Jam Cruise Preparty
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Revolution, Fort Lauderdale
Umphrey's McGee has developed quite a bit since their last visit to South Florida, especially in their ability to groove and improvise as a group. That ability was on display for segments of Saturday night's Jam Cruise Preparty show at Revolution, resulting in some very high moments. For much of the night though, the band stuck to their signature formula of stringing together short blocks of different types of music -- such as hard rock, reggae, and pop -- and rocking out mathematically.
At their best Saturday night, the band utilized their guitar shredding and rhythmic abilities to create deep, trippy, electro-influenced jams, similar to the Disco Biscuits. Lightning fast guitar work was put through effects to achieve a beautiful, liquid-like quality. The shredding that dominates their sound in other places in their music was employed sparingly in order to elevate and explode jams, or simply to add ambiance while grooves developed. The result was blissful and there was much of it in the first set.
The second set was more akin to watching television with someone who can't stop flipping the channels. As a listener, it felt almost dangerous to open up to the parts that were enticing, because there was likely to be a rude, unwarranted, Metallica-esque section right around the corner, poised to shatter the bliss without warning. The hard-core Umph fans in the house seemed to enjoy the show overall, but acknowledged that they've seen better: "Not tippity top" said one Jam Cruiser to-be, who had the coolest patchwork shorts at the party.
Earlier in the night, opening act Toubab Krewe also displayed both their pretty and ugly bits. The band is in the midst of a 2012 project in which they bring several additional players onto whatever stage they are playing. They shared the Revolution stage with a couple members of Sierra Leone's Allstars.
The segment of the show beginning with the arrival of MC and percussionist Black Nature was very good--deep afro grooves, mad enthusiasm, smile inspiring, body moving music. It was a tease though, because the band, being an opener, didn't really have the room to breathe and expand that they seem to require in order to really bring their special groove to fruition.
Earlier in their set, the band sounded more like a moonshine-drunk jug band as they sang--they usually don't sing--songs including "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" Though the singing would not have impressed American Idol judges, it was honest and charming. The worst part about the rocky first half of the set was the concern that they were not going to do the instrumental jamming that many came to see. They did, therefore there is no foul for the goofy singing.
The Crowd: Was happy and super squished.
The Club: Was ridiculously packed with party animals.
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Random Detail: It was beyond weird walking out onto the balcony in between sets to mix with the America's Backyard scene. I can only imagine how it was for all the folks on acid. One hippie almost puked over the rail onto a stylin' clubber below.
By the Way: The bathroom sink is the place to go for free water at Revolution.