Words by Audra Tracy | Photos by Jeremy Smith

Celebrating 25 years of superb sonic chemistry, Umphrey’s McGee brought everyone together (real close together) at the Stone Pony on Thursday night. A sold-out crowd packed quite tightly inside the famed Asbury Park venue, with eager fans standing shoulder to shoulder in a space that had the faint aroma of summer sweat and cannabis.

The band kicked off their first set just after 8PM, warming up the New Jersey crowd with songs like ‘Hajimemashite’ and the always-welcomed ‘Nemo’. While drummer Kris Meyers recovers from shoulder surgery at home, Umphrey’s is filling the void with a rotating cast of back-ups during this particular tour. In the first set alone, Andy Farag, Jake Cinninger, and Ilya Stemkovsky stepped behind the kit to keep the groove going all the way through the set-closing rocker, ‘Ringo’.

After a brief break, Umphrey’s returned at 9:45, this time with Duane Trucks from Widespread Panic taking over drum duties. The second set had more of a nightclub vibe – the disco ball was spinning above, the jams were flowing freely, and fun-loving hippies swayed in every direction during ‘Bridgeless>Small Strides’. Frontman Brendan Bayliss dedicated ‘Ophelia’ to the late Robbie Robertson, bringing a roar of approval from Boomers and Gen Z alike.

All of the band members are supremely talented in their own right, but watching Jake Cinninger play guitar is always a mesmerizing experience, no matter how many times you’ve seen him perform. He plays so many notes, so quickly, so gracefully – it’s like watching Gordon Ramsay cook, or Bob Ross paint. Cinninger’s colorful riffs were shining bright tonight, especially during the fan favorite, ‘Glory’.

Umphrey’s fans really know how to have a good time, too. On the dance floor, attendees swayed arm in arm, hugging, high-fiving, and meeting their brand new best friends. At the bar, ticket-holders compared summer show schedules and complimented one another’s music tees. In the ladies’ restroom, a young fan with mushroom-patterned pants invited the lovely bathroom attendant to Atlantic City after the show. Even in a crowded room, this audience came with full hearts, and love to spare.

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