Umphrey’s McGee brought more than a show to the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in Asheville this weekend; they brought a tiny festival experience. Empire Strikes Brass got the party started early. The big brass band brought big brass energy just after sunset. The horns were blaring and the grooves were funky. Their soulful sound brought New Orleans vibes to the dancefloor. Those who didn’t make it out in time for their set truly missed out. They kicked the night off with excitement building in the arena.
Billy Strings stole the night. The way he manages to pick so fast yet so clean on that guitar is incredible. It doesn’t quite seem possible. Billy pulled out hits like “Turmoil and Tinfoil” and “Dust in a Baggie”. His progression from the clean-cut country boy seen on the cover of his 2016 self-titled EP to full blown bluegrass rock star was clear as he flipped his long locks in the wind while tearing it up on his acoustic guitar.
When Strings stepped off the stage, it felt like a whole concert had already occurred. The first two acts alone were worth the ticket price. It was hard to believe the night still had so much in store. Even with two openers, Umphrey’s managed to fit in two full sets, and an encore.
If you’ve seen Umphrey’s before, it goes without saying that their performance was incredible. Their ability to consistently rock the house goes unmatched. If you haven’t seen them live yet, go to their website right now and buy yourself a ticket. They’re probably coming to a city near you soon. They’re always touring. And if you’ve missed your chance this tour, or you’re still not quite convinced, just go ahead and buy yourself a ticket to Summer Camp Music Festival. You’ll have three nights to see them, alongside the festival hosts, Moe, and headliners like Ween, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Billy Strings, Griz, and Tipper.
Umphrey’s opened up their first set with “October Rain”. The lively set included the upbeat fan-favorite “Miss Tinkle’s Overture”, which had everyone dancing themselves silly. Members of Empire Strikes Brass joined Umphrey’s for their “National Loser Anthem” mashup, and accompanied the band for their last song of the set, “Bad Friday”. The horns section really added to the magic of the set. Umphrey’s and brass go together like peas and carrots.
The highlight of the night had to have been when Billy joined Umphrey’s back on stage during their second set. They collectively covered Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child”. Few guitar players deserve comparison to Hendrix, but Strings is definitely one of the select few. Strings will be remembered for decades to come as one of the best guitarists of our generation.
Umphrey’s kept the energy up after the Hendrix cover with another favorite, “Bridgeless”, which they jammed into “Night Nurse”, and then kept the jam going straight into “Attachments”. They ended their set with a classic, “Pay the Snucka”, into a reprise of “Bridgeless”. “Pay the Snucka” is always a lot of fun, with silly verses about each member of the band. It’s no wonder there’s a whole pin collection inspired by the song. Umphrey’s encored with “Half Delayed” into a continuation of “Pay the Snucka”, and left the audience both totally fulfilled, and totally wanting to keep the party going all night long.
Review by Cera Element
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