Umphrey’s McGree uncorked a jam-band spectacle the same night Luke Winslow-King fired up Studio Park & Laura Rain played the summer’s final GRAM on the Green concert. Show recaps, photos.
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There’s nothing quite like Umphrey’s McGee live, especially when compared to pretty much any other show typically held at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.
For one thing, a festival atmosphere descends on every facet of the experience, from the magnificently ethereal and anthemic jams on stage to the ultra-resplendent and jubilant nature of the pirouetting and hand-waving disciples who bring an upbeat hippie vibe and, uh, distinctive smoky scent to the proceedings.
Such was the case on a warm, windy and winsome Thursday night, less than 24 hours after America’s sold-out show was called off at the amphitheater due to thunderstorms.
The only storm descending on Meijer Gardens on Thursday came in the form of swirling, psychedelic thunderheads of ever-morphing music and endless jams unleashed by UM, which has a reputation for intermingling prog-rock, electronic music, heavy metal, funk, jazz and whatever else they care to toss into their magical blender.
Starting with a rendition of “Rocker Part 2,” the Indiana-bred jam band which earlier this year released its 13th studio album with the protracted title, “You Walked Up Shaking in Your Boots But You Stood Tall and Left a Raging Bull,” played two sets covering about two hours and 45 minutes.
It appropriately wrapped up its encore with “Roctopus” after a second set that got heavier – as in the chest-thumping variety of heavy – with a healthy dose of dual guitar leads and searing instrumentals in general. (Scroll down for a set list from Thursday’s show.)
After playing legendary venues such as Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Tennessee’s The Caverns earlier this summer, Umphrey’s McGee certainly settled comfortably into Meijer Gardens for the first time in six years, enlivening and mesmerizing the capacity crowd of 1,900 or so.
It was a crowd that’s quite likely the youngest audience this staid venue will see this summer and one steeped in Umphrey’s camaraderie.
“We love jam bands,” said fan Matt Wass, 32, of Grand Haven, who attended the show with Kim Helmers, 31, one of several Umphrey’s McGee concerts they’ve seen over the years.
“It is kind of our community. A lot of our friends are here at the show.”
LUKE WINSLOW-KING, LAURA RAIN & THE CAESARS HEAT UP DOWNTOWN GRAND RAPIDS
Six miles away, the scene was decidedly different.
At Studio Park in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan-bred singer-songwriter and guitarist Luke Winslow-King took a bluesier turn for a small but engaged crowd as part of Listening Room’s Listening Lawn series.
The Cadillac native who plays Hoxeyville Music Festival and Farmfest this weekend wowed fans with his leads and slide-guitar prowess on “Let ’Em Talk” and “Thought I Heard You” as well as introducing brand new material such as “How Can I Forget.”
He did it with a healthy assist from an all-star Michigan band featuring bassist Brennan Andes (Macpodz), drummer Geoff Lewis (Steppin’ In It) and percussionist Randall Moore (The Ragbirds).
Meanwhile, earlier in the evening and just around the corner, Detroit’s Laura Rain & The Caesars delivered their passionate take on soul for a couple of hundred fans at the season’s final installment of GRAM on the Green, a concert series hosted by Grand Rapids Art Museum and WYCE (88.1 FM). The show induced many fans to dance, with Rain strolling into the crowd to join them as she sang.
Browse the photo galleries from all three shows here.
PHOTO GALLERY: Umphrey’s McGee at Meijer Gardens
Photos by Anthony Norkus
Photos by Anna Sink
Photos by Derek Ketchum