Umphrey’s McGee Unplugs, Lets Fan Decide During Interactive UMBowl VIII
It was “game on” in Port Chester, New York over the weekend as innovative jam-heavy prog rockers Umphrey’s McGee revived a beloved musical tradition known as the UMBowl. The historic Capitol Theatre played host to the two-night spectacle.
A “can’t miss” affair for any Umph-loving fan, these unique interactive concept shows put them (and those streaming at home) in the driver’s seat, allowing the audience to pull the strings of the band via real-time text message voting to determine what’s played next. The highly anticipated event was originally scheduled for May of 2020, then rescheduled for September 2021, and had to be pushed back once more due to lingering health concerns. Finally, to the delight of the “UM Freaks” in attendance, UMBowl VIII touched down with fans as one of the best yet.
Kicking things off in true sporting event-like fashion, the boys from Chicago came to The Cap ready to rumble. With each member jogging onto the stage following a humorous introduction and then a PSA to “hang on tight,” all signs pointed to the husky man in short-shorts informing us Round 1 begins NOW.
Without hesitation, the band launched into “Miss Tinkle’s Overture,” one of the heaviest and most technical songs in their repertoire. The light show immediately grabbed your attention as “cooler than the other side of the pillow” Ryan Stasik and his bright pink Fender bass laid down a fat groove. Suddenly the projection walls of the Cap also came to life, as did a large screen behind the stage, illuminating our choices of where to take the show next. Voters ultimately decided to segue into “Push The Pig” over “Example 1” and “The Bottom Half.”
The “choose your own adventure” theme continued with “Utopian Fir” winning out over “FF” and “Thin Air”. With timing more precise than a Swiss watch, drummer Kris Myers took over on vocal duties when the song suddenly shifted into the 1992 Rage Against the Machine classic “Bombtrack” before finding it’s way back to “Utopian.” Sticking with the heavy stuff, voters would then decide on the anthemic ending of “JaJunk” rather than ending “Miss Tinkle’s” or “Bridgeless.” The final vote of the first set saw “Cemetery Walk II” win out over “Wappy Sprayberry” and “The Triple Wide.” About halfway into it, Brendan Bayliss put down his guitar and picked up his phone, taking a few snaps of the crowd and a selfie with keyboardist Joel Cummins before sitting down with him on keys for the remainder of the set.
After a brief intermission, Umphrey’s McGee returned with something truly special, a rare acoustic second set. Kicking it off with arguably their most popular song, “In the Kitchen” would segue into “Anchor Drops” before lead guitarist AKA “the man who could get tone from a tennis racket plugged into a rock” Jake Cinninger lead the band through a unique arrangement of “Booth Love.” From there, the always introspective “Divisions” came next and featured particularly heartfelt vocals from Bayliss.
“Moments of division, Lord but I can’t see
Contemplate my motion, who am I to be?”
Bayliss would dedicate the next song “Nemo” to concert promoter/live music mogul Peter Shapiro, before ending the set the same way it began, thus completing an all acoustic “In the Kitchen” sandwich.
Returning for round three, the boys kept fan voting to a minimum, playing just one long “Der Bluten Kat” > “Resolution” > “Der Bluten Kat” sandwich. It would be impossible not to mention the incredible next-level light show during this set in particular, courtesy of young LD Ben Factor, who has to be in the discussion for UMBowl MVP. His fresh designs and gorgeous color combos truly helping to bring the show to a mesmerizing peak. As the band left the stage, the “Choose Your Own Adventure” screens lit up one final time. With an encore choice between “Wizard Burial Ground” or “Front Porch,” fans knew either way we are about to get something tasty.
As excited fans rushed to lock in their votes, the Cap’s own Peter Shapiro emerged from backstage to publicly address the crowd. Despite it being just night 1 of UMBowl VIII, Shapiro declared after the performance we had just witnessed, and for going balls-to-the wall every time out for more than twenty years now, their unwavering commitment to music and their fans, that Umphrey’s McGee are true musical champions. He then hoisted up a beautiful commemorative trophy and presented it to the band. Seemingly a surprise to the guys, they also had one more surprise for us; a song that was not an option to be voted on.
As the familiar chords of “Partyin’ Peeps” began, the entire theatre erupted; first in cheers, then in an all-out cathartic dance party. As if the energy wasn’t already though the Capitol Theatre roof, we then finally got our answer to the encore vote: “Wizard Burial Ground.” Perhaps Umphrey’s heaviest song, something that has always set them apart from their peers, this floor shaking rager sent fans home in a most profound, head banging, face melting, and soul satisfying way.
Ryan Stasik and Kris Myers would stick around for a late night set at Garcia’s with Doom Flamingo members Thomas Kenney and Ross Bogan. With a successful
UMBowl now in the history books, Umphrey’s McGee will take a brief break from the road before embarking on a string of dates through the Mid West, culminating with the return of their already sold out destination event, Holidaze 2021 in Puerto Morelos, Mexico. The band will wrap up 2021 with a three night New Year’s run in Miami Beach, FL
Set 1: Miss Tinkle’s Overture > Push the Pig, Utopian Fir > JaJunk, Cemetery Walk II 
Set 2: In The Kitchen > Anchor Drops, Booth Love, Divisions, Nemo > Uncle Wally > Nemo, Water > In The Kitchen
Set 3: Der Bluten Kat > Resolution > Der Bluten Kat
Encore: Partyin’ Peeps, Wizard Burial Ground
 with Bombtrack (Rage Against the Machine) jam and quote
 ending only
 with Brendan on keys
 with Brendan and Jake on acoustics
 Peter Shapiro presented the band with a trophy prior to the encore
Set 1: There’s No Crying In Mexico > Stew Art Event
Set 2: I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do) > Once In a Lifetime, Mother, Rosanna > 1979, Senor Mouse, Sabotage
Set 3: Maybe Someday, All In Time > Hajimemashite, Search 4, Ringo > All In Time
Encore: It Was a Good Day > Between the Sheets
 debut, Pink Floyd; with Brendan on acoustic guitar
 debut, The Smashing Pumpkins
 with Andy on drums, Brendan on bass, Jake on keys, Joel on guitar, Kris on percussion, and Ryan on guitar
 with Cut the Cable tease
 debut, Ice Cube; with Andy on vocals
 debut, The Isley Brothers; instrumental