Leaning back in a pair of shaded wooden chairs outside the press tent at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn, guitarist Jake Cinninger and bassist Ryan Stasik of Umphrey's McGee relax before the band's late night set that would start around 2 am and last till 6 am. In 2002, to promote their first studio recording, Local Band Does OK, the band signed up to play Bonnaroo. Since then, they have returned off and on again for seven out of the festival's 11 years. “Festivals are a great way to connect with fans, especially Bonnaroo,” Stasik says. For the first time ever, Umphrey's will be playing the Ryman Auditorium on September 21.
Umphrey's have been the band leaders of a festival circuit that have always thrived on eclectic acts uniting to share music and entertainment. When the music industry went digital, bands like Umphrey's accepted this newfound volatility with a focus to define themselves as a live band. To them, value is in the performance.
With services such as iTunes, Spotify and Grooveshark offering streaming options for free music, Umphrey's are relying on their live performance to gain audiences over new listeners.“For us, coming to these festivals is a great chance to put yourself in front of an audience that may not have been able to see you otherwise,” Cinninger says.
Using social media applications, the band has begun to interact with fans right up to the moment of a performance. They receive advice about songs, solos and lighting effects from fans, with the most voted on ideas put into the show.
Check out the band's website for more information about tickets to the Ryman show and get details about how you can contribute to the next Umphrey's McGee performance. – Dh Wright