One of the most powerful forces next to the music at a live show is the energy emitted by the fans. On this crisp fall Thursday in Northampton MA, simply walking around on the streets one could feel the presence of good vibes in the air. It seemed easy to pick out the people that were in town for the show and the closer to The Calvin Theatre I got, the thicker the vibe felt. Umphrey’s Mcgee was in town with support from The Bright Light Social Hour.

By the time I entered the venue, Austin TX natives The Bright Light Social Hour were wrapping up their set. Their music is soulful and notably southern rock inspired, blending with modern day jam and funk to create something unique. While I unfortunately missed their set entirely, the residual sounds coming into the entryway were enough to spark interest and I will most certainly look forward to seeing them in the near future.

Northampton is set in western MA and is a very charming little New England town. I have seen hundreds of performances in the many clubs around the town, but The Calvin Theatre was a little different. It is an old theater-turned-music hall that still manages to retain the beauty and architecture as originally intended. A friend I traveled up with claims it is one of his most favorite venues to see live music and that I was in for a treat with how great the sound is.

As I walked down the aisles of seats towards the front, Jeff Waful was getting his gear and lights all set and ready go to. Looking up at the gold paint on the ceiling and the dramatic vintage chandeliers hanging down, I was taken back for a moment. The last I had seen Waful’s work was at the Strangefolk Reunion show in Maine back in March – a show also occurring in a beautiful old theater. Though this venue here was a bit smaller, I guessed it would only make the lights feel that much brighter and better (and I was right!).

As there was no official pit for this show, I wiggled my way through the fans to the front to secure an ideal place to set up for the first few songs. Thanks to a kind young lad, I was able to get front and center for it all…THANKS, WHOMEVER YOU ARE!!

After getting my settings situated, I scanned the room and found that Umphrey’s following is a lot younger than I had expected it to be and these young ones were at the edge of their seat with anticipation for the show; a feeling I think we can all relate to no matter our age. The house lights went down and Waful’s lights came up! The band’s first set lasted a little over an hour and the second raged on after a short set break. The evening prior the band was donned in Halloween costumes on stage in Maryland and their second full set was all covers hand-selected by the fans with no UM originals.

This evening, while wearing everyday clothes, they carried over a little of that vibe with covers of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”, The Who’s “Eminence Front” and teases of The Rolling Stones “Miss You”.

The first and only other time I had seen this band was back in 2010 at Nateva Music Festival and it was an afternoon set. I will very openly admit while they were great, I didn’t immediately turn into a fan. And honestly, that notion stems from a stubborn feeling I haven’t been able to shake towards a friend of mine that always insists that they are the “best ever”. While I have always enjoyed their music, I couldn’t see how he could tell me that they were better than the likes of Phish or moe.

What I hadn’t considered was the feeling I would get from seeing them live inside and getting the full experience: all of the rabid fans, the full light setup, the haze and the energy; it was incredible. And while they haven’t replaced my favorite band ever, I do now consider myself an actual fan. They will be hitting the Tabernacle in Atlanta for a 4 night run into the new year and will be touring on through the rest of the winter all over the country! I look forward to seeing them again in a few months when they make their way back to the east coast!

See setlist and photo gallery below.

Umphrey’s McGee @ Calvin Theater, Northampton, MA || Thursday, November 1, 2012

I: Tango Mike > 2nd Self, The Crooked One, Comfortably Numb, The Linear > Conduit, Got Your Milk (Right Here) > Uncle Wally, Go to Hell

II: In The Kitchen[1], 1348 > Day Nurse > Example 1[2] > Phil’s Farm > Eminence Front > Phil’s Farm, Syncopated Strangers, Sociable Jimmy > 1348

ENCORE: Bridgeless
[1] with Roundabout (Yes) tease
[2] with one verse of Miss You (Rolling Stones)Notes:
With Start Me Up (Rolling Stones) tease before encore.
Support: The Bright Light Social Hour