Last week, one of the coldest Februaries in recent years came to a close. Instead of watching the snow fall from home, I decided to hit the road for a trio of shows. The North Mississippi Allstars were headed to the northeast accompanied by the City Champs. Since two of my favorite venues were hosting, I had to hit both regardless of the elements. Umphrey's McGee was also coming to Philadelphia on Saturday. They brought with them Eric Kranso (Soulive) and Chapter 2. Six perfomances in three days sounded like a great way to stay warm to me!
Everything about Thursday night at the World Cafe Live was perfect. The snow was falling, just enough hardcores braved the weather, and I run into Luther Dickinson right before the Allstars' set. The exchange was brief, but definitely a cool part of the night. I'll have to remember to take a picture of their tour bus next time because it's definitely old school.
The City Champs blew me away with a solid seven song, forty-five minute set of Memphis music. The three piece comes at you from all angles with very danceable tunes anchored by Al Gamble on organ. The Leslie sounded amazing Downstairs at the WCL. I'm glad I got a chance to see them since it's undetermined when they'll be back around.
It was warming up by the time the North Mississippi Allstars took the stage. I can say without a doubt that this was the best performance I've ever seen from these guys. The pace started out fierce, peaking with Shake and continuing through Sugartown. Things got really good when Gamble came back out to the keys for Eyes and Storm. The set was sprinkled with some of my favorites and songs I've never heard. Luther tore up the last two songs of the set: Hear My Train A Comin' into Let My Baby Ride.
Good to see everyone from Team Philly who made it out. It's always better to have four different Schoeps rigs in attendance: mk4/8(m/s)>NBox, mk4>NBox, mk4>CMC6>V3>AD2K, and mk41>NBox. No excuses, just Schoeps :)
North Mississippi Allstars @ the WCL [Download or Listen on the LMA]
The City Champs @ the WCL [Download Torrent] [Download mp3s]
Night two was more of the same from these two bands. We just barely made the beginning of the City Champs set after a long day and were rewarded with a Luther sit in. I'm not sure of the title, but it ended the set and was the longest song played. This gave Gamble and George Sluppick time to weave though the guitar work of Luther and Joe Restivo.
North Mississippi's set varied in song selection enough to keep it interesting. Even the songs they did repeat had both a different tone and feel. After all, this was Friday night in the Big Apple. In typical move of NMA hospitality, the City Champs got a little more time onstage than the previous night. Gamble's presence was equally enjoyable. The Allstars with an organ onstage is a beautiful thing. Other highlights include Circle In The Sky, Mark On The Bus, Moonshine, Keep The Devil Down, and a duo with Chris Chew and Luther called Capricorn Brairpatch. Another strong taping turnout including Rory and Dan (check out his blog NYCTaper).
North Mississippi Allstars @ the Highline Ballroom [Download or Listen on the LMA]
The City Champs @ the Highline [Download Torrent] [Download mp3s]
The final night of the three night run found me back in Philadelphia for Umphrey's McGee. Eric Krasno of Soulive and Chapter 2 got the evening started with some smooth jazz guitar. I never heard of Chapter 2, but have seen Kranso with Soulive and Adam Deitch drumming most recently with Break Science. They were a tremendous opener and set the precedence for a Beatles kind of night with their improv fueled cover of Get Back.
I'll always admit Umphrey's McGee has become very hit or miss for me. I will, however, give credit when it's due. Tonight was one of those nights more than worthy of my praise. With the exception of Cemetery Walk, the entire first set was a nonstop dance party. Wappy Sprayberry is one of my new favorite Umphrey's songs after this night. What a way to start the show, especially with Partyin' Peeps to follow! Snucka with Kranso and Deitch came as an early first set treat. It bookmarked a series of songs that rounded the first out nicely.
I can't imagine how the second set would be anything but a dream set for any umphreak. It was basically four perfectly executed segments, when put together formed an incredibly enjoyable set for anyone:
Divisions > Wanna Be Startin' Something (Michael Jackson tease) > The Floor
Start the set off with a staple of any good set with a little extra improv of MJ. I think The Floor and the segue into it really set the feeling for the entire set.
Ringo > Glory > Ringo
Glory is a piece of perfect music in my book, and wedged between a funky Ringo was well placed
A cover of Abbey Road from Mean Mr. Mustard through Carry That Weight
Um, yeah... are you F'in kidding me?!?! One of the best segments of any album of all time absolutely NAILED! I'm convinced Umphrey's can cover any song to a T.
2x2 > Mantis Ghetts > Divisions
I've been chasing 2x2 for a long time, so this one made me happy. Mantis was phenomenal and the obligatory ending to Divisions sealed it.
Oh yeah they played an intense 15 minute encore too. Top to bottom, this show was pretty incredible. I'm really glad Merin convinced me to run FOB for the first time at the Factory because the tape absolutely smokes! Good to see Tim and Tom making the trip from Baltimore too.
Umphrey's McGee @ the Electric Factory [Download or Listen on the LMA]
Eric Krasno & Chapter 2 @ the Electric Factory [Download Torrent] [Download mp3s]