbroken*^

Encore Two: Smile

* with Hot Buttered Rum String Band

^ with Railroad Earth

 

String Cheese Incident, 7/21-22/07 || Berkeley, CA @ the Greek Theatre

All photos by Keith Berson / keithberson.com

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