SAMANTHA HILSENROD FOR TVD | The Civic Theatre will welcome the ground-breaking Chicago jam band to New Orleans to promote their upcoming album, Similar Skin. Set to be released June 10, Similar Skin will be the band’s eighth studio album, and the first from their new independent label Nothing Too Fancy Music, a moniker shared with one of the group’s most beloved songs.
The band promises a unique concert experience. Known for communal, fan friendly performances, Umphree’s McGee has been at the forefront of concert audio-immersion. A concept recently featured in Rolling Stone magazine, the “Headphones and Snowcones” audio immersion program is an option available at Umphree’s shows that enables fans to listen through headphones connected to the soundboard, blocking out ambient noise.
At the same time listeners preview what the live album cut will sound like. The band will also issue a free download of the performance for those who choose to enjoy the show this way.
“My first memory of vinyl would have to be my brother dancing his head off to Lionel Richie right in front of the player which would cause the needle to jump and my Mom to holler from kitchen to not get so close to the stereo if he was going to be dancing like that…”
“Just like most of us now days, I listen to music in all forms but I haven’t gotten to know music like I have by listening from vinyl. Randy Newman’s Sail Away, Billie Holiday Sings the Blues, Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue to more contemporaries such as Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky and Radiohead’s In Rainbows.
Reflecting on these records conjures up not only the music but of course the cover art as well is a reward all in itself.
“My first experience with vinyl was listening to my Dad’s old 45 RPM singles on the old Hi Fidelity turntable—bands like The Beatles, The Searchers, Bobby Darin, and Elvis Presley. I must have only been about 4 or 5 years old but I can always remember the explosion of sound from the speakers as soon as the needle hit the groove.”
“The first album I ever bought was U2’s Boy—played on the same turntable—although with a few added coins on the arm to ensure the needle didn’t jump during playing. I will always remember the lyrics to ‘I Will Follow’ that still resonate with me to this day. There was something exciting about going to the record shops in Edinburgh on a Saturday afternoon looking for the next purchase. We used to jump on the bus with all our pocket-money and return with the new purchase under the arm.
Many nights were spent lying on my bed listening to U2, Stiff Little Fingers, Elvis Costello, The Clash, and many more purchases through the years with my Mum shouting ‘’Turn that bloody rubbish off’’ as I lay there totally ignoring her!
“My first records belonged to my parents and I took Donna Summer’s Love to Love You and Big Brother and the Holding Company’s Cheap Thrills—that R. Crumb cover is still probably my all time favourite. They made me leave Sweetheart of the Rodeo which I’m glad about, because a roommate ended up stealing them all eventually.”
“I had just moved into a big old house that I’m sure was haunted, and it was the first time I’d had a record player where I lived so I was pretty excited about it. I remember listening to a lot of Donna and Janis, The Who, Biz Markie. I also developed an almost obsessive affinity towards the soundtrack for Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, especially the song “In a World of My Own.”
One night I came home and Donna was blasting so loud I thought the windows would break. It was the extended version of “Love to Love You” which was about 16 minutes long and included a wordless section where Donna basically uses the microphone like a lover’s ear, gasping and cooing to great effect. The door had a note on it that I have no doubt was from the woman with the 3-year-old next door, informing us that this had been going on since 7PM (it was now 10—the record player was on repeat) and that we were basically the scum of the universe for not answering the door or turning the music down even though she pounded on the door, “until her knuckles bled.”
“Nothing ever felt as amazing as sneaking down to my basement as a little girl, ripping open my parents’ record cabinet and playing all their vinyl 45s. I would be transcended into a world that my cassettes and CDs just couldn’t take me to. That first crackling sound as the needle dropped onto the record was intoxicating and I immediately wanted more.”
“I made a conscious decision as an independent singer/songwriter to embrace all genres of music and to embrace the sounds of artists who made music that meant something. I credit my parents’ records that I listened to as a child as one of the most influential things that made me love music and want to create my own.
Artists like Journey, Prince, Genesis, (but also performers like Jane Powell and Doris Day) made me learn early on that music comes in all different shapes and sizes and I began to appreciate all kinds of musical genres. The more I listened, the more I learned from these amazing musicians and was able to translate different colors into my own music today.
