For the second year in a row, Umphrey’s McGee left the safe and cozy Hollywood club scene and headed south to Koreatown for their obligatory visit to Southern California. Typically reserved for undersold STS9 and Widespread Panic gigs, the Wiltern Theatre is one of the classier venues Los Angeles has for live music entertainment. You could imagine our shock when the band’s publicity team turned us down for media credentials for what was to be another undersold and under-appreciated jam band gig in the city of Angels. We use Peter Jennings as our Twitter AVI for Jake’s sake. Apparently the joke was on us as we showed up to the Art Deco theatre and discovered that there were actually 2,000 people willing to see Umphrey’s McGee in Los Angeles on a Friday night.
As one would imagine, the lot scene was off the charts. Contained to a multi-story parking structure, we put our Fitbit to the test walking up and down looking for any sign of life before show time. Unfortunately for us all we found was some dude named Burton who was listening to the 3/6/09 “Squirming Coil” while drinking a Blue Moon. Not one for conversation, we decided perhaps we would just hit the street. From bacon wrapped hot dogs to heavy metal flavored t-shirts, Wilshire and Western was bumping with vendors willing to accept both US and Mexican currency. Not one for bacon, we soon discovered the best pre-party to be had was drinks at Beer Belly with the legendary Stardog97.
One simply does not Umph alone. The Phunion’s Mexican Cousin had a tough time on a freeway in Los Angeles as porn stars flooded the 101 out of Chatsworth heading home from a long week of bukkake and gang bangs. An old Dead Head who had never heard of Umphrey’s McGee, his security search took longer than mine because he is brown. Once we made it into the venue, we showed our driver’s license in exchange for those fancy paper bracelets that always end up removing several strands of arm hair. A small sacrifice to pay for the right to purchase 20 ounces of Lagunitas IPA for $16 plus tip.
We found our seats up in the balcony midway through the set of the opening act for the evening, Joshua Redman and the Revivalists. While well respected Fox News analyst Hey Scotty B! would describe the act as a New Orleans Led Zeppelin, we feel this statement couldn’t be further from the truth. What we saw was O.A.R. with the kid who lost American Idol to Kelly Clarkson on vocals. Shit has piss poor musical reality show written all over it. If that is your thing, more power to you, but why would a band that covers the likes of Tool and Rage Against The Machine bring out something so manufactured is mind boggling?! If you want to give 1,900 dudes and 100 women a true taste of New Orleans, do the world a favor and at least give us Goatwhore.
Before Umphrey’s played their first set, we met the drummer of local band Headless Robot. He was a unique character with ironic upper lip hair. He spewed words like an Eddie Van Jake Cinninger guitar solo. He has never heard of The Phunion and we have never heard of his band so we are pretty much even. Then Umphrey’s came out and played a set of music. They thanked Los Angeles. I think two of them had a baseball cap on, but it may have been three. Some dude named Waffle gave us an orgasm and a seizure at the same time. It was wild, you had to be there.
Set break was a pretty crazy scene. With the dude to chick ratio way out of whack, the lower bathrooms flooded at the venue. Apparently the 1,887 dudes in Phish shirts really enjoy their $16 plus tip beer. This forced everyone upstairs where the demand for the seven places to defecate was higher than the demand for Dead 50 tickets. It should also be reported that the venue sold out of Haribo Gummy Bears after wooks went ham on the delicious fat free treat and we were stuck surviving off Sour Patch Kids for the second set. The musical highlight of the evening also occurred during set break, as the band spun “Ænima” by Tool much to the delight of the asshole who wore an Amon Amarth shirt to the show.
That second set started off with a lot of notes right in a row. Suffering from a severe lack of showers, bassist Ryan Stasik had some sweet dance moves while rocking an outfit that looked as if he was a member of 311. They brought Redman out a lot, but not the Redman you are thinking of. They also put several people to sleep in the balcony. The best part of the show was the 52 seconds that they sounded like Meshuggah. The worst part of the show was the lack of cape on Joel Cummins. If you are not going to go balls deep into the heavy and play music with a dude who sings like he does, you need a fucking cape. We asked our intern to do a quick Google search thinking perhaps they don’t have vegan capes, but he gave us ‘tude and mentioned he was refreshing the Natalie Cressman Twitter feed just in case she pulled a Hayley Williams. Remind us to never take on an intern from UCLA again.
In sticking with the spirit of Los Angeles, we left at the encore break to beat traffic. Such a Dodgers fan move but we wanted Taco Bell cause YOLO. This of course meant we missed a “Plunger” encore dedicated to us, but hey, we at the Phunion don’t need the ego boost because sometimes Mike Gordon responds to our tweets. Besides, if anyone should be grateful for an ego boost it’s Umphrey’s McGee. Playing over 391 shows a year for 9 consecutive years the group should be proud that their hard work is paying off. In a town where Trey Anastasio can bring roughly 5,000 people out to the Hollywood Bowl, the Attention Deficit jam rockers are now a solid second tier option for all the transplants who can no longer get nearly enough Phish shows.