Reel to Real at the Denver Fillmore Auditorium
Or, The Best Movie I Have Seen In Years
First of all, I want to show my sadness for all of those who wanted to come to Reel to Real, but couldn’t for whatever reasons. Work schedule, finances, decided to go to MSG instead, I’m sure your reasons are valid and that you are also sad that you missed it. It was phenomenal, and worth every penny and all of the effort to make it to this event. According to @goldlikejoel on the Tweetar this morning, it will likely be made available for the masses before too long. Hang tight. You’ll love it.
Secondly, to any haters who wish to make themselves feel better about missing it by saying the whole thing was a “cash grab” by Umphrey’s, sorry that you feel that way, but you’re a fucking idiot.
Yeah, it was an expensive ticket, no doubt about that. But, fuck it, I was coming to Denver for the NYE run anyway, what’s a few more dollars? Let’s not forget that there was an open bar available to every attendee, and that we got commemorative posters and other goodies. Maybe not most, but plenty of people got their money’s worth just from the bar, and so the film and performance were damn near free at that point.
Also, I find it difficult to understand how this was a “cash grab” when the entire thing benefitted Conscious Alliance. Do I think UM walked away empty handed? Probably not, but this is what they do to make a living. I can’t be mad at them for that. If they didn’t, where would we all be today?
And, finally, the film was a realization of a lifelong dream of Jefferson Waful, and the event was a way for this band, this entity that he has shown so much dedication and commitment for, to turn around and support him in his passion and desire to make a film. So, these (half) sarcastic comments of “cash grabbing” that I have seen on various social media platforms, which might be made in jest but are probably founded more in the butt-hurt that these haters have put upon themselves by not going to Reel to Real, I simply laugh and continue on living my life, and relishing in the fact that I will never forget that night.
With that out of the way, I have to say Congratulations to every person who played a part in the creation and premiering of this film, and especially to Waful. In my humble opinion, he captured the essence of the band and the history behind it in a way that few could even dream of. Of course, he has been a part of that journey and history, has seen all of the love and tension and laughter and tears that comes along with a bunch of guys in close proximity for months at a time. He has been witness to everything that has made these musicians and this band what they are.
This film is to Umphrey’s McGee what Bittersweet Motel is to Phish. It captures some of the most heartfelt moments from the band’s humble beginnings in South Bend. It highlights the tension that built up from Mike Mirro’s choice to leave the band, the subsequent hiring of Kris Myers, and the sorrow that we all felt at Mike’s passing last year. A good friend of mine was at the first show after that loss (which, like an asshole, I sadly missed). He told me all about how the emotion was so high in that room that you could feel it physically, and how that show was the one that made him fall in love with Umphrey’s (he was already a fan, but after that show, he became an Umphreak).
There was plenty of laughter, in the movie and also in the audience. SPOILER ALERT: Joel gets slapped in the face multiple times. There were points when, looking around at the other audience members, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place, yet smiles beamed from those very same faces simultaneously. The film took us through an emotional rollercoaster, and the picture that Waful painted for us on that screen was nothing short of amazing. When it comes down to it, art is supposed to create emotion and enlighten. Waful’s effort is not just a film, it is a piece of art that is just as important to Umphrey’s McGee as any song that has been or ever will be written.
After the film, there was the exploratory show, a small set that was intermingled with explanations of how the song was created or the meanings behind the lyrics. I finally got my first Haunt, and a great story behind it (ramshackle hot tubs and early cutoff for practice space). Gone for Good was unveiled last night, and I can definitely see it becoming a staple in the repertoire. And I have never enjoyed a 2×2 as much as I did last night. Overall, I couldn’t be happier, and even if it was a cash grab, I have no regrets.
I cannot accurately express the amazing and powerful feelings that I, and the rest of the Reel to Real attendees, were/are going through. I could not even begin to think that I could do this film justice in my humble review of the evening. It is beyond that. All I can express to you is how awesome it was to be a part of something so special. So intimate. So unique. Thank you, Umphrey’s Mcgee, and thank you, Jefferson Waful. This year is already better than last.
(Edit: Credit on the film also due to Clayton Halsey, according to @adamsmasher69.)