Often before a show, I experience some form of pre-show anxiety ranging from concerns about the length and time of the line to get in, to what songs I will be treated to that night. There was no such anxiety on this Valentine’s Day evening. I was just glad to be able to make it — working in the restaurant industry, I was almost certain I would be scheduled on what is one of the busiest nights of the year.
I drove straight to Brooklyn from pseudo Upstate NY and arrived early enough to have a cozy holiday dinner date with the proprietor of 52showsayear.com. I can’t remember the name of the joint, but I do know that I ordered chicken wangs. Chicken wangs, not wings. Don’t get it twisted! We had a quick (but not rushed) meal and waltzed over to Brooklyn Steel early to set up a service table and wait for our pal AC.
After setting up and making some Valentine’s cards for all in attendance, I headed into the concert area to grab a spot toward the rail. I don’t spend time up front at shows like I used to in my younger, wilder days, but if I am in early enough that there is no crowd to fight through to the front, I always take the opportunity to catch a few of the openings songs as close as possible.
I have a long history with Umphrey’s McGee — they are the first jam band I fell in love with dating back to their 4th of July 2009 Ringo -> Eminence Front -> Ringo at Rothbury. These guys are special to me, and though I do not chase them quite like I used to, I still make an effort to catch them whenever it is feasible (feasibility for me has evolved tremendously over the years, to say the least, thanks to an uptick in responsible living). Suffice to say I was delighted to spend at least the beginning of the show up front with my original jam band love.
No time was wasted as Umph got weird quickly with an early Blue Echo followed closely by a classic ripper, Bridgeless. Set 1 included another all time favorite, Rocker Part 2, a perfect blend of straight rock and groovy dance riffs. The sextet ended the first set with a sexy, dancy cover of Prince’s I Wanna Be Your Lover for the fans in heat.
I spent set break hanging with the fellas at the table and the (assistant?) tour manager for Umphrey’s came over to talk with us and let us know he is in the loop. We had a nice chat before I headed back in to catch the start of set 2 from a bit further back. I’ve found that though the rail may seem more exciting, a spot a bit further back provides a better view of the stage and lights, not to mention much more room to dance. I feel like I am missing out on the totality of the live music experience when I don’t have enough room to groove — I’d go so far as to say this is even more important than having a good line on the visual aspect of a live performance. Set 2 opened with the always pleasing and heavy Ringo (including some YYZ teases) followed by one of my favorite Umph songs to dance to, Day Nurse (I seriously couldn’t not dance to this jam if I tried), and the metal influenced face smelting 1348.
I had to call it quits after that — my 2nd job beckoned late that very evening and also commanded an early wake up the following morning. Not too long ago, I would not dare leave a show early for countless reasons, reasonable or not. Thursday night, I had no qualms leaving knowing that I caught some bona fide Umph classics and spent some good time with two good friends. I was heading home to take care of the responsibilities that allow me to go to so many more shows now than I used to. Something about feasibility and responsibility.