Ever since rock bands started flexing their creative muscle, developing their skills to the point of virtuosity and realizing that they needn’t be hemmed in by pop conventions, a dichotomy has existed between those who prefer their music in short, organized and clinically precise 3½-minute bursts, and those who are eager to dive headlong into the stream of complex music.
Sure, everyone listens to music on earbuds or headphones these days, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is creating “headphone music” – the sort of stuff that demands of the listener, to borrow a John Lennon lyric, “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream.”
Chicago’s Umphrey’s McGee has, since emerging in 1997, been crafting “headphone music” of the first order, creating albums that demand close attention on the part of the listener, and then taking those albums into the improvisational stratosphere when performing the material live. But Umphrey’s has never wanted to be pigeonholed, and so the band set the daunting task of fine-tuning its expansive tendencies to make brave and challenging music that also is accessible.
The band’s recently released “Similar Skin” represents a major success in this area. The album has been widely hailed as one of the group’s very finest, and many tracks are becoming staples of UM’s storied live sets as the sextet makes its way through its fall tour which stops in the Rapids Theatre (1711 Main St., Niagara Falls) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Tickets for the all-ages show are $27.50 (Ticketfly.com). The equally brilliant Boston funk-rock-jam collective Dopapod will be opening the show, so get there on time.