IF YOU GO
* What: Umphrey's McGee in concert.
* When: 9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29.
* Where: Track 29, 1400 Market St.
* Admission: $22.50 in advance, $25 at the door.
* Phone: 423-521-2929.
* Website: www.track29.co.
1998: "Greatest Hits Vol. III"
2002: "Local Band Does OK"
2004: "Anchor Drops"
2006: "Safety in Numbers:
2007: "The Bottom Half"
2011: "Death By Stereo"
2014: [New Project]
A tight musical turning radius. Rock-solid chemistry. A secret language onstage.
These are the three factors that bassist Ryan Stasik says are behind Umphrey's McGee's development into what Rolling Stone reviewer David Fricke calls "[possibly] the most accomplished jam band in America."
In the 16 years since the musicians began gigging in and around South Bend, Ind., Umphrey's has become a true giant of jam, a band mentioned in the same breath as Widespread Panic and Phish, but Stasik says they've never lost sight of the critical need to connect with and surprise audiences.
"It's incredibly important for us, like [Frank] Zappa, to do things that stop on a dime and change and keep the crowd on their toes," he says. "We've always gotten off on taking chances.
"Before, we weren't as good at recovering or our signals for changing directions. Now that we've been together, we're like veterans. We kind of finish each other's sentences."
Last year, the band celebrated its 15-year anniversary with a blowout in New York, but the musicians were also celebrating another milestone Stasik says is just as fundamental to the band's success.
As of 2013, Umphrey's lineup has remained unaltered for 10 years. This despite a hard-core touring schedule that keeps them on the road for months at a time and a brand of improvisation-heavy music that, by default, easily could spin out of control if a signal is misinterpreted onstage.
That kind of consistency is hard-won, Stasik says, and a real feather in their collective cap.
"To have a live touring band that devotes that much time to being on the road together and writing music to stay together for 10 years is quite an accomplishment," he says. "It's a tough business to be on the road like that and maintain stability and keep everything harmonious."
Wednesday, Jan. 29, Umphrey's will take the stage at Track 29. It will be the band's first show in Chattanooga and the start of a tour that will see its members on a cross-country trek set to continue, essentially unabated, through June.
After a few weeks off the road with their families and with a new -- and still untitled -- album set to drop in April, Stasik says the urgency among his bandmates to get back on the road is palpable.
"There's so much energy and excitement for us to be creating music together after a nice vacation off. You change a lot of diapers, and then go out and rock 'n' roll," he says, laughing.
Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...