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Umphrey's McGee
Umphrey’s McGee


Who: Umphrey’s McGee

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Mishawaka Amphitheatre, 13714 Poudre County Highway, Bellvue


Umphrey’s McGee is gearing up for a busy Labor Day weekend in Colorado.

The progressive jam-rock band, which always surprises fans with new ways to see and hear its music, and is hitting Colorado in two very different concert modes.

Friday, the band plays a sold-out show at the jamming Mishawaka Amphitheatre, located outside of Fort Collins. Then, the band heads up to the sophisticated stages of Jazz Aspen Snowmass to open a Saturday show for the Black Eyed Peas.

“Mishawaka’s gorgeous — and we’re going to play some new originals and covers there,” vocalist/guitarist Brendan Bayliss said. “We’re also looking forward to playing with the Black Eyed Peas in Aspen. Then, we’ll be in Telluride on Sept. 19th for the Blues and Brews Festival.

“Colorado has been very good to us and we love playing in the great outdoors.”

Umphrey’s McGee long has had a solid core of Colorado fans, and the state’s a major market for the band’s innovative brand of rock.

The inventive group’s been fusing elements of prog rock and improvisation since its 1997 inception at the University of Notre Dame. Umphrey’s McGee started making a name for itself on the festival and club circuit, and the group’s logged in many hours at the Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Rothbury and Japan’s Fuji Rock festivals.

“We all have faith in each other as a band and we’re constantly inspiring each other,” Bayliss said. “We want to be doing this for another 10 years.

“Obviously, when we started doing this 10 years ago we didn’t have the electronics and all the technology. We’re now trying to get back down to the basics and get this beefier sound. Our keyboard player Joel Cummins got a brand new rig and it’s opening up a entirely new world of sounds for us.”

Umphrey’s McGee has released a serious collection of live and studio CDs, but the group wanted to push the envelope with its 2009 CD, Mantis.

“We didn’t have deadlines or obligations to make Mantis, so we got to do everything we wanted on the record,” Bayliss said. “It’s the most freedom we ever had making a record, but it was a big leap of faith for us and the fans.

“This is the kind of record you want to listen to with headphones, because there’s a lot going on. This was the hardest, darkest and most artistically cohesive record we’ve done — it’s more rocking, bigger and louder. We went in a more progressive direction and there’s a lot of arena rock on this record.”

Umphrey’s had a great run touring behind Mantis.

The progressive rockers played a sold-out show at the Boulder Theater earlier this year, and the band went on to pack venues around the country. Audiences got caught up in the group’s lush, electronic sounds and mega-watt light show.

It’s been a busy year for Umphrey’s McGee. The band released the DVD “Soundstage: Umphrey’s McGee Live” and got to play a memorable set with Matisyahu at the Rothbury Festival.

“The set with Matisyahu wasn’t planned at Rothbury,” Bayliss said. “You can never plan out these things, but they’re very special when they happen. We did a couple of shows with Matisyahu after that and it was the highlight of the summer.”

Umphrey’s McGee is now coming back with a very ambitious project.

“We’re going to release four different EPs and there will be four or five songs on each one,” Bayliss said. “We haven’t finalized the project, but every EP will cover a different musical genre.

“We’re going to release each EP separately, but there’s going to be a full box set. After that, we’ll go back to making another traditional record with 12 tracks.”

Umphrey’s McGee also is looking forward to its holiday tour schedule.

For starters, the rockers will headline the Las Tortugas Dance of the Dead Halloween festival. The music party runs Oct. 29 to Nov. 1 in Yosemite, Calif.

Umphrey’s McGee is slated to play Oct. 30-31, and other acts on the bill include Tea Leaf Green, Ivan Neville and New Monsoon.

“Las Tortugas was definitely the best Halloween offer that came in,” Bayliss said. “We really weighed out where we should play this year, but we’d never been to Yosemite. That sealed the deal.”

Umphrey’s also is scheduled to play the Caribbean Holidaze festival with the Disco Biscuits. The all-star music party takes place Dec. 10-14 at Runaway Bay in Jamaica.

Umphrey’s McGee doesn’t have 2010 mapped out, but you can bet the band will be hitting Colorado once again.

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