Hogan's Alley

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Umphrey's Concert Was Great

Umphrey's McGee's 45 minute set at the Green Apple Festival yesterday was top drawer. Their crew got them set up in the fifteen minutes after the previous act cleared the stage and they began at about 3-4 minutes after 1:00. They opened with "In the Kitchen" and then did 4-5 additional numbers that I did not recognize. They were in a very improv intense mood which featured long instrumental explorations that varied between jazzy and rocking. Very satisfying.

As for the scene, Vanderbuilt Ave. was closed from 42nd St. to 45th. The stage was at the 45th St. end and there were booths for various products and causes lining both sides of the street between 42nd and 44th. The remaining block was given over to the crowd, most of whom, but clearly not all, came to enjoy a band they knew. It was fun to see passersby listen for a minute, register approval on their faces and ask who the band was.

The scene, except for the aroma of grass in the air, was not the stereotype of a retro-hippie jam scene. Most listeners seemed to be taking a break from their day, some even in ties and jackets. One guy pushed his way to within a few feet of the stage-left speaker stack holding two large parrots or macaques above his head. I suspect that the only thing those birds will be saying for a while is, "What? What did you say?". One young woman brought her superbly calm Great Dane. One of the largest of that breed I've ever seen, he could have easily been saddled and ridden in by its owner.

One typically New York event occurred at the nexus of jam scene culture and the City's characters. An atypically hefty hippie chick was using the space at the side of the stage to work it out with a large hula hoop. A passerby in a muscle shirt, jeans with a 5 inch cuff and shiny black business shoes sought to engage the young woman in a joint activity. He seemed to fancy himself some sort of choreographer and was, using sign language and broken English, attempting to teach her how to go beyond spinning the hoop and move toward using it as a prop for styling dance poses. The young woman was a first patient, but became increasing angry, finally screaming at the man, "Get the fuck away from me!". Very un-mellow. He moved on to attempt his strange pas de deux with a two-person Chinese dragon that had just entered the area. I love the city.