Photos by Lori Sky Twohy
Pisgah Brewery located in Black Mountain,North Carolina is no stranger to the big names that grace their large, handmade, outdoor stage. Del McCoury, DSO, Grace Potter, Steel Pulse, Sharon Jones and even Maceo Parker have or will have all played their tunes for the masses at the outdoor stage the brewery has built for you and I. This specific show was an enormous gathering of people who enjoy Chicago based, “progressive improvisation”, or “improg” which is known as the one and only, Umphrey’s McGee. The invasion of young and old into the grassy, foggy fields of the brewery started off with the Texas-based jazz-funk band, Snarky Puppy. Snarky has been called a modern-day living legend band full of youngsters that know how to play their instruments which consist of guitars, keyboards, saxophones, brass, percussion and strings. This was the biggest turn out for an opening band Pisgah had ever seen.
The sextet of Umphrey’s Mcgee consists of Jake Cinninger (Guitar, Vocals), Brendan Bayliss (Guitar Vocals), Joel Cummins (Keys vocals), Andy Farag (Percussion), Kris Myers (Drums, Vocals) and Ryan Stasik (bass). Their music ranges anywhere from power ballads to the most intense and intricate progressive jam dance rock you will ever hear. They have a long list of cover songs they integrate into their sets; at this show it happened to be David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” Although they cover these songs, there is always certain UM spin on them. Umphrey’s walks a fine line of progressive-rock where they spill over into categories of jazz, electronic, funk, and even metal. Their show was a mind-blowing smorgasbord of music filled with twists and turns to keep even the biggest fan guessing what they’re going to be playing next. Their style of integrating each instrument is very unconventional compared to the style of other jambands. Instead of just taking a tune somewhere off the top one of the 6 heads in the band, they communicate with hand signals and specific signs that signify which direction the jam is going to be going in, whether the hand signal signifies a chord progression or a type of style in which they want to change the jam, they’re always communicating to each other in one way or another. Recently, the band has become so specific that they now have microphones on stage that go into inner ear microphones.
Umphrey’s has one of the best light shows in the land of jambands. Jefferson Waful has been in charge of blowing your eyeballs out of head for quite some time. The arrangement of lights at this particular show was incredibly sound with the massive trees surrounding the stage. Waful’s timing on the lights, along with the music, is impeccable and really makes him a seventh member of the band.
This show at Pisgah happened to be my friend, Taylor Hall’s first Umphrey’s Mcgee show, who is a big Phish fan. He stood up front the entire time, mesmerized. “Umphrey’s had me jumping up and down and dancing the whole show. I didn’t know one damn song they played other than the Bowie cover – to me that is the definition of a great band – one I can know nothing of, yet instantly fall in love with their live show. I loved their progressive metal/jazz fusion style. I will still see Phish but I am going to go see a lot more Umphrey’s from now on.”
The inside brewery of Pisgah has a small, intimate stage that attracts the night owls for after shows. This night would host Tiny Boxes, who has made a pretty solid name for themselves by playing several noted shows with members of Umphreys Mcgee, Mudvayne and moe. Cummins of Umphrey’s Mcgee happened to stop by and play keys in the late night hour. The crowd gathered around the stage and campfire as Tiny Boxes kept the night owls at bay, dancing under the stars.
Pisgah Brewery continues to be a Mecca of large names in the music industry.Ashevilleseems to be always on the edge of their seats to see what Pisgah will bring next. I suggest you check out Umphrey’s Mcgee’s latest show, which is always available for download. If they are coming to a town near you, do yourself a huge favor and catch them before it’s too late. You can find out everything you want to know at their websites which includes setlists, tour dates, and merch.
Umphrey’s McGee at Pisgah Brewery 9/8/12
There’s No Crying in Mexico > Get In the Van, Conduit, Nothing Too Fancy > Anchor Drops, Rocker part 2, Thin Air, Comma Later > Nothing Too Fancy
1348 > Syncopated Strangers > The Fussy Dutchman, Let’s Dance^, Intentions Clear > 40’s Theme, Puppet String
Prowler > 1348
Snarky Puppy opened
^ with Snarky Puppy horns