Hayley Jane and the Primates (HJP) are opening for Umphrey’s McGee (UM)?! The ad popped up on my facebook feed sometime in the late fall and I instantly bought a ticket and tagged a dozen people. This show is exciting for a number of reasons: Huge potential for HJP earning a new fanbase, a huge venue with great sound and lights, and how badass is it to say you opened for UM?! Actually, I was almost more impressed they opened for Ike Willis.
The show was at the relatively new Fillmore in Philly on a drizzly Saturday in January. My first show of the year! The evening started with friend and his crew getting a bite at a nearby, super hip diner. They were on their way to see Horseshoes and Hand Grenades open for Infamous Stringdusters. Now that I think of it, this is the same weekend I saw the Stringdusters last year, also in Philly. We played wingman for our buddy through the meal but the waitress was just too busy. She says she’s a music fan and so maybe he’ll see her at a show soon. He gave me a ride to the Fillmore and I wished him better luck at finding love with the bluegrass crowd.
The Fillmore is across from the new casino in town and tucked among some smaller venues including a comedy club, and some restaurants. The entire area felt shiny and new. It was a similar sensation to seeing LCD Soundsystem at the opening of Brooklyn Steel. The staff was friendly and there was no line (I was way early; no chance I was going to miss HJP!) so we all moved in quickly. Past the merch and the UM headphone program thing (where you can rent a set to hear the show direct from the boards), there is a large bar next to a VW bus painted “60’s themed.” That’s the best way to describe it. I imagine some suit at a meeting drawing a rectangle on a blueprint with the label “60s themed VW.” It had a peace sign and a picture of Hendrix but it looked way too clean. It made me miss The Wetlands. On top of the bus was a DJ spinning an upbeat dance groove with funk samples laid on top. It was almost the sort of thing we get at ecstatic dance. My legs and back were already sore so I decided to save my strength.
Walking into the main room takes you past another wide bar backed by horizontal wooden slats that would allow the light show to filter through. Around the bar I walked into the sprawling main room. Bathed in blue light with four massive chandeliers on the ceiling, the room was still filling with people but we all seemed small in the space. The wide stage stood tall above the crowd and was flanked by huge new speakers dwarfed only by the elaborate light rigging. I wasn’t sure how much of the rig belonged to UM but the space could certainly accommodate. I immediately took a picture and sent it to Hayley Jane. “Are you friggin kidding me?! This is amazing!”
This show became the “I told you so,” show. My friend Iron Man lives 15 minutes from the venue and a few years ago when I heard that he was a huge Dream Theater fan I assumed he loved UM too. He had never heard them. I finally got him to hear a bit but tonight was his first show. He runs a rehearsal space and was checking out the equipment. “They have a cool light show I assume?” Yes, dude… yes. Also in attendance were Will and Cait who drove up from Baltimore for the gig. I’ve been telling them about HJP for years and they are UM vets. We stood together for HJP and I watched them all get to see this performance for the first time. On a massive stage with pro sounds and amazing lights no less. I would love to see HJP for the first time again and it was an epic show. Relegated to the power hour set, they did a fantastic job picking songs that carried the emotions and range of styles while highlighting the beautiful dancers. The set ended and all three friends turned to me with smiles. “I wish I had seen them years ago when you first told me.”
The DJ was back in full effect. Plenty of conversations to start, lots of merch to check out, and most importantly, I needed to shift mental gears to hear UM. They did come on, they did rock, and while they played I had time to catch up with HJP and the extended family. During their set I had a vision for the band but for now, I’m only sharing it with them. I’ll let you know when it comes true.
My body was sore when I got to the gig but the set break scene got me dancing. VW bus man got me going. Mere exposure? Ecstatic Dance vibes? Not sure. I hit the floor and made a new friend. “That was fun, thanks for dancing with me, this is my boyfriend, he’s an asshole.” I may never see you again but I hope you, your eastern European accent, and your asshole boyfriend all find balance.
The UM set was terrific. Funky, heavy, jazzy, jammy. A nice balance of styles highlighted all their vibes I saw some of them peering from behind the curtain at the HJP set, perhaps they were inspired? At the end of the night,I got confirmation from the UM mega fans that it was indeed a great show. More smiles from friends in the crowd as I headed outside to catch my ride and hear all about the Stringdusters. My first show of 2018. So far so good!0 likes