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Umphrey's McGee

Originating out of South Bend, Indiana in the late 1990s, Umphrey's McGee became widely established on the American jam band circuit and have become known as one of more ambitious and musically versatile acts in the genre. Their wild amalgam of funk, metal, progressive rock, electronic, jazz, and folk has played out over numerous live and studio albums including 2006's Safety in Numbers and 2009's experimental Mantis. Since their early days, Umphrey's McGee have nurtured a dedicated and homegrown audience while presenting their music in innovative ways; they have set up programs offering live recordings to fans immediately after the show and instituted a unique Hall of Fame series in which fans vote on the best performances of the year to be released on an annual live compilation. In the 2010s, the band continued to thrive, issuing an album tracked at London's famed Abbey Road Studios and releasing the 2018 companion albums It's Not Us and It's You. 2022 saw the release of the inward-looking Asking for a Friend. The original four bandmembers (keyboardist Joel Cummins, guitarist Brendan Bayliss, bassist Ryan Stasik, and drummer Mike Mirro) had been playing in various bands around South Bend's Notre Dame campus when they got together in December 1997, naming themselves after a cousin of Bayliss'. With the national jam band infrastructure already in place, they quickly began disseminating their live shows and the 1998 release of their studio debut, Greatest Hits, Vol. 3, helped them reach an even wider audience. As bandmembers graduated, Umphrey's McGee began a more and more rigorous rehearsal schedule and in 1999 released their first live album, Songs for Older Women, which also marked the debut of percussionist Andy Farag. The following year they became a sextet with the addition of singer/guitarist Jake Cinninger, a former member of a fellow South Bend group Ali Babba's Tahini, which had broken up, and they made the move to the bustling metropolis of Chicago. From their new home base, the band went on two-week jaunts throughout the Midwest, occasionally hitting other markets and sharing the stage with a variety of musicians, including Dr. Didg (aka Graham Wiggins), the Chicago-based blues harmonica player Sugar Blue, Béla Fleck, Topaz, and many others. After another live set, 2000's One Fat Sucka, Umphrey's McGee made a more definitive studio album in the form of 2002's Local Band Does O.K., followed a year later by their first DVD, Live from the Lake Coast. Founding member Mirro was replaced on drums by Kris Myers, a jazz drummer who made his debut on 2003's Local Band Does OKlahoma. A third studio album, Anchor Drops, appeared in 2004 on the SCI Fidelity label run by fellow jam band the String Cheese Incident, and a second DVD, Wrapped Around Chicago: New Years at the Riv, was issued in 2005. In 2006, Umphrey's McGee's fourth studio album, Safety in Numbers, was their first to crack Billboard's albums chart, and in addition to numerous high-profile festival appearances, the group also appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! with Huey Lewis. Another studio effort, The Bottom Half, was culled from Safety in Numbers sessions; both it and the critically praised concert album Live at the Murat appeared in 2007. The more progressive Mantis was released early in 2009, and it charted even higher than Safety in Numbers. The Manny Sanchez- and Kevin Browning-produced Death by Stereo appeared in 2011 mixing new originals with older staples from their live sets. Three years later, Similar Skin charted a progressive course through '80s rock and metal, becoming their highest-charting album to date. A one-day recording burst at Abbey Road in June 2014 produced The London Session, a mix of new material, road-tested songs never recorded in a studio, new arrangements of previously recorded tunes, and a cover of the Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy)." It was released in April 2015. Around 2008, Umphrey's McGee had begun a ritual of delivering off-the-wall mashups -- their own originals paired with famous songs from just about every genre -- during their annual Halloween show. In 2016, they released Zonkey, which presented studio versions of those unwieldy concoctions. Following a 2017 live release, Live from Missoula, MT, Umphrey's McGee issued their next two studio albums in quick succession: It's Not Us appeared in January 2018, with It's You arriving in May of that year. You Walked Up Shaking in Your Boots But You Stood Tall and Left a Raging Bull appeared in 2021, followed in 2022 by Asking for a Friend.
© Jesse Jarnow /TiVo
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