As a jamband, Umphrey's McGee has balls. If follows then that a review of their first DVD release should be equally bold. But that's not what this is going to be. I'm going to be stiff, I'm going to academic, and I'm going to be MLA. Fuck Lester Bangs' cream, here's Alan Lomax's spleen.
Damn it, I tried but I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up the fae. It’s just that Live From the Lake Coast deserves a textbook "Journal of Good Music" review because, after all, it is textbook Jamband University material. And it is, hands down, the first quintessential DVD release by a jamband. The first hill upon which others must build.
Actually, there have been other hills, mounds, and even milestones climbed, reached, and conquered by the Big Leaguers DVDs of Steel released by arena-sized bands with stadium-sized budgets. But for the little guy, the little-band-that-could from South Bend, Indiana has come out with the sweeper keeper a fistful of shrapnel and a disc full of apples.
They offer them, they bite them, they even let you bob for them. Obviously the head of Live From the Lake Coast is a two-set live performance. The "show" is actually edited down, deceptively and convincingly, from four sets over two nights July 26 and 27, 2002. Yeah, for knocking on the front door of 2004, there is something of an archival feel here. The band even sports a different line-up (Kris Myers has replaced Mike Mirro on the drums). Arguably, however, the performance is both inspired and well-engineered and sounds as good as any Umphrey’s performance today, given the natural progression that any healthy band experiences. So, although it is two and a half years old which is at least nine in jamband years it still sounds fresh and exciting, relevant and inviting.
Exploiting and exploring DVD as a concert medium, four different audio mixes gives you a choice that significantly alters how you hear the show: 2.1 and 5.1 Dolby Digital ("old-school stereo" or "new-school surround" respectively), 2.0 Binaural (for use with headphones virtual sound separation recreates the 3D live experience), and 5.1 DTS (places you on stage, surrounded by the instruments). The Binaural and the DTS are both exciting and it’s worth listening to the show, in its entirety, both ways.
The sound is great, the picture is great, and the editing is great. Emty Bag Productions gets a gold star and an asterisk for their first DVD production, and offers for work are going to flood their inbox once other bands see Live From the Lake Coast.
As for the extras which are juvenile, trivial, and comedic they make the DVD. The meat is the meat and the show is the show, but these silly, overdubbed skits give the DVD something that the disgusting majority of music DVDs jamband and otherwise lack completely. And that is personality. In this case, Umphrey’s McGee personality.
An example of said persona disclosure: There are hidden eggs here, lurking in unexpected places. Two backstage scenes, and three skits one of which is particularly psychedelic are not on the menu and can only be found by poking around. Of course, it took me a couple months with this DVD before figuring that out. Avid Umphrey's fans (or those lucky enough to have an Umphreak as a neighbor) may know where to find these hidden eggs, but naturally a large number of people who buy this DVD will never chance upon them. It seems like a natural prank for a jamband to pull and Umphrey's seems like the natural band to do it.