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Jam Band Umphrey's McGee Ready For Two-Night Stand

Of the Oakland Press

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Umphrey’s McGee is “really close” to finishing its next studio album, according to keyboardist Joel Cummins, with a hoped-for release date in early 2009.

But it marks the first time the Chicagobased sextet, which was formed at Notre Dame University, is not previewing any of the new material live, which Cummins says is excruciating.

“Yeah — more than anything, I want our fans to hear this stuff,” says Cummins, 33. “We all feel like this is definitely the strongest batch of songs we’ve ever written, kind of covering a lot of ground. So we can’t wait for people to hear this music.

“But what’s funny is some of the stuff is gonna be really hard for us to play live. We’ve done so many things to some of the tracks that we’re going to have to mine through stuff and find out what are the most essential things and how to make them work as live songs. It’s a challenge, but we like challenges.”

Fans needn’t fret, as Umphrey’s McGee — whose approach blends progressive rock and jam band sensibilities — is at its core a live band. It’s also a group on the roll, having won a pair of Jammy Awards earlier this year for Best Tour and Best Live Album (2007’s “Live at the Murat”). Another live set — “Jimmy Stewart 2007,” capturing its improvisations — is due out this year, while the group is looking forward to its first two-night stand in the Metro Detroit area.

“Being able to be somewhere for two nights gives it a special vibe,” Cummins said. “It’s nice to kind of set up a show, and at the end of the first night everyone’s done working and the crew doesn’t have to bust their (butts). It’s nice for us and, I think, the fans to know that we don’t have to get in the car and drive a couple of hours right afterwards or the next day.

“It means we can blow it out a little more the first night and be fresher for the second show. I’m glad we can show that for people (in Detroit) this time.”

Umphrey’s McGee performs at 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday (June 6-7) at St. Andrew’s Hall, 431 E. Congress St., Detroit. Tickets are $20. Call (313) 961-6358 or visit www.livenation.com.

Web Site: www.livenation.com

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