Following two sold out nights at Belly Up Aspen, Umphrey's McGee came through Denver to the Fillmore Auditorium for a half day of meet and greets, some live, fan-directed, improvisational jamming, which ultimately culminated into one hell of a concert. The Kyle Hollingsworth Band, accompanied by DJ Logic on the tables, opened up the show.
The (S2) Stew Art Series opened the doors to the Fillmore at 4:00 p.m. to 50 die-hards ready to direct their favorite band. Against the railing at stage right, stood a towering projector screen, probably 10'x10' or so, with directions on how to text in ideas and words for the band to improvise.
With no way of knowing where a song could go, attendees pulled out phones and texted in their ideas. Within the first 20, UM played versions of old songs in gospel form, a tribute to Colorado's sunrise and a little James-Brown-Meets-the-Beatles tune. An emcee fielded questions from the audience, some relatively inquisitive, some off the wall and random.
"What is your first Zappa memory?" was one question. Guitarist Jake Cinninger, whose first Zappa experience was while still in the womb, answered much differently than keyboardist Joel Cummins -- whose first was not until college.
The second portion of Stew Art saw songs inspired by sex movie scenes, car chases and even a special, up-beat chop that someone had texted in titled "Daft Umph." Other tributes such as "Everybody Wang-Umph tonight" made for easy musical conversation. Some hand shakes and laughs followed the musical portion of (S2), then the doors closed back up until showtime.
DJ Logic casually walked out, literally, he just walked up to the tables like nothing was going on. His demeanor remained this way the entire time he was on stage scratching over the Kyle Hollingsworth Band's session.
On stage are Hollingsworth's keys, a guitarist, bassist, drums and then Logic's tables. Not to say other DJs don't play tables like an instrument, but Logic has it down to an art. On "Let's Go Outside," his performance sounded like the keyboard you didn't know you wanted. Then again during "My Life is so Ordinary," the audience heard this fainting glimpse of dirty scratching, but it blended so perfectly into the build-ups, then dropped out when Hollingsworth took over. It was quite the combo, and it worked.
No one budged at the close of the set. The room was at capacity in the wait for UM to come out. "Higgins," was the lead off song, then a mash of three more songs starting with "All in Time," took over. UM brought the first set full circle by coming back in to "All in Time," before ended with "Peg."
Setlist #1(Per UM website): Higgins, All in Time > Conduit > "Jimmy Stewart" (with lyrics) > Conduit, End of the Road, Resolution > All in Time, Peg
In the fifteen minute set break, again, it was sardines on the floor almost all the way to the back of the venue.
The second set, thoroughly welcomed, saw another Jimmy Stewart, a cue-name for improv jamming in stage, except this time with no lyrics added, just the band following each other's cues and coming together. Seeing these guys play together is romantic, to say the least. Their chemistry on stage takes them from each structured song into a jam, bouncing off pick-ups and hand cues, and finding a balance at the closure. Six members on stage: two guitars, one bassist, one keyboardist, one drummer and one percussionist. And you can still hear the egg shaker. That's a band that knows sound and how to deliver it.
Setlist #2: JaJunk (unfinished) > Bright Lights Mantis Ghetts > Gulf Stream > "Jimmy Stewart," Deeper, Hurt Bird Bath, Eminence Front (The Who cover)
Encore: Plunger > Glory > Plunger
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: "Resolution" by UM is a great song, I was thoroughly happy with that one. Also, I was hesitant seeing DJ Logic with the Kyle Hollingsworth Band, but they delivered! Random Detail: July 3, Umphrey's McGee at Red Rocks. Don't sleep on that ticket purchase. By The Way: Coat check at the Fillmore is run by torturous, non-line-sympathetic people who don't care that your warmth is the most important thing at that moment. Overheard: "Kyle Hollingsworth kind of sounds like Christian rock."
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.