Jim Thorpe venue Penn’s Peak gets jammy with Chicago band Umphrey’s McGee and New York-based TAUK
JIM THORPE — Umphrey’s McGee isn’t just playing Feb. 11 at Penn’s Peak; they’re providing the full UM experience. The band’s $40 Headphones & Snowcones service offers an alternative listening experience for concertgoers by giving them a direct wireless feed from the soundboard through a rented pair of Audio-Technica headphones. Fans who opt in will receive a free download of the night’s performance from UMLive, a service that has more than 1,100 of the band’s sets cataloged for download or on-demand viewing.
Technological advancements in the way entertainment is consumed have given UM a platform upon which to innovate, but each aspect of the band’s experience centers around its music. Different aspects of 37-year-old percussionist Andy Farag’s experiences have centered around music; his father is a concert promoter whose focus on doo-wop heavily influenced his musical interests until he met original UM drummer, Mike Miro, in high school. Teenage jam sessions led to the pair playing together in an improvisational group that gave its members room to play off their similarities and differences.
“A lot of us are all influenced by the same groups; The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and those kinds of people, but we all listen to all kinds of music,” Farag said. Jake Cinninger, guitar, “used to be in a country band when he was a teenager. He was also in a metal band too. Kris (Meyers, drummer) was in a ska band when he was in high school. There’s a lot of different influences and I think that helps us when we’re improvising on stage.”
The musical journey of Alric “A.C.” Carter, keyboardist for the New York-based band TAUK, hits a lot of the same notes as Farag’s. Carter said the improvisational instrumental band will bring a variety of influences on stage when they play Penn’s Peak with UM. Like Farag, Carter’s musical interests originate with a parent; in this case, his mother.
“I didn’t really have a choice,” Carter said. “My mom was a piano teacher and she went to music school in New York City back when she was a little younger so it has always been in my family. I did classical music; recitals. As far as I could remember I was playing.”
Carter began exploring the music world in junior high after a change in schools put him in contact with Matt Jalbert (guitar) and Charlie Dolan (bass). They formed a bond over a shared appreciation for jam bands like Phish and The Grateful Dead, and with the addition of Isaac Teel (drums), that bond evolved into a band. Carter said that TAUK tries to create compositions that give listeners something to take away with them, and they’re carrying that sentiment into the studio as they put the finishing touches on their upcoming release.
“We have a lot of material to work with and right now this album is shaping up to be very strong,” Carter said. “It’s hard to decide which songs are going to be on the album, but that problem is a good problem when you’re recording. “It’s a slightly new direction for us but nothing too crazy different; we’re just excited.”
Farag said Umphrey’s McGee is also getting into the studio this year, but until then “The London Sessions” stands as the band’s last studio effort. Recorded April 7, 2015, during one 12-hour session at Abbey Road’s Studio 2, “The London Sessions” consists of new UM material, retooled versions of setlist regulars and the first cover the band has released on an album in The Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” Recording a full-length studio album in 12 hours is an unconventional experience as it is, but to do it at Abbey Road was something Farag said was “surreal.”
“They still have all the old recording equipment in the hallway,” Farag said. “It was just a really special place. We got in there and get everything set up and we made a big list of songs that we thought we might want to do. We were going to try and record an EP, just maybe 3, 4 songs … we ended up getting 10 or 12 songs and it was a great feeling knowing we got so much done in that short amount of time.”
“The London Sessions” may mark the first time UM has put a cover on one of their studio albums, but the band plans to play one or two covers a night during what Farag referred to as the beginning of their busiest time of year. According to the percussionist, UM loves playing Penn’s Peak, and with self-described “live band” TAUK on the bill, Jim Thorpe is about to get jammy.
Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts
IF YOU GO
Who: Chicago’s Umphrey’s McGee and New York’s TAUK
Where: Penn’s Peak, 325 Maury Road, Jim Thorpe
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11. Doors open at 7 p.m.
How Much: $25 in advance, $30 day of show