Professional golf and improvisational prog-rock may seem like an odd combination. Not when the boys from Umphrey’s McGee come to town during a major championship for the aptly named Major Rager. The event started out back in 2014 and has gone down in Augusta during the Master’s every year since. Looking to expand, a second installment was added this year in Charlotte to coincide with the PGA Championship. The guys from UM were joined by Moon Taxi as they teed off at the gorgeous Symphony Park. There were no golf claps here, folks – this was most definitely a rager. Here’s a short review of the show, interspersed with some golf-related questions that a few band members answered for us.
I know you guys love golf, but you’re always out on the road. How often do you get out there to hit the links with your busy tour schedule?
- Andy Farag – 2-3 times a week
- Joel Cummins – I probably play more on the road than I do at home. 15-20 rounds a year.
- Kris Myers – 15-20 rounds/year
- Ryan Stasik – About 20 times a year, mostly in the Fall.
Having just flown up from Mexico and straight into the last weekend of the Phish Baker’s Dozen run in New York, I was riding the struggle bus into Charlotte. Sadly we missed out on Moon Taxi’s set, but we walked in just as Umph kicked into their set-opening “Push the Pig.” My first experience working a show as a Camp Counselor started off in an interesting fashion. The guy checking people in had clearly thrown back a few, and struggled to find my name on the list. “You seem legit,” he mumbled, as he placed a wristband on me and tossed a few drink tickets my way for good measure. He was even generous enough to give my wife the same, who was waiting in line to buy her ticket. Hooray, drunk people!
Do you have a favorite course to play?
- AF – Bulls Bay Golf Club
- JC – St. Andrews with Dad has to be tops
- KM – Brandon Dunes
- RS – Bandon Dunes
Symphony Park seemed like an odd choice for a band known for their partying peeps, as it’s definitely a classy joint. They usually host orchestras here, so it was a huge change of pace having a rawk show in town. It’s a beautiful venue, with its most interesting feature pointed out several times by Brendan Bayliss. “We’ve never played a venue with a moat before!” There were no rail riders at this show, and you had to be careful not to groove too hard in the front row so as not to fall in.
Who has the longest drive in the band?
- AF – Joel
- JC – Me, 330 yds at Wynstone
- KM – Farag
- RS – Farag
Thanks to the gig being related to the golf tournament, there were plenty of people who were clearly attending their first UM show and were just there for the party. There were far more collared shirts and bros double-fisting Michelob Ultra here than I’d seen in any of my previous 112 Umphrey’s shows. Speaking of outfits, Ryan Stasik came dressed up as Tony D’Annunzio from the cult classic “Caddy Shack.” The movie was quoted several times throughout the night in reference to his get-up – “Well I ain’t payin’ no 50 cents for no Coke!”
- AF – Myers
- JC – Me, obviously!
- KM – I might be neck and neck with Farag.
- RS – Me
Given the circumstances, it would have been understandable for them to play it safe and deliver more of a straight up rock show. Both newbs and hardcore fans alike were instead treated to a solid two-set show full of heavy hitters, great covers, and solid improv.
Mashups are kind of UM’s thing, and they nailed their “Life During Exodus” that mixes the Talking Heads with Bob Marley and a bit of Frank Zappa for good measure. Two fans in attendance marked their 100th show in style with the band playing their requested “Blue Echo.” A solid “Ringo” closed out the front nine as us “bunch of greasy animals” in the crowd went wild.
Who’s the best dressed on the course?
- AF – Stasik, duh
- JC – Ryan wins for the most original outfits. You never know what he’ll show up in!
- KM – For originality and flare, Stasik. For class, me baby!
- RS – Me, by a long shot. (No pun intended)
It being an UM show in the south, it was fitting to dub the venue “Waful House” for the evening. Lighting director extraordinaire Jefferson Waful showed off the band’s new toys for 2017 in impressive fashion. He’s one of the best in the business, and his ability to follow the band through their extended improv workouts is mind-blowing. Some like to be right up front in the thick of it, but I’d much rather stand by the soundboard to take in the light show and watch Waful at work.
The band was firing on all cylinders for Set Two, kicking things off with a dark “Draconian” before slipping into the crowd-pleasing “Andy’s Last Beer.” The fans showed just how many they had consumed in their botched attempt at clapping along to the song’s tricky time signature. In my humble opinion, UM is the best cover band out there, and they reminded us why with an epic version of “I Ran” by A Flock of Seagulls. Having only previously seen them play this one way back at their legendary Bonnaroo ’04 late night, I was ecstatic to say the least.
If UM were a pro golfer, who would they be?
- AF – Dustin Johnson
- JC – Rory McIlroy…. good game on and off the course while not being afraid to talk some smack.
- KM – Craig Stadler, Because I am the walrus!
- RS – John Fuckin’ Daly. Hit it hard man!
A solid version of “Example 1” followed, with a lengthy drums segment in the middle. Jake even put down his guitar and joined Myers on the kit for a while. The dude is a musical genius and could probably jam on a trombone if you put one in his hands. A stand-out “Miss Tinkle’s Overture” closed out the set – the most rocking song ever written about peeing on a sleeping bag. With the amount of beers drank at this show, it was only fitting that “40’s Theme” took the encore slot.
As they usually do, UM left the crowd clamoring for more. Thankfully for many in attendance, there are numerous opportunities within a few hours as the boys make their way around the southeast to wind down their summer tour. As for us SCampers, we’re fortunate enough to have these guys as headliners every year, and we’re all already looking forward to a weekend full of Umph Love next Memorial Day!