Umphrey’s McGee and the Disco Biscuits | Playin’ at the Zoo for Mother Earth

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…or some sort of Earthly cause.

The Chicago portion of the Green Apple Music Festival came to a close yesterday with a free show at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. The event was set up to celebrate Earth Day and raise awareness for climate change and other key environmental causes. With the free price tag and glorious spring weather, the turnout was pretty huge! The small space carved out in Lincoln Park Zoo was almost too packed. Despite the cowds, the weather and mellow vibe was perfect for a Sunday afternoon in the zoo.

Photos and commentary after the jump…


After Saturday’s late-night Brothers Past dance-fest, it took us a while to make the trek down to the zoo. But, luckily we made it in time to catch music by the Disco Biscuits and Umphrey’s McGee, the event’s headliners.

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I’ve seen a lot of sets by the Disco Biscuits, and to be honest, this one was pretty weak. That said, their tribal take on Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell” was nicely sandwiched in between “Little Shimmy in a Conga Line,” and got the crowd moving. And I still love the catchy, Japanese-tinged “Onamae Wa.” But the band ended their set with a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” that was sloppy at best. Let’s just say I don’t think this band should attempt any more Led Zeppelin covers. Although I wasn’t able to attend their evening show, it sounds like the band made up for its weak daytime set with a rocking show at the Vic. Apparently, during that show, they announced that their annual Camp Bisco festival will indeed take place this August 16-18th in Mariaville, NY. I’m sure it will feature another stellar lineup, but hopefully they spare us the Zeppelin covers.

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Judging by the crowd, it was pretty clear that most fans in attendance were a bit more interested in Umphrey’s McGee. This was UM’s second hometown show in less than 24 hours, and the Chi-town UM fans were in full force. My only complaint was the long set-up time in between bands, but so goes the problems of a one-stage music festival. Just as the crowd was growing impatient, Umphrey’s tore right into their set and woke the crowd out of its haze.

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I can’t really speak to the song selection since I’m still getting to know these guys. But, I was definitely impressed with the dual-guitar madness of Jake Cinniger and Brendan Bayliss. A few tunes into their set, they locked into a nice reggae-tinged groove that perfectly fit the sunny afternoon vibe.

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I’m sure I would have been much more impressed with a full, two-set Umphrey’s extravaganza, but even with the short, daytime set, these guys definitely grabbed my attention. The crowd left a little something to be desired, and I wasn’t totally enthralled with the tunes, but it’s pretty hard not to enjoy free live music in the zoo on a glorious spring afternoon in Chicago!

Setlists:
4/22/07 Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, IL
Green Apple Music and Arts Festival

The Disco Biscuits:
Set I: Therapy, Little Shimmy In A Conga Line> Run Like Hell1> Little Shimmy In A Conga Line, Onamae Wa, Kashmir

Umphrey’s McGee:
Set I: Alex’s House> Miss Tinkle’s Overture, Uncle Wally> Slacker, Resolution> Push the Pig

  • Dave Sullivan

    wheres the vic review? it was sick! Bayliss with the second story blacony beer bong. michael kang triple wide. OH MAN!!

  • Dave Sullivan

    wheres the vic review? it was sick! Bayliss with the second story blacony beer bong. michael kang triple wide. OH MAN!!

  • http://www.livemusicblog.com whitperson

    Ha, nice! I was waiting for a comment like that.

    Justin’s just a slow mofo. His review’s on the way.

  • http://www.livemusicblog.com whitperson

    Ha, nice! I was waiting for a comment like that.

    Justin’s just a slow mofo. His review’s on the way.

