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what makes a jamband?


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is a jamband just a bunch of musicians that like phish and the dead, trying to emulate their heroes?

where does the definition of a jamband begin and end? improvisation is suppposed to break the barriers of categorization.

does jam music have to appeal to hippies to be considered "jamband" material?

does improvisation come from the soul? or does it come from a desire to be like phish or the dead, or the 'next' phish or dead?

is a 'jamband' just a band u go see when u cant be at a phish show, hence dubbing all jambands "not quite phish"?

who is the next phish, and can there be one ??

YOUR devil's advocate...


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jamband is definitley a little bit of a catch phrase. but i think it the best word I've heard to describe music that is from any number of possible genres and has a focus on group and/or individual improvisation.

I think there are definitley 'jambands' that look up to the phish or the dead, and in some cases maybe emulate, but i dont think thats a trait that every band in the 'scene' has. I think it's a scene about originality, freedom and movement the in music. all the bands i know of have that in common.

thats a small pie of my hair-pie.. smile.gif" border="0

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And I for one love the smell of your hair-pie Monkey....Whats up bro? How's it goin'?

I really do think Monkeys got my thoughts on the term nailed as well. Untill I hear a better word for like minded musicians expressing their music through improvisational means...I'm fine with the term "jamband". I also think he's right with some bands idolizing and emulating bands like Phish and the Dead, not all "jambands" do. Their will never be another Phish or The Grateful Dead but, I think and hope that their will be other "jambands" that will pick up the rains/torch and carry it into the very distant future. The real beautiful thing I think about "jamband" music and the fans is that, quite honestly we are ever searching creative minds and I hope people like us will always exist and one of our loves and passions will be the freedom of improvisational music. How could it not?

Giggles grin.gif" border="0grin.gif" border="0grin.gif" border="0

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i don't mean or want to sound like a jackass, but i think any band that jams is a jamband... they don't have to 'jam' all the time, but i think every band is in some way a jam band. many bands write the majority of their material this way, and even if they're not on-stage improvising every night they still possess the ability to 'jam'. maybe that's an overly simplistic answer to the question, but that's my take on the matter.


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I disagree, old friend. When I read this thread I thought about what seperates a jamband from the rest. I think it's the bands that rely on the jam, that strive for the jam, maybe most importantly, aim to jam and explore and segue for 10,15,20+ intervals .Now Led Zep could jam (see The Song Remains the Same: 24 min Dazed and Confused) but where they a jamband?

I kinda hate the term myself. Somebody recently stated that all the music they listened to couldn't be described by a single term and I think that's, for the most part ,true with the cats in our scene. All bands jam, true but very few struggle with being defined by those jams.

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I gotte Piper in here and I fully agree with ScottieKing (no no no, not ketchup on Toast A

La Francais).

I am not a fan of the jamband label, I feel it segregates bands too easily. They should be

labelled as "good" or "bad" (you know, that famous Miles quote). Too many of these 'good'

bands wont get the recognition they deserve because somebody will hear them called a

'jamband' and they will IMMEDIATELY have an opinion about them (and too often it will be

negative) without having ever listened to a minute of their music. Yes, the same can be said

in a positive light but these bands will lose many more potential fans then they would gain.

I even tried to jump on the GOBI train in hopes of destroying that label.

The Grateful Dead were known as The Grateful Dead, Phish were/are known as Phish. We heard

about these bands cause they were good. I see alot of bands today called a jamband when they

should be known as The Burt Neilson Band, Downtime or Nero. There is far more strengh in

being known as a GREAT band. It saddens me to think that some people in other cities

might not go see Nero cause they were referred to as a jamband and it happens more often

than anyone on this board would like to admit. Believe me.

As far as the question is concerned, I suppose if I HAD to define a jamband, I would say

that they are Jacks Of All trades and Masters of The Jam. I do love where music is evolving

these days, cause there are more and more bands I love than there has ever been. I realize

that it is a combination of a million factors (ie, internetty, blah blah blah) but we are

really lucky to be seeing all of this shit go down!

Harpua, remember back in the Days Of You and that is all we knew of that existed (aside from

some of those FANTASTIC Dead cover bands that were in Kingston in the early 90's, mmmmm

those were some good times. Where is that Matt character now? Hey could shred his Les Paul

like nobody)

Just for the record, Hendrix was a jamband. It's all about how you personally define it.

Good or bad.

And DanMTL?

I am going to see you cause I heard you guys are good.

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Thanks Booche, see you in a month!

Remember I Mother Earth??? I saw that band like 5 times, and that is the band that got me into the new schol jam rock. way before phish entered my life. they could jaaaaaaaam, and boy did they ever!! what happened to them? Edwin (the singer) decided he wanted allthe glory for himself, and left the band. now they are nothing. which goes to show how you can't fuck with the right formula.

