The Mantras and Umphrey’s McGee

The National in Richmond, VA 1/26/12

Show Review

written by Stevie Nutter & George Jones

Saturday, January 26th was my first time in Richmond and my first time seeing Umphrey’s Mcgee live. The experience absolutely was phenomenal!

The ride from West Virginia was easy, mostly highways which were nice. When we arrived at the hotel we got cleaned up and went out on a stroll to find a local restaurant to get some food. We were walking up and down Broad Street but couldn’t find anywhere that my phone application was telling me so we decide to eat at the restaurant that was in the hotel. Right before we left to go to the venue, we stopped at our friends’ room to hang out and have a quick beer. Luckily for us The National was a block away from our hotel so we didn’t have to leave to early. The venue was pretty big, it was an old movie theatre so it had the balcony with the chairs and the lower floor was slanted down toward the stage, I thought that was pretty interesting. The only downfall was the smoking area. It was a little area outside on the side of the building, kind of reminded me like a blocked off alley but I couldn’t tell because there was so many people in this small area! It was an overall really nice place though; I definitely cannot wait to go back.

The Mantras opened for Umphrey’s Mcgee treating the crowd with their high-energy fusion of funk, rock, electronica, metal, and more. Setting the perfect pace and tone for the night, they definitely were a solid opener for Umphrey’s getting the crowd pumped and ready to rage.  The Mantras came out and showed everyone that they really knew how to throw down and show you what they can do. During the course of the set I found out they have a festival, Mantrabash, which I can’t wait to check it out. The Mantras’ also recently came out with a new album called Jam Bands Ruined My Life, released now for a short time on their bandcamp website:, which features Jake Cinninger, guitarist for Umphrey’s McGee, in a few songs.

The Mantras opened the set with first track off their new album “Before My Time” a quirky little tune with undeniable energy and appeal showcasing vocalist and guitarist Keith Allen’s skills and style along with keyboardist Justin W. Powell. Next they brought the electronic and the eclectic with the tune “Dirt Nap” to get the crowd moving and swaying to the trancy beats and flows highlighted by the percussion skills of Brent Vaughn and Justin Loew. Next up was “Dr. Sanasinod” with the driving bass beats and flows of Brian Tyndall taking the front seat making the room start to dance and groove along with the band on the stage. This was followed up by “Magillicuddy” and high energy dance tune with rising keyboards and guitar riffs through showcasing the skills of the band and taking the crowd for a wild ride of reckless abandon. For their last three songs the band was joined by Jake from Umphrey’s to the elation of the crowd. They played two songs from their new album “House Of Cards” and “Kinetic Bump,” both of which Jake sat in with during recording at his Boondock Studios in Michigan as a guest producer and engineer. “House of Cards” is a smoky little groove with teasing guitars that build and fade with intertwining drums and percussion laced with precise keys. “Kinetic Bump” showcases why the Mantras are a growing force in the jam scene with its frantic pace, and trancy rhythm backed by strong guitar riffs that drive the beat further and faster as the song progresses.  For their last song The Mantras played a cover of “Sabotage” by The Beastie Boys. Keith Allen set down his guitar for this one and picked up his mic and Shark puppet while Jake took the reins on guitar. The sheer intensity and passion of this was bewildering. The crowd went insane, the roof was blown off, and everyone was left wondering what on earth we were in store for from Umphrey’s Mcgee. Talk about a perfect set ender, showing us once again they really knew how to bring it to a crowd and end with a memory.

Seeing Umphrey’sMcgee play live was definitely a mind-blowing first experience. The band came out with guitarist/vocalist Brendan Bayliss telling us that being at The National was a great place and way to end the first leg of their fifteenth anniversary tour. Asking us “Are you ready for the most epic evening of your life? ‘Cause we’re gonna burn the house down.”

