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Progressive rock – silly and serious

Wren Wertin
Special to the DailySometimes the members of Umphrey's McGee will switch instruments on stage, lending another element of spontaneity to the show.
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Umphrey’s McGee returns to Colorado for their seventh tour for a show at 8150 tonight at 10.

“We’ve got a lot of people in the band coming from different musical backgrounds,” said keyboardist Joel Cummins. “Each of us plays multiple instruments.”

Their sound is orchestral and modern. They’ve been embraced by fans of progressive rock, as well as the occasional jamband supporter. As for the band members, they find inspiration from a wide scope of musicians, from Chick Corea to AC/DC.

“We’re fans of silly music and serious, too,” he said. “We try to mix those two, try to achieve something musically and not take ourselves too seriously.”

Cummins’ hero is Miles Davis, whose “In a Silent Way” he’s almost worn out. He’s drawn by the spatial shifts and newness of the sound. When Davis first offered his music to America, most people didn’t know what to make of it. During Umphrey’s one or two purely improvisational moments, Cummins can relate to that.

“Sometimes those are our worse moments, and sometimes our best,” explained the musician. “It can go anywhere from extremely heavy rock and metal to jazzier stuff. We’re very intense about it.”

They’re on the eternal quest to simplify their sound. With so many musicians and instruments, it’s easy for them to get downright notey. Their latest album, “Local Band Does O.K.,” has been drawing better-than-OK reviews from critics, such as Village Voice. In the past, guitarist Brendan Bayliss has done most of the lyric writing. But for this album, it was a collaborative effort. Because the group is constantly creating new songs, they have a heap of material they haven’t even properly explored yet. They could be busy in the studio for years.

“We’ve got a pretty diverse catalog of original songs,” said Cummins. “Invariably you’ll hear a couple of old favorites, and some new stuff, too.”

In addition to Bayliss and Cummins, Humphrey’s McGee is Ryan Stasik (bass), Andy Farag (percussion), Jake Cinninger (guitar, Moog, synthesizers, vocals), Kris Myers (drums, vocals), Kevin Browning (sound caresser) and Adam Budney (lighting designer).

As for Cummins, he’s excited to ski. The entire lot of them will be riding at Vail the day after the show, but don’t expect to see them out there too early. The group is known for their high-energy live show; it could be a very late night.

“Expect to have a wonderful time listening and dancing,” advised the keyboardist.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555, ext. 618.


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