Concert Preview: Umphrey’s McGee UMbowl at Lincoln Hall

Like they did with their “S2” events last fall, Chicago-based jam-band Umphrey’s McGee is putting on the first ever UMbowl tonight. It’s a four-quarter interactive concert experiment that’s once again pushing the limits of  fan-to-band live music interaction.

Umphrey’s McGee has a history of coming up with new ways to engage fans during the live show and the UMbowl seems like another innovative step forward as they push boundaries and try out new ways of using technologies during their concerts.

The UMbowl will take place tonight  April 24th at Lincoln Hall in Chicago. Tickets sold out within a week of going on sale, but whether you’re going or not, just reading this details should make you very curious about what this type of concert will be like.

And ever since I saw them live for the first time at Summer Camp in 2008 I’ve been impressed by their live improvisation style and the close and open connection they have with their fans during their shows and how they interact with each other as they mix all sorts of musical genres together.

The evening-long UMbowl concert is set to last five-hours and will be styled to emulate a football game with four “quarters” of unique musical performances that will actually be generated by audience input.

It’s a continuation of Umphrey McGee’s S2 Series that they tested out last fall as they continued to tour in the wake of their latest album Mantis.

Half the night’s music will be determined by text messaging on “gameday” itself and here are some more details.

UMbowl Quarter-by-Quarter Breakdown:

  • Quarter 1: will be an acoustic set entirely chosen by attendees; ticket holders will receive ballots and cast votes on the songs to be performed.
  • Quarter 2:  will be a wholly improvised performance driven by bi-directional texting, sifted and delivered by “offensive coordinator” (and longtime Umphrey’s sound caresser) Kevin Browning to the band, which will then use the audience input to construct their jams.
  • Quarter 3: will be an all-request segment, with songs again determined by pre-balloting from the audience members. Fans will be able to vote not just on song selection but actually how those songs are arranged and varied from their original form.
  • Quarter 4: the live audience will actually act as the group’s quarterback, “calling audibles” to direct the course of a free-flowing set via text messages sent to Browning in response to choices projected on an in-house screen.

As I wondered before, the “S2” series, that relied on text-messaging, was indeed a smaller experiment to test things out before the UMbowl.

And when I first heard about the UMbowl earlier this year I was instantly intrigued by the concept.  And since I didn’t get a chance to experience any of the S2 shows, I’m looking forward to seeing how the band and the fans will interact tonight.

What’s Your Game Plan?
If you’re going to the show be sure to follow along as I do another Live Twitter Experiment and sending out reactions and real-time tweets during the show.

Were you at any of the S2 events? How was your experience and what are your expectations for the UMbowl.
and it looks like that was test because they will be using the same element during the UMBowl in Q4.

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