It’s an interesting thing when you can quite literally watch an artist grow. Sometimes the ascent is quite rapid. Many in Tuscaloosa can remember seeing the Alabama Shakes playing at local bars and then opening for Neil Young in less than a year. But more often than not, the growth of an artist is a very slow process. While this may mean they have to wait for the fruit of their labors to become ripe, it also means a loyal fanbase that will stick with you after the critical praise and mainstream radio are gone. It’s that type of foundation that can lead to a long, impactful career in music.
In several ways, Umphrey’s McGee appears to be one of those bands on the rise. Their name keep creeping towards the top of festival lineups, and their choice of venues is growing to include larger crowds. But those who have followed UM can tell you the success has been over a decade in the making. This is a group that formed back in the late 1990’s at Notre Dame before relocating to Chicago. Their main introduction to larger audiences came at the very first Bonnaroo in 2002, and they have been welcomed back to the festival several times as it has grown, including playing the main stage at this year’s event. They have also formed a partnership with the band moe. to host another wildly successful music festival: Summercamp.
On August 28th, Umphrey’s McGee will return to play in Tuscaloosa, and their growth can be noted by which venue they will perform in. Twice in the past they played the Bama Theatre. Given Umphrey’s impressive light show and the artist’s proximity to the crowd, both performances were filled with energy, maybe even too much. The crowds at those shows got wild, even leading to some audience members trying to climb on stage and scaffolding. I would venture to say that the management at the Bama did not approve. Still, the shows were fun and the band played well. However, two years ago they played on campus for Greekfest, opening for Nelly. The show was short, and the crowd was not very into the group. It was easily their worst performance I’ve seen. However, in August they will be playing at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheatre.
There will certainly be a major difference going from a 1,000-seat theatre like the Bama to a 7,000-seat outdoor-amphitheater. But Umphrey’s are no strangers to these types of venues as most of their career has been spent doing outdoor festivals all over the country. But the move still puzzles me with regards to the management at the Amp. This is a venue that struggles to sell out for much more well-known acts. No doubt UM carries a much less expensive price tag, but I wonder just how many tickets they can sell for a Thursday show. Certainly the return of University students for fall semester helps as they will be the target audience, but the choice remains odd.
However, I will be there nonetheless. This is one of my favorite bands to see live and I can’t pass up the opportunity to see them in Tuscaloosa again. I wonder if the upward momentum of their name will continue, and I wonder just what impression they will leave on the Amp. Still, I will enjoy the music while it lasts. Just like success could always be just around the corner, so too could be the end of a group.

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.