Umphrey’s McGee at The Peak
Umphrey’s McGee’s Joel Cummins, who handles keyboards and vocals in the progressive rock jam band, looks forward to the 8 p.m. March 21 concert at Penn’s Peak, Jim Thorpe.
“Penn’s Peak is one of the most stunningly-beautiful rooms we play,” says Cummins in a phone interview. “Fans can expect a show full of elite performances and inexplicably good times will abound.
“Penn’s Peak always goes off for us because we feel like it’s kind of a secret show for the most diehard of fans.
“If you’re at a concert at Penn’s Peak, you didn’t end up there by accident. It’s such a special room that I think it inspires better playing from us as a whole.” says Cummins, a founding member of the band.
Umphrey’s McGee was founded by students at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind. The group, in addition to Cummins, includes Brendan Bayliss, guitar-vocals; Jake Cinninger, guitar-vocals; Ryan Staski, bass; Andy Farag, percussion, and Kris Myers, drums-vocals.
The band has recorded 12 studio albums, one iive studio album, 14 live albums, and 10 DVDs. The group’s music includes progressive rock guitar wizardry, acoustic ballads, funk grooves and explosive percussion sounds. The band’s latest albums, “It’s Not Us” and “it’s You,” were released in 2018.
“First and foremost, we are a rock ‘n’ roll band, so that’s what I start with when describing Umphrey’s McGee,” Cummins says. “I then typically say we play mostly original music but it’s with a ‘70s’ ethos. Bands like Genesis, Pink Floyd, Yes, Rush.
“We like to improvise and change up setlists on a nightly basis, so we are also very exploratory in that sense. Our shows are a rock ‘n’ roll party with a huge variety of music stylistically.”
The band’s name, Umphrey’s McGee, is derived from the name of Humphrey Magee, a cousin of Bayliss.
The band has performed at Bonnaroo and Red Rocks Ampitheatre. A streaming service, UMLive.net, includes the group’s live performances since 2005.
“Headphones & Snowcones” gives fans access to professional headphones and a soundboard quality mix at their shows. In 2010, the band debuted UMBowl, an interactive concert in four sets. Ticket-purchasers are sent ballots to vote for selections and others are based on text submissions.
“We’ve been the same band since the end of 2002,” says Cummins. “Notre Dame and South Bend aren’t exactly known for having a lively music scene, so we were really the only kids in school there that wanted to play music professionally in a rock band.
“We’ve played over 2,400 shows together over 21 years and we’ve treated our entire operation like family.
“It’s been really important for the six of us to remain close friends throughout our career and I think that invariably comes through in the music.
“We’ve also created a lot of ways to communicate musical directions while performing live, so there is also an actual conversation happening that helps us stay focused with our sound,” says Cummins.
“Umphrey’s McGee has taken a lot of small steps in the right direction over the years. While there’s no singular moment that really defines when we became successful, I think there is a chain of decisions that added up over time.
“We toured on our terms, released music on our terms and continued to try to play in front of new fans by playing at various festivals. We’ve also spent a lot of time honing our studio sound and trying to write the best songs we know how to,” Cummins says.
“Lots of people come to the shows to check out the improvisation, but I would say just as many are fans of our compositions. We have such a wide variety of songs. We have some fans of our heavier music, some fans of our more melodic tunes and some fans of dancier material.
“If you don’t like what you hear right now, just wait five minutes,” Cummins quips.
Tickets: Penn’s Peak box office, 325 Maury Road, Jim Thorpe; pennspeak.com; ticketmaster.com; 800-745-3000