Umphrey’s McGee or UM is an American progressive jam band from South Bend, Indiana, formed at the University of Notre Dame in December 1997. They have released to date 7 studio albums, 6 official live albums, 4 official live DVDs, and 1 EP. Now that I have the basics out of the way, lets jump into one of my favorite go-to point of grief:
Umphrey’s McGee is described as “Progressive jam band”, which is probably one of most vague musical genres I’ve heard, but in this case it’s also one of the most true. Lets take a second to break it down.
Progressive: bringing in a greater and more eclectic range of influences, including free-form and experimental compositional methods, as well as new technological innovations.
Jam Band: featuring extended musical improvisation (or “jams”) over rhythmic grooves and chord patterns and long sets of music that cross genre boundaries including funk, bluegrass, jazz fusion, blues, country, folk, world, and electronic music.
So basically a mix of anything and everything you want with little or no expectation or boundaries. True music. Even with the wealth of influences and the amount of material, this band keeps a level of consistency that is truly awe-inspiring and inspirational. The first album of theirs that I heard was 2004’s Anchor Drops and, being the progressive fanatic that I am, I fell in love with the album and band. Fast forward to last year’s Death By Stereo, and these guys are still as fantastic and fresh as ever.
WAVE OF THE FUTURE?
In this day and age a record contract is just an musical loan with terrible interest. Bands see very little of the monetary fruits of there labor through album sales. This band however, has released their music through According to Our Records (founded by Dave Matthews) and SCI Fidelity Records (owned and managed by the jam band The String Cheese Incident) so I feel more like I’m supporting artists and less like I’m helping to pay for some businessman’s Ferrari.
Fans are also encouraged heavily to record and share the performances (so much so that they even give out tickets to tapers on occasion if they promise to share the recordings). Now lets take this a few steps further. These guys record nearly every show and make it available on CD or download. Not only is that a great way to relive a show you attended, but it’s the only way to hear those improvisations that same way again. Now add to that mix that they also have a podcast that they update with highlights of recent live performances, and you can always get your UM live fix.
With the release of 2009’s Mantis, they announced that their would be bonus content available. Cool right? Well they also changed the game by announcing that more content would unlock depending on the number of pre-orders placed.
I see all of this as not only the future of jam bands, but the future of music.
These guys are a LOT of fun, so I recommend checking out some of the free music they make readily available and, if you like what you hear, see them on tour and buy some stuff. Bands need support, and these guys have earned it.