  • T 4

    Disco Biscuits:
    The day had finally come, and what a spectacularly perfect day it was. Laundry and housework slowed down our departure (still getting used to the ‘married thing’) but we were out the door around 2 pm and had to haul ass from Aurora, but Dionysus was on our side and we pulled into the parking garage by 3:05 and found our spot on the path at the left-front of the stage by 3:20. Had I been able to escape down to the zoo earlier, I could have pondered the creatures in varied states of consciousness, but that would have to wait for another day, as the beasts I was about to observe made a mighty racket and enthused the throngs to a great degree. It amused and delighted me that a multigenerational and multicultural horde would be witnessing a music event that usually draws a very specific, mostly young and white audience. My only regret was that many of this specific audience were pretty rude and discourteous to both the regular zoo patrons and the grounds that they were treated to by the purveyors of the Green Apple Festival and the Park authorities who were probably thinking that will be the last ‘hippie’ concert at that location. I hope I’m wrong about that one. “Jeesh, ya get a load of stoned teenagers together and they think they own the place”. Earth Day, people?! Pick a clue, any clue. How about we DON’T climb the tree?! Also, does anyone get the concept of squatting a general admission show? What’s so important that ya gotta get up and trample everyone around you every ten minutes back and forth to a spot in front of the stage. And does the tall guy always have to push through you, only to stop right in front of you to improve his spot by 5 feet? I know this is pretty standard operating procedure at most festivals, but exactly what about listening to great music inspires people to be total assholes? Please try that at the DMV.
    As these thoughts were running through my head, the Disco Biscuits were dialing in the sound and began slowly easing into their first song, Therapy. The warm, searing guitar melody that formed the foundation of this tune instantly made me think, ‘Languedoc’, and that this was a song I’d like to hear again. I also remember the lyrics being clever and interesting as well. Little Shimmy In A Congo Line began the disco groove sound that I had expected to hear. As I felt the presence of drummer Allen Acoin, I wondered where the electronic part was, though I wasn’t missing it. They seemed very organic to me and the sonics they created were lifting me to the heavens. While Aucoin and bassist Marc Brownstein were layin’ down badass late 70s disco grooves, keyboardist Aaron Magner and guitarist Jon Gutwillig were seamlessly dishing out the finest in ear candy until Gutwillig started rippin’ solos. Unfortunately I thought the bass was a bit too high in the mix so a lot of the guitar was kind of buried, but I got the idea and it was a good one. One interesting occurrence stuck with me. As the band began the song, there was a loud, irritating clicking sound usually associated to a bad cable connection, yet the band played through it and at times, almost kind of grooved with it to the point where it almost sounded deliberate. It wasn’t but I was impressed how they adapted and made it a cool moment, in my ears anyway. The problem was remedied and after a brilliant moving jam on ‘Shimmy’, some familiar strains of a classic song started coming through and then, ‘Whoa, it’s Run Like Hell by Floyd!’ Exactly how planned this was I don’t know, but they eventually went into the vocals and I must say I was missing Waters on these stanzas and after playing it for awhile grooved back into ‘Shimmy’ and then into Onamae Wa. I must admit, at this point the music was flowing together so well that I was losing time until the end of this song, when the band stopped, gave their greeting to the crowd and invited everyone to their show later that night at the Vic. I was pretty sure there was one song left, and when the keyboard chords of Kashmir by Zeppelin began I knew this would be it. The crowd was ecstatic as the band delivered a very straightforward, true-to-the-original rendition. I have to admit that I hoped they were going to springboard into an original jam or something, but they brought it down loud and hard and that was that. It was a very pleasant set of music to get down and freak out to and I loved looking at responses from a wide variation of people, almost everyone seemed pretty happy and excited about what they had just seen and heard. Pretty fun day at the Zoo, huh Ma?
