Umphrey’s Mcgee Announces Series of Interactive All-Improv Shows

Umphrey's McGee @ Charter One Pavilion, Chicago 07/19/08

Even though I’ve not always been the biggest fan of Umphrey’s Mcgee’s music, I definitely give the band credit for continually experimenting and thinking of new ways to engage with their fans. I thought their strategy for releasing their last album, Mantis, was an innovative approach. I also thought their experiment offering webcasts on was a solid move, and something I’d like to see other bands do more often. But the band’s latest experiment may be their most interesting yet.

I just came across their latest site announcement about a new series of interactive all-improv shows they’re calling the “Stew Art Series” aka S². Here’s a brief excerpt from

Have you ever wanted to “conduct” an Umphrey’s McGee jam? Ever wished you could broadcast your thoughts to the band to help influence the direction of a Jimmy Stewart? Are you curious about the band’s improvisational thought process during a jam and want to gain greater insight while participating directly? Well, here is your chance as we are pleased to announce the Stew Art Series (S²).

An S² event is an experiment in crowd-sourced improvisation. One hundred percent of the music performed at a S² event will be improvised, and you are the ones who will serve as directors. Using several communication mediums which could range from text messaging to prewritten cue cards to chalk boards you will kick out ideas, descriptive words, phrases, pop culture references . . . pretty much whatever comes to mind. These will be presented to the band who will compose jams on the fly based around those ideas, and ideas will be added to, changed, and deleted as the event progresses.

It looks like they plan to bill these as more intimate events apart from their normal concerts, and the ticket packages will include a laminate and a recording of the event on an autographed CD. The events will also feature a section devoted to a fan Q&A.

As a band that puts so much focus and energy into their improvisation, what better way to get fans more engaged than to actually include them in the jamming?

Kudos to Umphrey’s Mcgee for consistently pushing the envelope of what it means to engage and interact with your hardcore fans.