In anticipation of their triumphant return to Colorado for a 3-night run at Red Rocks, we had a chance to sit down with Umphrey's McGee lead singer and guitarist Brendan Bayliss, keyboard wizard Joel Cummins, and longtime band sound-caresser and manager Kevin Browning. Umphrey's enters their 21st year touring the nation and is known for pushing the boundaries in the jam scene and innovating creative ways to engage with fans. They gave us the inside scoop on their relationship with cannabis, their two new limited-run cannabis vape pens "Day Nurse" and "Night Nurse" (available exclusively at Lightshade in Colorado), and how both Denver-based MedPharm and Lightshade got involved.
So, you’ve got 3 days at Red Rocks coming up. What makes performing at Red Rocks different from other venues?
Joel: Red Rocks is simply the most incredible place for music in our country, for both the musicians and the fans. It's awe-inspiring, just the coolest place to stand on a stage and let the music flow.
Cannabis has been legal here in Colorado for a long time. Does that make your shows feel different when compared to other states that haven’t legalized adult-use, for example compared to when you perform in Indiana?
Brendan: They definitely smell different!
Joel: I think the fans can relax and enjoy themselves a little more when they know security is not trying to bust them. So, in a way it just makes the shows a little more fun for everyone.
What role does cannabis play in your music, in all aspects from songwriting to performing?
Brendan: It's always been a source of inspiration; it can help you to lock yourself into a zone and be focused or get lost in the woods.
Joel: It's definitely a boon in both creativity and focus. There aren't many things in life that can simultaneously allow you to relax and focus. So, it's nice to have as an option for those who want to get on the path.
When did cannabis first become a part of your lives, and how were you introduced to it? What were your initial reactions?
Joel: I went to see Bob Dylan at The Chicago Theatre as a sophomore in high school. I and my band mates at the time had a dugout with a metal bat that we fired up in a car in a parking garage. I got a couple good hits but didn't really understand what I was doing and blew the cherry out on the third try.
Brendan: I was in a forest in South Bend in what is now the Eddy Street Commons. I didn't think it was working so I took a bunch of hits. I was suddenly 50 yards to the left in a bush. I also thought the traffic helicopters knew what we were up to. So I went into a Notre Dame football game and promptly burned the roof of my mouth on some hot chocolate. It was kind of intense. But I grew to love it.
You’re doing something new with the Day Nurse and Night Nurse pens. What made you decide to take a step beyond being cannabis fans to creating and promoting an actual cannabis product?
Joel: It's a very natural concept for us to do something with cannabis. We've made a Nothing Too Fancy Pale Ale and a couple other short run beer projects in the past, and we know many of our fans enjoy cannabis as well as beer. Day Nurse & Night Nurse are of course two much-loved Umphrey's McGee songs, the naming process made lots of sense to us.
Kevin: The stigma that has long surrounded cannabis in the U.S. has finally, and sensibly, began to lift. We've discussed it for years and feel like the conditions are finally right, there is no putting this genie back in the bottle. American lawmakers seem to have finally realized that maybe having access to taxed and regulated marijuana won't result society crashing down up us.
And what can fans expect from the new, limited-edition Day Nurse and Night Nurse vapes?
Joel: With the Day Nurse vape you have the energizing, uplifting experience of a sativa blend and the Night Nurse indica oil will be more of a deep, relaxing buzz. You've got two great options depending on which direction you'd like to go.
Kevin: Everything you need and nothing you don't. We feel great about the two profiles we've put together with "the nurses," one for your daytime go get 'em needs and another for your dial it down desires.
For the complete Umphrey's McGee interview and more information on the limited-run Night Nurse and Day Nurse vape pens, visit the Lightshade Blog.