The first set opened with smooth funky version of “Prowler” flowing seamlessly into “The Floor” driving the energy up and working the crowd into a frenzy. The musical assault continued into “Mail Package” and “Tribute to the Spinal Shaft” followed by the crowd favorite ZZ top cover “Cheap Sunglasses.” The first set wrapped up with a phenomenal version of “Day Nurse,” and a funky little throw down of “No Comment.” They had me and everyone else going crazy as they closed the first set with driven version of “Miss Tinkle’s Overture” with its beat flow and Jake Cinninger’s guitar work that pushes and pulls you as it moves along. Umphrey’s really delivered on this one and I was honored to get to hear this song live. It’s one of my favorite songs and they killed it! The second set opened almost hauntingly with Joel Cummins on keyboards for a version of “Jekyll & Hyde” that rolled along like a freight train picking up speed on sharp incline. Next up was a true treat for the original Jamwichers with me–an almost thirty minute sandwich of two of their favorite Umphrey’s songs: “Puppet String” into “Hajimemashite” back into “Puppet String.” Next, the band was joined by DJ Williams of Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe on guitar for the song “13 Days.” With its funky little rhythms DJ stepped up and took a place with the band for this one. This song is always a crowd favorite and a sing along experience and Mister Williams’ performance only added more to it. Next up was a crazy drum filled version of “Wappy Sprayberry” with drummer Kris Myers urging us to get our hands in the air and bodies moving at the beginning of the song. He and percussionist Andy Farag kept the beat moving and changing in this as well as every song of the night.  They closed the second set with a tremendous version of “Bridgeless” showcasing the bass talents of one mister Ryan Stasik as the crowd bounced and swayed to their hearts content.

After a little begging and pleading from the crowd the band came back to the stage play us a two song encore. Starting with “The Fussy Dutchman,” with its psychedelically flowing rhythm and changing tones, the crowd swayed and waved to flow of this one. They closed the night with one of their infamous mash up “Life During Exodus” where they take two or more songs and blend them together into something new and familiar. In this case the songs are the Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime” and Bob Marley’s “Exodus”.
What a treat this show was sonically, but that’s not all there is. Because as always, an Umphrey’s show is a treat for not just ears, your eyes are never left out. Their light show…I have no words to describe! The colors were breath taking. The way their lighting designer Jefferson Waful incorporated the lights to the music without preprogramming was just amazing. At one point I was seeing smoke rings in the light when it was pointing toward me, which was really cool to see! Toward the end of their set they used this rain/snow looking effect into a spiral. And to blow your mind away, which made me a little sick unfortunately, they did a sick strobe show that felt like it lasted ten minutes! I couldn’t watch the whole thing but what I did see it was hard to fathom! I wish the venue was smaller so I could have met the band.  They had me dancing and eager all night.  Their set was so much fun and upbeat. I wish it could have gone on all night. After seeing them live, I was just in awe! I couldn’t believe that I just saw them and how much of an impact they had on me. On the short walk back to the hotel I noticed a good portion of the crowd stayed at the Marriott with us. It looked like everyone had the same idea as we did, “The party must go on!”

After the show a few of us headed to the 3rd Street Diner to eat and hang out. They were pretty busy so we had to sit on the third floor which was good for us because it was a smoking room.  There we met a few locals who we befriended. They were drunk and rowdy, but hilarious. The one guy was asking me for my phone to call his girlfriend and he was mumbling so bad I couldn’t understand him. I had to use context clues! Then when I gave him my phone so he could dial her number he got confused on how to use my phone then started asking my friend to use his. After about ten minutes of getting distracted and trying to tell the number, he forgot what he was doing! Our one buddy had these cool glasses that he asked to put on, when he did he was doing the “look at me, I’m sexy and all that” poses. It was absolutely hilarious! With our two groups up there we took over the floor and called it the “VIP.”  After a while more people started coming up.  A group of 3 younger kids came and they had a bottle of liquor and soda, that’s when it really got fun! They started pouring people drinks and basically at that point the upstairs was just one big party. Other customers were coming up and using the restrooms on our floor, some just looked at us weird and some wanted to stay and converse with us. Every time someone came up our new friends put up their hands and yelled “VIP, welcome to the VIP room”

To top it off our waitress was outstanding. She didn’t care how loud we were being or what we were doing. This girl had the worst day ever but she was so cool. When we first got there you could see the steam coming out of her ears. Randomly when we were ordering our drinks the other group was trying to talk to her as well, at that point she basically boiled over and started venting about her night to us. In the middle she just stops and apologizes to us about everything, lights up a cigarette, and just continues. I felt so bad for her though. She had been working almost twelve hours by then when she should have left a while ago but was nice to stay and help. Not only that but supposedly the other waitresses were stealing her tips and talking behind her back. Now I have worked in food all my life I know how that is and I don’t know how she did it! I would have went off on everyone! She was definitely my idol. I couldn’t have been that relaxed after a night like that.

I definitely couldn’t ask for a better overall first experience with Umphrey’s Mcgee.  The music, places we adventured, people we met, and most importantly the people that we care about most were there to share this with me.