The art of the side project

There’s nothing worse than seeing a show with a craptacular opening act. We’ve all been there, shuffling our feet and drinking our way to the bottom of cups until ice cubes hit our face, just waiting and wasting the hour away. Luckily, tonight, Canopy Club will have a show where the first band is as much worth seeing as the second. The Omega Moos, comprised of members of Umphrey’s McGee and The New Deal, will hit the stage with The Hue, a band that has been around less than a year and has already made huge waves (they’ve played with The Wood Brothers at Chicago’s House of Blues) and received high praises (see what Bayliss had to say about them below). Tonight’s show starts at 9, and tickets are $10 in advance. Hell, if we can’t convince you to go, maybe The Hue’s lead guitarist, Jared Rabin, or Omega Moos’ Brendan Bayliss can.

Brendan Bayliss hates interviews; he assures me it’s nothing personal. On a short break from endlessly touring with Umphrey’s McGee, the singer/songwriter/guitarist would without a doubt rather be spending his time doing something other than answering questions.
Thankfully for him, he will soon again be teaming up with fellow Umphrey’s bassist Ryan Stasik and members of The New Deal Darren Shearer and Jamie Shields to collaborate as Omega Moos.
After recently wrapping up Umphrey’s’ 10-year anniversary celebration at their annual New Year’s Eve concert, Bayliss and The Omega Moos are undertaking a three-day mini-tour, stopping in Chicago, Champaign and Bloomington, Ind. Having long been fans of each other’s music, the four decided to form a band for the sheer fun of playing together.
“I think Jamie, the keyboardist, e-mailed Ryan and threw out the idea,” recalled Bayliss. “I was thrilled to be asked to be a part of it.”
With both Umphrey’s McGee and The New Deal incessantly touring, opportunities rarely arise for the four to come together and play shows as The Omega Moos.
“We just enjoy playing together so much that when we have time off, we look for an opportunity to do it ’cause we only get like, two or three chances a year,” said Bayliss.
Aside from the overall enjoyment, Bayliss also attributes some of his band’s energy and drive to side projects like The Omega Moos.
“I could see how some bands might be afraid of the idea, but I think for us, it makes everybody appreciate Umphrey’s more when we come back together,” said Bayliss. “It’s good for me and Ryan to get out of the Umphrey’s thing and get back into driving vans and moving our own gear. It’s good to get dirty again and get back to the roots.”
While not necessarily hoping to sacrifice Umphrey’s time to more side projects, it is a venture that the band encourages. Chances for the band to spread out certainly contribute to the forward-thinking notion of Umphrey’s McGee. The Omega Moos has also allowed for Bayliss to give chances to friends in other bands. The Hue will be opening for The Moos at the Canopy Club show and at Kinetic Playground in Chicago.
“The Hue is so young and just so good, and we were just thinking that when Umphrey’s was small, a lot of people did us favors and gave us chances, so it makes sense to extend that courtesy,” explained Bayliss.
After the short stint with The Omega Moos, Umphrey’s will head west for a small tour before returning to the Midwest in late February.
As for the rest of 2008, Umphrey’s plans to continually write new material and eventually release a new album.
“The overall goal is to keep Umphrey’s going as long as possible so I don’t have to get a real job,” Bayliss said.
Forced to think about returning to the workforce, Bayliss can’t even imagine where he would fit in: “Uh, I don’t even want to think about it … let’s just not find out.”
And if things are going as well for Umphrey’s McGee as they have been, he probably won’t have to.
Don’t miss The Omega Moos with special guests The Hue at Canopy Club tonight, Jan. 17. Tickets are $10 in advance, and the show starts at 9 p.m.

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