One of the things that made me stand out in the musical sea of anonymity is that I have really been able to create my own unique sound and write music that isn’t just fluff and overly produced, digitally altered noise. I have been able to create music that means something and can hopefully be relevant not only today, but also 30 years from now. I thank those amazing vinyl artists for giving me the knowledge to do it.
“These records are some of our favorites! Not only are they mostly our friends, but the albums as a whole are stunning and we’d listen to them consistently even if we didn’t know and adore the musicians.”
“We love listening to vinyl in general because it’s such a romantic way to listen to music, and it’s sort of a dying tradition to listen to an entire album front to back and really digest what the artist was trying to achieve with each song and the order they chose to put them in.”
Jenny O, Automechanic | “This magnificent woman is a friend of ours, but that’s not the only reason we listen to this album, Automechanic, so much. This could easily be our favorite pop album EVER.
“I’d imagine that most record collectors’ first experiences of the medium are with their parents’ or an older relative’s collection. Probably fewer come as a result of hearing the unmistakable voice of a parent from their home stereo. As was the case with the first time I heard my father’s Gaels Blue album. I can’t remember exactly how old I was, but I was young enough to think he must have managed to crawl inside one of those speakers to sing to us. A quick schooling from my mother later, I was a vinyl enthusiast.”
“Not long later, I adopted their clear vinyl 45 pressing of Dave Edmunds’ ‘Girls Talk’ as my record, something which is evident to this day with the cryptic code I seem to have scribbled on the sleeve. I can’t remember much else from their collection making an early impact on me, looking through stacks of sleeves featuring long-haired, earnest-looking men and women, these records were clearly none of my business.
Yet. Instead, I took an interest in the pop music of the day, my first purchase being ‘A Little Respect’ by Erasure—a single which still gets the odd spin at certain DJ engagements to this day. As the pop singles continued to pile up, I found myself drawn to a few things I’d heard around the house – Weather Report, Bob Marley, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’—and my horizons began to expand as I neared my teenage years.
ELIZABETH ECKHART FOR TVD | Smack dab in the middle of the second side of Bob Dylan’s debut album is a rendition of the folk standard “The House of the Rising Sun,” listed as “House of the Risin’ Sun” on the record. For most listeners this version was the first they had heard of the song, or at least the first time they heard the song in that particularly poignant, minor key arrangement that was made even more popular by The Animals two years later. However, denizens of the booming Greenwich Village folk scene of the time recognized the arrangement as being cribbed from none other than scene mainstay Dave Van Ronk.
Like many folk artists of the period, Van Ronk took traditional songs and fragments of songs and made them his own. His version of “House of the Rising Sun” was particularly good, but being a public domain song he had no recourse as he watched both Dylan and The Animals launched into international stardom partially on the strength of his arrangement—with Van Ronk receiving no financial compensation or even credit from either of those artists.
As Bob Dylan quickly became one of the most famous and successful musicians in history, Van Ronk continued to labor in the scene in which Dylan was once his peer. However, like Dylan, Van Ronk did have his own special place in the Village.
“Don’t tell anyone, but I don’t really buy new vinyl anymore.”
“I search around for the old stuff, Van Morrison, Veedon Fleece, Mary Margaret O’Hara, Miss America, The Smiths, The Queen In Dead. Not to say that the new stuff ain’t got it–it’s just that the old stuff has the goods, ya know?
Just don’t tell anyone, because I’m in a band and I’d get in trouble for saying stuff like that. Ok, sometimes I get new vinyl too, but don’t tell anyone. I really love secrets. Sometimes when I’m listening to vinyl, it’s like someone is telling me clandestine sweet nothings, but on a stereo.
“My first favorite record was the Beach Boys’ Christmas Album from 1964. I had to hear it every night to go to sleep.”
“It wasn’t Christmas. And the record player wasn’t even on the same floor of the house as my bedroom. But I had to hear it. Eventually, when the neighborhood had heard enough of ‘Little Saint Nick,’ I got my own own hand-me-down stereo and a U2 cassette from my sister. I found an even less likely lullaby in their version of ‘Helter Skelter.’
My older sister used to play me 33s at 45 rpm, and I honestly believed that albums came with Alvin and the Chipmunks’ versions of all the songs on the flip-side.