Umphrey’s McGee: Jammin’ South Lake Tahoe

Umphrey’s McGee is a quintessential jam band that has been referred to as a legacy underground act.

Together for 18 years the band has produced more than 180 original tunes. Original member and keyboardist Joel Cummins met and formed the band with guitarist Brandon Bayliss, bassist Ryan Stasik and original drummer Mike Mirro in school at Notre Dame. Guitarist Jake Cinninger and percussionist Andy Farag joined the group a year later. Mirro left the band in 2002 and was replaced by drummer Kris Myers.

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March 24  |  7:15 p.m.  |  $27.52  |  21+  |  Harrah’s Tahoe  |  Stateline, Nev.

“Kris is one of the most amazing drummers I’ve played with. He hides the downbeat and you need to be on your game with the beat,” said Cummins.

With a hybrid of live albums and studio albums, the band has had 20 official releases. Their last studio project, “The London Session,” was produced at the legendary Abbey Road Studio in London, recorded in 12 hours and released in 2015.

Cummins credits their dynamic shows not only to the music and talent of the band but also to Jefferson Waful for his outstanding lighting production.

“Forty percent of the bands live show is improvising. We create a language with the instruments and each other along with a custom light show. The lights and music compliment that and give the music an unusual quality. We have six people on the same page and we need to understand each other,” explains Cummins.

“Cinninger and Myers offer a heavier edge. They go back and forth with each other and create a uniqueness of sound. Rhythmically, they understand each other. Their complex rhythm is what gives a larger variety of sounds,” he notes.

Light shows and music conjures images of Pink Floyd, which Cummins notes as a huge inspiration for the band.

“The band is unique and covers some more obscure music from the likes of Chick Corea and Al Dimeola,” explains Cummins.

Much of their wide repertoire is an extension of Cummins’ classical piano background. Ragtime, jazz, blues and rock from the 70s and 80s also influence their music citing Queen, Led Zeppelin and the Beatles as inspirations.

Lyrics and songwriting are a team effort. Cummins writes his lyrics down with a few key words, while Bayliss and Cinninger write much of the group’s material.

“The thing about music is it brings us together and creates something profound,” Cummins, a theology major explains.

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“Forty percent of the bands live show is improvising.
We create a language with the instruments and each
other along with a custom light show.”

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Umphrey’s McGee loves engaging their fans. Three years ago, they created the UmBowl. The event encourages fans to vote for their favorite songs for the band to play. The audience texts and requests appear on a large screen while the band is jamming.

“It’s a very interactive thing,” explains Cummins of the UmBowl experience. The event held at the Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas features a marathon four-quarter show with each unique set unfolding based on the will of the fans, coupled with original Umphrey McGee video shorts and a heavy dose of fan participation.

Performing at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe South Shore Room on March 24 with Tauk, Cummins said that he is thrilled to return to Tahoe and bring great jams to their fans old and new.

For more information and tickets, visit harrahstahoe.com.