“Michiana is Ready for Umphrey’s McGee on Sunny 101.5”

I’m working lunches these days at a restaurant called Bob’s 19th Hole, which is located about two miles south of Elbel Golf Course, a little west of South Bend. The place does exorbitant business — I’ll have days where I’ll patty up 150 burgers, just to replenish the diner’s supply for one day. It consistently fills up, pretty much every day, caters to pretty much all age groups from 30 to 90, and plays Sunny 101.5 on a regular basis, nice and loud, over the speakers. Generally, then, this goes off without a hitch, save for that one instance of Rihanna’s “Love on the Brain” piping to unwitting old people trying to enjoy their meals. That was a little painful. 

Anyway, by these standards, I’d probably slot Sunny 101.5 as the “coolest” radio station in Michiana. I mean Mix 106 is cool, but a little smooth for lunch, with all its R&B and whatnot, more suited for around closing time in the evening. And I mean, I would put on classical, to be honest, but I’d probably get my a** beat. 

As I mention, this post in about Umphrey’s McGee, a jam band that got their start out of South Bend in the late ’90s. On a related and somewhat interesting note, two of probably the top 10 played artists on Sunny 101.5 are likewise Hoosiers, John Mellencamp and Michael Jackson. And Umphrey’s plays jam rock with the dark, seedy, funky element of a Michael Jackson, even tackling lurid humanistic themes (like in “Andy’s Last Beer,” probably the primary Umphrey’s tune I’d shoulder into rotation, and kickoff track on the band’s breakthrough LP Local Band Does O.K.). 

The tune selection on this station, while not terrible, can be a little bit sparse, and in need of some bolstering, or newfound variety. Umphrey’s has the one perk, of course, of being a local band, a good talking point for the DJ’s and cultural benchmark for the community. People in this town aren’t afraid of good music. I heard one of the ladies I work with, who I think is in her 50s or 60s, talking about the new Chris Rock special on Netflix. Another woman I work with, who I think is about the same age, complimented my AC/DC shirt, saying she’s seen them in concert. Umphrey’s is really pretty tame compared to AC/DC. “Andy’s Last Beer” would give the rotation some rhythm, some funk and some groove, and sure, there are extended instrumental sections. But one of the biggest hits of the ’60s was “Soulful Strut” by Young-Holt Unlimited, a song arranged entirely in instrumental, and it was also one of the eras catchiest tunes. Similarly, Umphrey’s’ “jams” are structured, with crisp, memorable hooks arranged systematically so as to feed into your psyche and be sensible. Slotting “Andy’s Last Beer” in the song rotation on Sunny 101.5 would be a symbiotic gesture giving the band some more notoriety in the home community and infusing the corporately minded radio station with some much-needed organic groove. 


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