By the way, i love this website and all you people on it. I am honored to be part of this fun lovin intellectualy community.

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interesting thread...

scottieking, old friend smile.gif" border="0 , said that it's the bands that strive for the long jams that are the jam bands in his mind. i think that if you're aiming for something that grand, it's never gonna be good as you hope. i have no clue what goes on the the minds of Phish, SCI, etc.. (and i don't think i want to know; it might spoil the mystique), but i don't think they say 'let's make this a long one, old chap' then start into a tune. back when i played with my old band (the mighty Superball from Stratford Ontario) we were pretty much a pop band (some would say equal parts pavement, beach boys and ac/dc, but a lot shittier) but we'd play until we though the song was finished, not until we were tired of playing it or or the audience was sick of it. we concentrated on the song, and whether it be 3 minutes with no improv or 15 minutes of pure discordant white noise, it remained about THE SONG. that's why i say in the above post that any band can be a jamband... in my head yo-yo ma could be a jammer if he followed where the music wanted to go... i'm rambling now, and i've kind of lost track of what i wanted to say, but i think someone out there might be able to make sense of this.


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This thread has got me thinking... good question!

What do all these bands have in common in order to be classified as a jamband?

1) fusion - jazz, bluegrass, pop, electronica, country, latin, etc... Any "jamband" I've seen has drawn from a variety of influences and sounds, making the music unpredictable, and, therefore, keeping it interesting for the listener. I saw Recipe From a Small Planet last night - they did country, blugrass, reggae, electronica - awesome "jamband"

2) climactic improvisation - The Dead were an experimental band who constantly took risks with the music. (drumz>space) That's why I skipped half a year of university to do Dead tour - every show was different. The bigger chances they took, the bigger the payoff for the listener. It makes you addicted to the surprise. (Bird Song North Carolina, 04/01/91) Definately a jamband criteria...

3) beards - All jambands have to have at least one bearded member, or, at least a token dirty hippy.

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Weezy, you were at that April Fools show?

That is one of my alltime favorites from that era!

You know what alot of the Lot thought?

That Bird Song was a tell-tale sign that you were about to get a Darkstar in the 2nd set.

Personally, I would NEVER discount that theory. China>Rider SMOKES!

One of the best LLRains EVER!

and then



I fucking LOVE that show!

I may have an extra for you on Cd, email me.

Were you at the one before it?

Man, that pre-Drumz is UNBELIEVABLE too!

I think, Samson>Eyes>Playin'>Drumz?

Holy Eyes

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This is such a difficult question, but it's what I think about all day, so I should have some thoughts. Let us see where they take me...I should warn you that I tend to go off on tangents and my arguments lack any cohesion. I will cut and paste DanMTL's questions though in an attempt to give me some focus...

is a jamband just a bunch of musicians that like phish and the dead, trying to emulate their heroes?

I think many of the members of this new wave of "jambands" are huge fans of the origins of their trade (has anyone ever seen Nershi without a stealy tee) and are definitely trying to emulate in terms of "we don't quite know what's gonna happen or where it's gonna go, but hey, we'll try, and you're here, so let's ALL put our best foot forward" (pun intended) But is that really emulating, or merely playing music. Music has only come in the form of three minute numbers released as singles and played and replayed and replayed on the radio for two months until single two becomes available for a few decades. I'm sure many of you have been to a greek restaurant and heard the music with the guys on mandolin and guitar "hopa-ing" it up for 25 minutes at a time - those guys can jam! But just because Phish and the Dead have been more critically succesful and widespreadedly popular doesn't mean that they deserve to be used as a cross-reference for countless other musicians who also see music formed in a moment while onstage.

where does the definition of a jamband begin and end? improvisation is suppposed to break the barriers of categorization.

improvisation begins with an idea and ends when that idea has played itself out to the musicians' satisfaction, or dissatisfaction. Jamband is a band that takes chances, that puts aside the fear of showing an audience what they think, nothing more, nothing less. Can you categorize thoughts (not thoughts as things, but thoughts as "your thoughts, your inner dialogue" - say, "I'm feeling Boise-Bag-esque today" - it doesn't quite work (besides I'm in more of an Isis -oh -Isis kind of mood!!))

does jam music have to appeal to hippies to be considered "jamband" material?

we, the hippies, use the jamband name. If it didn't appeal to hippies I think whomever did like it would call it something otherwise. I think I may have missed the boat on this question though.

does improvisation come from the soul? or does it come from a desire to be like phish or the dead, or the 'next' phish or dead?