    Considering how much I enjoyed the Umphrey’s set, I could scarcely imagine the folks in San Fran and Manhattan having a better time, but I’m sure they felt the same way. Thank you organizers of the Green Apple Festival and I hope we did good enough to bring this back next year, as I can’t think of a venue I’d rather be at. Umphrey’s Review up next:
    What can I say about this band that hasn’t been said before?.. This is my second time seeing them, and I was a lot more impressed. I think part of this was a buzz in the crowd amped up way beyond what I experienced at Weed street festival back in 2003, when Mr. Blotto closed out the show. On this very warm, beautifully glorious afternoon, I got this vision in my head of seeing The Doors in Golden Gate Park in 1967 or something to that effect. The hyper-diverse crowd in Lincoln Park Zoo this past Sunday was mostly transfixed during the performances of both bands, but everyone could sense the extra juice as the local superstars-of-late took the stage. My arm hairs were standing as the guys tweaked their sounds in preparation, then as sudden as an atom splitting, Alex’s House had begun. Unlike the more groove-oriented Disco Biscuits before them, the South Bend-bred ‘McGee commanded my maximum attention, as who knows what surprise lay ahead on the very next beat. I think that not knowing many of their songs Sunday worked to my advantage, as I was unable to really tell what was written and what was improvised. I could only think of one moment in the whole performance that could actually be considered imperfect, and Brendan’s body language was the main indicator (way into Jazz Odyssey). As an avid listener of a few jambands, jazz fusion artists like DiMeola and McLaughlin and Metheney, and progrockers and neo-classical metalbands from Rush to Yngwie Malmsteen, I felt it would take more than sheer musical chops to impress me, yet their abilities to display their technical prowess in the contexts of the melodic and rhythmic structures of their eclectic song catalog just left my jaw on the grass for 45 minutes. That’s only the half of it. As the set went on, I began to pick up some lyrics here and there, and the intelligence and vision expressed in these displayed another dimension to this band that could be easily missed amidst the barrage of sonic pyrotechnics blazing off that stage. One band these guys remind me of in some of their verse/chorus moments is Steely Dan. I think part of this is the sound of Brendan Bayliss’ voice and the melodies he sings. It’s funny that while this is a selling point for me, my brother, an avid Steely Dan fan, doesn’t even really hear it. This just another example of the musical Rorshark canvasses these guys paint. I don’t care what age or ethnicity (or species) someone might have been as they were walking through that zoo, there was no way that a sonic thunderstorm like that was going to go unnoticed, or unappreciated.
    Another gift these guys present, as well as Disco Biscuits, is their ability to hear when something just sounds kick-ass, and stay on that groove for just a little while, then start layering over it and modulating. This thought really came to me during Jazz Odyssey and Resolution, as Joel Cummins was laying down these keyboard melodies that legends Stevie Wonder and Rick Wright of Pink Floyd would envy. Once he got up and started grooving, the blast radius reached its zenith and I might have been crying. As the last notes of Push The Pig were laid upon us, the finality of the moment was upon us after only 50 minutes. They had delivered the finest in quality over quantity ratio and they knew it. They had given us enough and left us wanting more in the worst way. Joel Cummins then delivered us the sober message of the meanings of Earth Day and our participation in it on the most basic level, such as picking up all the crap that many in the audience has littered the park with.
    As the current AlphaDogs of the genre, Umphrey’s McGee is a flashing beacon of this Millennium. Their hyper-eclectic chameleon character is the perfect compliment to the zero-attention-span younger audiences, while their intelligence and vision offers depth and sustenance to aged and sage listeners as well. My hope is that as they continue to grow and evolve as songwriters and men, they will let the value of the melodic and lyrical messages of the songs stand on their own, and start scaling back a bit the somewhat self-indulgent and gratuitous nature of having a million parts in every song. These guys have much more to offer than chops, and even as fun as their style is live, fans like me will be able to start remembering and hearing the songs and melodies in their heads as they depart the theatres, then arenas, then stadiums they are leaving.

