Having successfully traversed a two-night run in 2016, Umphrey’s McGee upped the ante this year with three nights and loads amazing support acts that included Stick Figure on Friday and Bruce Hornsby on Sunday. However, for me personally the lineup on Saturday was too good to pass up. Umphrey’s was supported by the newly formed Bokanté and the undeniably talented Snarky Puppy. Both would leave fans eager for more before the hammer came down.
The sun was shining brightly as the early arrivers were treated to something altogether unique. Bokanté means “exchange” in Creole, the native tongue of the mesmerizing Malika Tirolien who sang lead. This band is a musical melting pot, an exchange of musical ideas that span the entire planet. Founded by Snarky Puppy’s Micheal League as an experiment he brought along fellow bandmates Chris McQueen and Bob Lanzetti as well. To round out the sound they invited Roosevelt Collier on lap steel as well as André Ferrari, Keita Ogawa and Jamey Hadad all on percussion. Their set at Red Rocks was over quickly, but not before winning over some new fans. Their blend of high energy, melodically beautiful vocals with diverse and eclectic backing music was truly impressive. When they’re not busy stacking chairs on unsuspecting nappers you can find them currently touring Europe.
Snarky Puppy has won not one, but three Grammys for their unbelievable work in the realm of jazz and contemporary music. They are a conglomeration of some of the best minds playing live music today. After touring for nearly a decade with little adoration, they have suddenly been thrust into the spotlight and rightly so. Their set a Red Rocks was a perfect example of what Snarky Puppy can do night after night. Searing horns juxtaposed against a relentless and powerful rhythm section all punctuated by the melodic keys of Shaun Martin and Cory Henry. Not to mention the stellar guitar work of Chris McQueen. Snarky Puppy is an ever expanding and contracting musical experience. Their stripped-down touring group which performed at Red Rocks left nothing to be desired.
The theme of night two for Umphrey’s McGee would be the sit-in, but we will get to that shortly. They opened up with a rare “Le Blitz” before Jake Cinninger blasted off on “40’s Theme.” The entire evening was chocked full of classic Umph including a tight “Wappy Sprayberry” early on. During “Bad Friday” the first of several sit-ins happened with Chris Bullock and Mike Maher from Snarky Puppy lending their respective brass to the party to close out the first set.
Set two began with more guests this time Robert “Sput” Searight and Nate Werth jumping in on percussion for a massive “JaJunk” that set the tone for the rest of the show. For the second time ever, Roosevelt Collier emerged from Umphrey’s backstage to lend his lap steel to the mix. He soloed brilliantly during “Hajimemashite” while the fireworks from Bandimere Speedway, just over the ridge, exploded in the sky. Jake jumped on keys for the “Push The Pig” which segued beautifully into a mind-altering “1348.” They closed the second set with a dark and punchy “Draconian.” They encored with a short, but sweet version of “The Floor.” Umphrey’s McGee continues to be one of the most technically proficient and downright entertaining bands touring today. Their three nights at Red Rocks is a testament to all they’ve accomplished.