You dare ask the question, DanMTL of Jambolaya?!?! Ha! I'd like to hear what you have to say. As someone without instrumental or vocal ability (but lots of dreams, dammit) I'm sure the coffers of the band members of The Grateful Dead and of Phish loom on the thoughts of "jammers." Who wouldn't be flattered and ecstatic to have 75K people drool over something you and your friends make up on the spot. I think the Dead and Phish serve as motivation for up-and-comers to pursue their ideas. But the fact of the matter is when a band is onstage, they only have their chops, and their ideas. They may have heard something one of the BIG TWO did and try and emulate that, but that wouldn't be improvisation now, would it.

is a 'jamband' just a band u go see when u cant be at a phish show, hence dubbing all jambands "not quite phish"?

In a way, yeah (frowns)

who is the next phish, and can there be one ??

In the community, I think the band making the biggest waves is SCI. Now wait a second though, is this question one that implies that phish was the next dead? Because I think SCI will become more and more and more succesful and attract larger and larger audiences to places even further away than maui and costa rica. Musically and idealistically, I think these guys are a cut above all the other "hiatus bands" I've been listening to. I think they've been quite careful though in distancing themselves and their fans from being pigeon-holed into the next-Phish thing. As cheesy as this sounds and quite honestly can't believe I'm saying something like this after all these years, but, their scene has so much more love than that of Phish, for the music the community and the earth. When I think of the Phish scene, the only image I can conjure up is that of 250 wookies huddled around a couple hissing tanks on a runway strip, and that pisses the hell out of me.

OK, I've been trying to make sense of this for myself and for you guys for far too long - I think I've been at the post for about 45 minutes, tinkering, thinking, smoking, whatnot. I'm gonna go to bed (there's nothing like working 10 hours thru the night and coming home not to sleep but to argue the intricacies of (sic) Phish-speak!

I will however, leave you guys with a few random thoughts that may reiterate what I've said or broach new topics, but they're what I'm thinking now, at this moment, in my head. Consider this the jamband equivalent of a sanctuary post!

In our community, a jamband, is a band that jams. It's a band that knows full well that after the composed portion of a song, or anytime for that matter, they're liable to play what

they're thinking at that moment and run with it and expect their fellow band members to follow along, either complementing, adding to or mutating the original theme. (Unfortunately, some lesser jambands (and even our heroes, sometimes)seem compelled to beat that original theme like a dead horse for an extended period while you're trying to keep up on the floor, but so in need of water or another song, hopefully slow (shudders)(laughs at shudder)) I do think the term pigeon-holes the bands that attach themselves to this principle but some of them want the moniker (case in point, GTB, whose website proclaims their dedication to exploring the nether regions of their musical minds)

In our community, I think stylistic variation is the singular key element to attracting new listeners and keeping them coming back. While I'd like to think so, I don't think I would enjoy doing a Phish tour and seeing circa-95 Tweezer experiments night in night out, set in, set out without throwing in a no-nonsense Cavern give me some focus again. And as an aside, I think the cheese touches on more interesting styles than phish, but then again, look at how many more instruments they have at their disposal, but then again, who cares how many they have, they're doing it!

And finally, I think this sums up everything I've ever thought about music and something which makes me really happy when I hear somebody try... In the liner notes to Kind Of Blue, the dOOd writes something to the tune of "direct deed is the sincerest form of musical expression"

so, jamband = sincerity?

And congratulations to all those who've made it thus far. Have I made any sense. As a thanks, and a hello, on this my "first day of posting"!!, I'll offer up a show to one or two or three or... people who make me think, or laugh (zimmerman and robbae excluded from this once-in-a-lifetime offer) my catalog is pretty extensive phish-wise (I'd gander to say I've got about 400 discs at my disposal, with the focus being 97 (of course) and more recent or you may like to acquire some of this new cheese that has been fulfilling me lately. Send me a thought and a request and I'll try and make it come true for some lucky ladies (and guys). oh boy. delirium has set in. I just offered to give things away! I won't go back on my word though. Bombs away

jah love

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I'm going to try and come at this from the other direction: one thing all/most "jambands" have in common isn't musical, it's *social*. Bands like the Dead, Phish, SCI, etc., foster strong communities in their fanbases, through allowing taping/trading, making following whole tours worthwhile, etc.

It's amazing to see the scene in the lot at a Phish or SCI show, and see people delighted to meet and hug friends they hadn't seen for a while; you don't get that kind of thing at a Britney Spears, Celine Dion, or Bon Jovi concert.

Also, jamband fans *know* the music. You can go on the Dead or Phish newsgroups, ask a question like, "What's the best version of {some song}?" and get back detailed lists and analyses, and probably a few B&P offers. The fans are also extremely willing to share the music, through B&P offers, spinning tapes for newbies who want to get into the music, "miracling", etc.

I think that jambands also interact more with the audience during a show than non-jambands. From seeing SCI, for example, it wasn't them putting on a show for us, it was more like a *mutual* party, with them doing their part, and us doing ours, with feedback between the floor and the stage; they gave off fun music, we took in the fun, transmogrified it, amplified it, and fed it back to them, which made them make funner music, and so on and so on.

