Midwestern collective Umphrey’s McGee has the reputation for being a jam band. But on their new Live DVD, one quickly notes that it is challenging to pin them down in this genre without expanding its boundaries. To be sure, there are elements of their music-making that give nods to both Phish and the Dave Matthews Band: vocal mannerisms, long form solos, and a penchant for highlighting each member of the outfit in succession. A few places evince jazz inflections – polyrhythmic postbop drum patterns and sinuous chord progressions.
Umphrey’s also adopts facets of neoprog, occasionally delving into complex song structures and indulging in particularly arcane lyrics. Added to the mix is a clean cut, Midwestern gentility that makes them – and much of their audience on Live – seem entirely different from the vibe at, say, a Grateful Dead show.
True, there are stretches where one feels the solos are a bit indulgent and overlong, but that comes with the territory. (For pithier statements, one might try their latest studio effort, Mantis.) Overall, Live gives one a nice taste of Umphrey’s singular brand of postmillennial jamming.