Life in KC

The Big Show: Umphrey’s McGee @ Crossroads KC

Umphrey’s McGee
Umphrey’s McGee CGS Photography

7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3, at Crossroads KC

Umphrey’s McGee is the world’s most interesting jam band. The Indiana-bred progressive rockers aren’t all about providing a soundtrack for drug binges — their music is entirely compelling to sober listeners.

The group’s improvisational style is based on muscular rock rather than flabby noodling. That approach has differentiated Umphrey’s McGee from its peers for nearly 20 years. Widespread Panic relies on bluesy thunder, Gov’t Mule specializes in Southern voodoo and Phish is known for meandering jams. Umphrey’s McGee is rooted in the melodic rock of innovative bands such as the Police, Genesis and Yes. The sextet also takes occasional forays into jazz and metal.

Umphrey’s McGee does, however, uphold one unfortunate jam band tradition that dates back to the Grateful Dead. The band’s colorless vocals contrast starkly with the kaleidoscopic instrumentation and startling visual effects its live shows are known for.

A promo for the band’s recent headlining gig at the Summer Camp Music Festival in Chillicothe, Ill., warned that Umphrey’s McGee “uses enough strobe lights and other retina-burning visual elements to render a yak infertile.”

The elaborate production and monumental improvisations at Wednesday’s show should make the use of mind-altering substances unnecessary — but revelers who insist on partaking might find that the band’s sophisticated jams are best paired with microbrews.

The Main Squeeze, a similarly burly jam band from Chicago, opens the show. Tickets cost $25-75 in advance at crossroadskc.com.

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