If I were a sociology major, this might make a good thesis project...



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Well, that was a good post but my definition of a jamband is:

"A band whose music is better experienced live then recorded".

Also, I dont' think there is anything wrong using the term jamband. Otherwise anytime you'd want to use the term jamband you'll have to use the "funk/jammy/rocking/experimental/jazzy/improv" type descriptions that are just as limiting as the term jamband. For example on the March madness promos, for GTB it says Fredericton Funk. One of the guys from the band was reading the brochure and said "We're not funk" or something like that.

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I would kill for that CD (seriously, just say the word...) My tapes have been stored at my parents cottage for years - I don't even know if I still have that one. That run was some serious shit - I did the Knickerbocker (3 shows) then 2 at Nassau and 2 in Greensboro. Dark Star - say no more. Expect an e-mail from me....

I don't think I ever heard the 13/31/91 tape - I believe I was on Blue Unicorn acid that night.

I wonder if I'll have a flashback if I hear it again...

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  • 3 months later...

danMTL: Im glad to see you consider I Mother Earth Jam rock also. Not many people do. I think they totally kick ass, asnd theyre one of my fav bads. Ive seen them play 3 times, once with edwin an twice with brian, and both times were great.

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I didn't see this thread when it originally appeared.

I agree with Bradm (big shock, there), and if he hadn't made that point, I certainly would have. However, I have another angle: Some things are as much defined by what they're *not* as what they are. Jambands exist in the context of live music--what particular niche do they fill, that other kinds of live music don't?

The individual qualities don't have to be unique--if they were, definition by what *is* rather than what *isn't* would be straightforward. Rather, I think it's a combination of qualities that give jambands (as a group) the scope and latitude of the genre.

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I'll start:

In my limited experience, jambands attempt to close the gap between the band and the audience. That is, music is a means of communication, and unlike so many other genres, jambands move toward making that communication a dialogue rather than a monologue.

If I want to listen to a monologue, I'll listen to a CD. When I listen to live music, I prefer the band to look me in the eyes and acknowledge my presence as a peer, not as a cash-carrying drone. Maybe that's why I'm not big on the concept of an invisible wall on the dance floor in front of the band.

To me, dancing is a big part of this dialogue. It's a clear way of communicating back to the band, especially if you're visible and expressive. (Dancingfool can boogie to the rhythm of a nine-pin printer, and it's one of the things I love about him. The guy's a buddha.)

I like to draw an analogy between dancing and sex. Without dancers, it makes it harder for the band to determine how much of the audience response is enjoyment and understanding of their message, and how much is simple courtesy: "Oooh, baby. Pump me with your hot monkey love. By the way, what do you think of beige?" On the other hand, dancing is akin to an unambiguos response from your partner: "Oh Gawd! Oh Jebus! Jiminy CRICKET!!! Errrmmm ... let me help you pull those bedsheets outta your ass ..."

You get a few critters like DF out in the audience, and you'll know if your music is being listened to, not just heard. (To be fair, though, he does make a point of conserving his energy at times, as do I. Getting back to the analogy, sometimes you just wanna cuddle on the couch and watch TV--it's still good.)

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the threat of making an uneducated post hasn't stopped me yet, so here's a take on the definition from someone looking in from the outside:

jamband: (jăm-bănd) a group of musicians who play with zeal and the intention of luring listeners into uninhibited dance. Not a genre-oriented defintion, but a motive-driven defintion. see also, the jamband scene, an important part of the defintion.

In short, I think the scene itself seems to help define the performers. Many bands 'jam' in their own right but do not seem to fall into the category...being a Doors fan, I've heard many a Morisson/Manzarek/Krieger/Densmore jam of navajo proportions, but not necessarily the same as what I've seen in the limited jamband experience that i've had...

that's the scoop, poop...

Oh ya and speaking of the Doors


Late breaking news:

Los Angeles, CA

Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger announced plans for a Doors reunion show Sept. 6 at the California Motor Speedway just outside LA County. John Densmore is expected to participate but due to a health concern, there is a possibility his doctors will forbid him from playing. In that event, the Doors have already arranged for an alternate world class drummer to fill in. Ian Astbury will handle the majority of the leadvocals and there will be special guest vocalists and musicians as well. With the exception of the rock and roll hall of fame induction in 1972 and last years VH1 Storytellers special, the band has not played in concert since they disbanded in 1973--in fact, September 2, 1972 was their last concert so it's is almost 30 years to the day.

In Spring of 2003, the band will announce tour dates for the US and Europe. After that tour it is expected the Doors will go into the studio to record an album of new material. Already Robby, Ray and John have been writing new songs.

ian astbury....eeeckk


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