Having had been to concerts ranging from Taylor Swift to Dark Star Orchestra to Slightly Stoopid, I expected the January 20th Umphrey’s McGee concert at The National in downtown Richmond to be just another typical concert experience. Most concerts I’ve been to were mainly comprised of spending time with friends and watching the artist, while the music simply played in the background. My father, investment manager and music enthusiast David Lyons, suggested the band Umphrey’s McGee to me after he realized our shared love for jam bands. I looked into the 19 year-old jam band, founded at the University of Notre Dame, and fell in love with their music. After listening to their songs on Spotify for several months, it was time to go see them in concert.
I suggested the idea to Ben Tavenner (‘18) and Connor McGloin (‘18) as we quickly realized that we should all go together. Making the plans months in advance, we settled on going to the January 21st concert, their second of two nights at The National. As the concert date approached, we realized we had not yet bought our tickets and were saddened to find the concert to be sold out. The worst case scenario had come upon us, as Tavenner and I would have to go to the concert the night before our SAT. This meant that not only would we have to leave early, but we would also not enjoy the music as much, since we would be thinking about our test the next day. Despite the circumstances, all three of us went to the concert, staying until 11:00 p.m. and loving every second of it.
Walking into The National, we did not quite know what to expect. I had assumed the concert wouldn’t be worth the pricey $40 we spent per ticket. Meanwhile, Tavenner claims “Before going in, I was stoked. I listened to a bunch of their music and just hoped they’d sound just as good live.” We got our money’s worth. Not only was the music outstanding, but the experience was unmatched by any concert. Umphrey’s McGee is known for their jam band qualities, but none of us expected to hear their most famous songs played in such an unusual fashion. Despite being optimistic about the concert prior to going inside, Tavenner found that, “When they really started playing, they blew my expectations out of the water.” The band would even improvise the songs as they carried on, making each one better than what we had heard on Spotify. Although I had heard their song “Mantis Ghetts” numerous times, the band played some notes of the song completely different from the versions I had listened to prior. Even songs I didn’t recognize were just amazing, such as “Andy’s Last Beer.”
McGloin, who had known little about the band prior to the concert, claims “I was weirded out by the people outside the venue, but I loved the whole show, even though I didn’t know many songs.” With such remarkable concerts, the band attracts a wide array of fans. Some fans appeared as if they had just left a fraternity party or come straight out of Woodstock. Tie dye shirts were incredibly popular amongst fans as they swayed their bodies to the music. The music was loud and damaged my hearing for a few hours after leaving the concert, which didn’t bother me one bit.
Not only was the band outstanding, but also the lighting of the venue was incredible. It may sound strange to pay attention to the stage lighting, but Umphrey’s McGee is known for having an array of colors flashing while they play. The light patterns changed with the music’s tempo, which made the concert a visual show as well. Watching the band, lights, and fans dance, it became easy to ignore the smell of alcohol and sweat within the tightly-packed venue.
Umphrey’s McGee delivers an outstanding performance while giving the audience a memorable time, thus making it one of, if not the best, concert I’ve ever been to. The audience loved every second of the concert, and, despite having to leave early, I had a blast as well. With this year marking Umphrey’s McGee’s 19th anniversary, it is easy to see how the band has been able to survive through the years. The band has been coming to Richmond to play annually for several years now, and next year I’d recommend the concert to be a must-see. Just remember to purchase your tickets in advance to ensure you don’t end up having to leave the concert early for the SAT.
Photos by Spencer Lyons.