  • T 4

    Disco Biscuits:
    The day had finally come, and what a spectacularly perfect day it was. Laundry and housework slowed down our departure (still getting used to the ‘married thing’) but we were out the door around 2 pm and had to haul ass from Aurora, but Dionysus was on our side and we pulled into the parking garage by 3:05 and found our spot on the path at the left-front of the stage by 3:20. Had I been able to escape down to the zoo earlier, I could have pondered the creatures in varied states of consciousness, but that would have to wait for another day, as the beasts I was about to observe made a mighty racket and enthused the throngs to a great degree. It amused and delighted me that a multigenerational and multicultural horde would be witnessing a music event that usually draws a very specific, mostly young and white audience. My only regret was that many of this specific audience were pretty rude and discourteous to both the regular zoo patrons and the grounds that they were treated to by the purveyors of the Green Apple Festival and the Park authorities who were probably thinking that will be the last ‘hippie’ concert at that location. I hope I’m wrong about that one. “Jeesh, ya get a load of stoned teenagers together and they think they own the place”. Earth Day, people?! Pick a clue, any clue. How about we DON’T climb the tree?! Also, does anyone get the concept of squatting a general admission show? What’s so important that ya gotta get up and trample everyone around you every ten minutes back and forth to a spot in front of the stage. And does the tall guy always have to push through you, only to stop right in front of you to improve his spot by 5 feet? I know this is pretty standard operating procedure at most festivals, but exactly what about listening to great music inspires people to be total assholes? Please try that at the DMV.
    As these thoughts were running through my head, the Disco Biscuits were dialing in the sound and began slowly easing into their first song, Therapy. The warm, searing guitar melody that formed the foundation of this tune instantly made me think, ‘Languedoc’, and that this was a song I’d like to hear again. I also remember the lyrics being clever and interesting as well. Little Shimmy In A Congo Line began the disco groove sound that I had expected to hear. As I felt the presence of drummer Allen Acoin, I wondered where the electronic part was, though I wasn’t missing it. They seemed very organic to me and the sonics they created were lifting me to the heavens. While Aucoin and bassist Marc Brownstein were layin’ down badass late 70s disco grooves, keyboardist Aaron Magner and guitarist Jon Gutwillig were seamlessly dishing out the finest in ear candy until Gutwillig started rippin’ solos. Unfortunately I thought the bass was a bit too high in the mix so a lot of the guitar was kind of buried, but I got the idea and it was a good one. One interesting occurrence stuck with me. As the band began the song, there was a loud, irritating clicking sound usually associated to a bad cable connection, yet the band played through it and at times, almost kind of grooved with it to the point where it almost sounded deliberate. It wasn’t but I was impressed how they adapted and made it a cool moment, in my ears anyway. The problem was remedied and after a brilliant moving jam on ‘Shimmy’, some familiar strains of a classic song started coming through and then, ‘Whoa, it’s Run Like Hell by Floyd!’ Exactly how planned this was I don’t know, but they eventually went into the vocals and I must say I was missing Waters on these stanzas and after playing it for awhile grooved back into ‘Shimmy’ and then into Onamae Wa. I must admit, at this point the music was flowing together so well that I was losing time until the end of this song, when the band stopped, gave their greeting to the crowd and invited everyone to their show later that night at the Vic. I was pretty sure there was one song left, and when the keyboard chords of Kashmir by Zeppelin began I knew this would be it. The crowd was ecstatic as the band delivered a very straightforward, true-to-the-original rendition. I have to admit that I hoped they were going to springboard into an original jam or something, but they brought it down loud and hard and that was that. It was a very pleasant set of music to get down and freak out to and I loved looking at responses from a wide variation of people, almost everyone seemed pretty happy and excited about what they had just seen and heard. Pretty fun day at the Zoo, huh Ma?
    Considering how much I enjoyed the Umphrey’s set, I could scarcely imagine the folks in San Fran and Manhattan having a better time, but I’m sure they felt the same way. Thank you organizers of the Green Apple Festival and I hope we did good enough to bring this back next year, as I can’t think of a venue I’d rather be at. Umphrey’s Review up next:
    What can I say about this band that hasn’t been said before?.. This is my second time seeing them, and I was a lot more impressed. I think part of this was a buzz in the crowd amped up way beyond what I experienced at Weed street festival back in 2003, when Mr. Blotto closed out the show. On this very warm, beautifully glorious afternoon, I got this vision in my head of seeing The Doors in Golden Gate Park in 1967 or something to that effect. The hyper-diverse crowd in Lincoln Park Zoo this past Sunday was mostly transfixed during the performances of both bands, but everyone could sense the extra juice as the local superstars-of-late took the stage. My arm hairs were standing as the guys tweaked their sounds in preparation, then as sudden as an atom splitting, Alex’s House had begun. Unlike the more groove-oriented Disco Biscuits before them, the South Bend-bred ‘McGee commanded my maximum attention, as who knows what surprise lay ahead on the very next beat. I think that not knowing many of their songs Sunday worked to my advantage, as I was unable to really tell what was written and what was improvised. I could only think of one moment in the whole performance that could actually be considered imperfect, and Brendan’s body language was the main indicator (way into Jazz Odyssey). As an avid listener of a few jambands, jazz fusion artists like DiMeola and McLaughlin and Metheney, and progrockers and neo-classical metalbands from Rush to Yngwie Malmsteen, I felt it would take more than sheer musical chops to impress me, yet their abilities to display their technical prowess in the contexts of the melodic and rhythmic structures of their eclectic song catalog just left my jaw on the grass for 45 minutes. That’s only the half of it. As the set went on, I began to pick up some lyrics here and there, and the intelligence and vision expressed in these displayed another dimension to this band that could be easily missed amidst the barrage of sonic pyrotechnics blazing off that stage. One band these guys remind me of in some of their verse/chorus moments is Steely Dan. I think part of this is the sound of Brendan Bayliss’ voice and the melodies he sings. It’s funny that while this is a selling point for me, my brother, an avid Steely Dan fan, doesn’t even really hear it. This just another example of the musical Rorshark canvasses these guys paint. I don’t care what age or ethnicity (or species) someone might have been as they were walking through that zoo, there was no way that a sonic thunderstorm like that was going to go unnoticed, or unappreciated.
    Another gift these guys present, as well as Disco Biscuits, is their ability to hear when something just sounds kick-ass, and stay on that groove for just a little while, then start layering over it and modulating. This thought really came to me during Jazz Odyssey and Resolution, as Joel Cummins was laying down these keyboard melodies that legends Stevie Wonder and Rick Wright of Pink Floyd would envy. Once he got up and started grooving, the blast radius reached its zenith and I might have been crying. As the last notes of Push The Pig were laid upon us, the finality of the moment was upon us after only 50 minutes. They had delivered the finest in quality over quantity ratio and they knew it. They had given us enough and left us wanting more in the worst way. Joel Cummins then delivered us the sober message of the meanings of Earth Day and our participation in it on the most basic level, such as picking up all the crap that many in the audience has littered the park with.
    As the current AlphaDogs of the genre, Umphrey’s McGee is a flashing beacon of this Millennium. Their hyper-eclectic chameleon character is the perfect compliment to the zero-attention-span younger audiences, while their intelligence and vision offers depth and sustenance to aged and sage listeners as well. My hope is that as they continue to grow and evolve as songwriters and men, they will let the value of the melodic and lyrical messages of the songs stand on their own, and start scaling back a bit the somewhat self-indulgent and gratuitous nature of having a million parts in every song. These guys have much more to offer than chops, and even as fun as their style is live, fans like me will be able to start remembering and hearing the songs and melodies in their heads as they depart the theatres, then arenas, then stadiums they are leaving.