Mantis – The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Umphrey’s McGee released their new CD Mantis about two months ago, but that was just the beginning of the phenomenon. The band is rewarding its die-hard fans with an unprecedented wealth of bonus material, from the mammoth treasure chest that was unlocked by a successful pre-order campaign, to the monthly gems made available via the Mantis Push website, which can only be accessed with the CD in your computer’s disc drive. As if that wasn’t enough, the band’s blog The Floor is constantly updated with backstage videos, late-night demo recordings and streaming audio, sometimes from that night’s show. I’ll try to keep track of it all here and in future comments to this post.

gal_174_649_e_fullPre-Order Bonus Material

Nearly 70 files of audio and video downloads were made available just after the album dropped. Two box sets could be compiled from the material included here. One (let’s call it The Complete Mantis Sessions) documents the genesis of Mantis, from early demos and unfinished tracks to remixes and the entire CD Release Party set from the Vic Theatre. Like the second disc of 2007’s The Bottom Half, the behind-the-scenes tracks offer a fascinating look at the creative process, even if some of them won’t get a lot of play on my Ipod. The other box set is a mid-career rarities set featuring demos and seldom-heard live material. Umphrey’s McGee makes almost every concert available for purchase, but they managed to hold back a few treats, including holiday benefit concerts, a legendary Taper’s Appreciation Night at Milwaukee’s Shank Hall and an appearance with Bela Fleck on 2006’s Acoustic Planet tour.  

Push Content

February’s download gave us another live rarity from Brendan and Jake’s 2008 Acoustic Christmas concert, the seldom-played Never Cease to Amaze, plus the live debut of Prophecy Now in the middle of an epic Bridgeless in Madison, WI. On St. Patrick’s day, we toasted with the Shank Hall 40s Theme and some guest sit-ins from Bela Fleck, Jeff Coffin and Adrian Belew. And once again proving anyone can join in the fun, they released the Umphrey’s McNES version of 1348, a truly unique fan interpretation of the closing track from Mantis.   

I am hoping the band plans to offer more live versions of the Mantis material, perhaps even a complete live version of the album by the end of the year. Think about this – for the price of one CD, Umphrey’s McGee has already given me a great album plus two box sets and they will continue to deliver hours of free music throughout 2009. Is there a better value for your entertainment dollar than that?