The Georgia Theatre has had an epic weekend.
For three nights, the loud guitar melodies and drum beats of Umphrey’s McGee consumed the theater, and the audience jammed right along with the band.
The six-piece rock jam band played two sets for three nights in a row at the famous Athens venue from Oct. 17-19, playing a variation of original songs, covers and lengthy, improvised rock instrumentals.
But despite almost eight hours of Umphrey’s music, the set wasn’t the same any of the nights. And the fans knew each show of Umphrey’s was a new experience — the three-day passes were sold out way in advance while one-day tickets were still available.
On Friday night, fans wore bright orange “Umph’s love” stickers on their clothes, matching the one on lead guitarist Jake Cinninger’s guitar. They were an enthusiastic crowd, many of them knowing all the words and boasting of seeing the band more than just a couple times.
When the band first took the stage, fans showed their loyalty with two fists put together and two pinkies up in a U shape.
Like any good show, the audience and the band were on the same track the entire time. During loud rock riffs with flashing red and white strobe lights, the audience cheered and headbanged. When the band took a more groovy approach, highlighting the bongos and other percussion, the audience danced and swayed.
The entire show was a journey through different genres. One minute the members were rocking out like a punk band and the next they transitioned into psychedelic waves. True to its jam title, Umphrey’s hardly had any pauses between songs. Instead, members would signal to each other the next change in the music and glide seamlessly to the next song or style.
On Thursday night, Umphrey’s ended its first set with a cover of Prince’s “1999,” and on Friday they kept the groovy style for an encore ending in David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.”
Umphrey’s has more than 20 years of performing and recording under its belt, and members have a chemistry on stage that shows they’re used to these epic sets.
The audience was also familiar with the musicians on stage, cheering them on by name during particularly impressive song performances.
But Cinninger’s guitar solos stood out from the rest of the band. He played interesting melodies that elevated the jam sessions into new levels of progressive rock and showed why Umphrey’s has such a huge live-show following. The energy he poured into his music, along with his performative strumming and facial expressions, wasn’t something that comes across in studio recordings.
Cinninger and guitarist and vocalist Brendan Bayliss bounced melodies back and forth between the two guitars which kept each song dynamic and different.
This was the band’s first time back in Athens in four years, and Bayliss said it was good to be back in the Classic City.
The three-night Athens run kicks off the band’s fall tour. The members will head up to Tennessee next before taking a trip around the country at various venues and festivals.