Wikipedia: “A jam band is a musical group whose live albums and concerts relate to a fan culture that began in the 1960’s with the Grateful Dead, and continued with The Allman Brothers Band, and Phish which had lengthy jams at concerts. The performances of these bands typically feature extended musical improvisation (“jams”) over rhythmic grooves and chord patterns, and long sets of music that can often cross genre boundaries.
Many of today’s jam bands have brought widely varied genres into the scene. A jam band festival may include bands with electronic, folk rock, blues rock, jazz fusion, psychedelic rock, Southern rock, progressive rock, acid jazz, hip hop, hard rock, and bluegrass sounds.”
I think if I was younger and had friends who were into it, I’d probably travel the jam band circuit. Not relentlessly mind you as a little of it goes a long way. But yeah, it’d be fun to see some of these bands live. But many of my peers can hardly be convinced to go out to see a movie once in a while much less a festival of some sort. Alas.
First up, a band with the unlikely name of Umphrey’s McGee. (An alteration of some dude named Humphrey Magee.) These guys have been around awhile, having come together as students at Notre Dame in the late 90’s. They’re a six-piece band consisting of two guitars, keys, bass, percussion and drums. (Ya gotta love any band whose debut album is called Greatest Hits Vol. III.)
The band says they are heavily influenced by progressive rock bands such as King Crimson, Yes, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, and early Genesis, as well as Iron Maiden and Van Halen, The Police, The Beatles, and Led Zeppelin.
Here’s “1348.” (Jam tunes are long so listen when you have some time to spare.)
Fellow blogger Cincinnati Babyhead recently mentioned he was listening to the band Widespread Panic. In my three years of blogging, that was the first mention of this band that I’d heard in the blogosphere. (Of course, I could be just not looking in the right places.)
I was first introduced to this band back in the days when I haunted the Allman Brothers web site prior to my magical mystery tour with them. I asked people for recommendations on what they were listening to and WP came to the fore.
These guys are from that cauldron of indie rock, Athens, Georgia which spawned REM, the B-52’s and the Drive-by Truckers. They’ve been around even longer than Umphrey’s having formed in the mid-Eighties. The current incarnation of this band has similar instrumentation to McGee with some notable players.
Jimmy Herring – a man who never saw a jam band he didn’t love – is currently one of the guitarists. He’s played with Phil Lesh, the Dead, Dave Matthews Band, The Derek Trucks Band and the Allmans. The drummer in the band is Duane Trucks whose older brother is Derek Trucks. (Jam bands are incestuous as hell, members coming and going regularly. Think Warren Haynes.)
This song is from an earlier incarnation of the band and it’s called “Ain’t Life Grand” from the album of the same name:
moe. is another band that’s been around a while, since the late ’80’s. They got together as students from the University of Buffalo and picked up their name from a great Louis Jourdan tune, “Five Guys Named Moe.” It pleases me no end to know that their fans refer to themselves as moe.rons.
On describing their music, guitarist Al Schnier said, “It’s an amalgamation of a wide variety of the history of rock, all regurgitated and recycled through the eyes, ears, hands, whatever of the guys in our band and all of that with a sense of adventure, a sense of humor, also a constant desire to push the envelope. All in this arena of taking chances, improvising live, and making things up on the spot.”
That would probably in a sense describe all these bands.
“Rebubula” by moe.
Phish (pictured at top of post) are probably the best-known jam band whose name isn’t Grateful Dead. And, having formed at the University of Vermont (note the school trend) in 1983, the oldest of the bands on this list. They are known not only for exemplary playing and long jams, but also for doing some weird shit.
Wikipedia: “For instance, if guitarist Trey Anastasio “teased” a motif from The Simpsons theme song, the audience would yell, “D’oh!.” In 1992, Phish introduced a collaboration between audience and band called the “Big Ball Jam” in which each band member would throw a large beach ball into the audience and play a note each time his ball was hit. In so doing, the audience was helping to create an original composition.
In an experiment known as “The Rotation Jam,” each member would switch instruments with the musician on his left. On occasion, performances of “You Enjoy Myself” involved bassist Mike Gordon and Anastasio performing synchronized maneuvers and jumping on mini-trampolines while simultaneously playing their instruments.”
They’re also known for stuff like playing Dark Side of the Moon or the Beatles’ White Album in their entirety. Now this is a band I have to see someday. I’ll let my peers sit home and watch shit like God Friended Me.
Here’s a song with a title Frank Zappa would love, “Chalk Dust Torture.” (BTW, these guys are and always have been a four-piece band, still getting a pretty big sound.)