Umphrey’s McGee debuted its new experimental S2 project at Milwaukee’s Eagle’s Ballroom on October 3. Hosted as individual events before the band’s already scheduled shows, Umphrey’s Stew Art Series is a “crowd-sourced improvisation experiment, in which the band performers a series of jams directed entirely by S2 audience members.” In Milwaukee, the sold-out crowd of 50 fans submitted their ideas by texting descriptive words, phrases and pop culture references to the Umphrey’s Mozes mobile interface. The crowds’ suggestions were then filtered by the band’s long time “Sound Caresser” Kevin Browning and projected on a screen for the band to digest and turn into the next phase of the jam. According to the group, the evening’s music varied stylistically with suggestions ranging from “an afternoon bus ride in Jamaica” to “drinking pina coladas…in a hurricane.”
“The improvisational elements of our show have always been one of our favorite parts about playing together – and we think the audience feels that way, too,” keyboardist Joel Cummins explains. “That’s our inspiration for the S2 series. It’s also a great way to stay on top of our chops.”
Each S2 event also includes a Q&A session, an autographed CD of the Stew Art Series show and a souvenir laminate.
The next S2 event will take place at Portland, OR’s Crystal Ballroom on October 24. Umphrey’s McGee will appear next at Spokane, WA’s Crystal Ballroom on October 21.
Below is a video of the band’s first S2 event: