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Indie vs Jam


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I'm not sure how popular this topic is in your area of Canada, but here in Calgary it seems to be the basis of many a heated discussion in our "scene" (or lack there of, as kung can somehow attest to?).

The majority of our bars here in Calgary that aren't based around Country, Dance, Top 40 or Hip Hop seem to be over-run by the black rimmed glasses, chuck taylor wearing, indie hipstar, not that there's anything wrong with that.

I guess my question is, where does the jam fit in? It is nearly impossible to get into a decent venue when multiple local indie bands infiltrate as many locations as possible. Its virtually impossible to get any publicity in the local rags because they seem to be run by hipsters who only talk about the new spur of the moment indie band, and you can almost forget postering here because the poster war is almost violent (not really) but posters get ripped down and covered by multiple posters of the same show (usually indie).

Radio is obviously a small marketing tool, but the one station at the university of Calgary is also over-run by that crowd during all the peak listening hours of the day, its almost become commercial. You'll here multiple dj's playing The Shins or The Dudes or The Trews or one of the other "The" bands in the same day, why not play some Jam, there is tonnes of college radio friendly jam out there.

I've spoken to many Indie folks and asked them if they've ever heard of any (insert jamband here) and they've for the most part said no. Then they ask what kind of music it is and I tell them. The majority of the time their response is "I hate jambands". For people who claim to be so musically in tune, that makes a guy frustrated to hear that, knowing full well that the scenesters aren't even familiar with 1/4 of the Jam availible out there, I personally think most of them would like the music if they gave it a chance.

The basic reason behind this rant is to get input on how to ride this wave and try and infiltrate a stronger jam scene here in Calgary. There are quite a few heady folk in the area and getting at least one night at one venue for the jam to grow is all that this city needs. Touring canadian bands are almost fearing the Calgary show. If things don't change soon Calgary is going to become the gas and a restroom stop after the long prairie ride. This city has about a million people, tell me thats not a gold mine waiting to be tapped.

Thanks for listening,

Any recommendations, critisisms or general comments are exactly what I'm looking for here people.

*This post was not meant to offend any fans of the indie scenesters.

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Okay this stuff is at the top of my mind so I'll bite but I'm pretty busy tearing the asses out of a handful of others right now. I'm more focused for the moment on the difference between Jazz or Contemporary Improvisation and Jam but the analogy holds true to Indy as well. Put plainly Indy musicians that get acclaim for the most part deserve it. They have captured the zeitgeist (spirit of their age) of what is current and often they do so in the studio. Weirdness and I were talking about something like this last night when he put on Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots for me. He basically said I could see where people would like this but that it just wasn't for him. Albums are what makes the world go round not concerts and if you have a great album you sell a lot of tickets to concerts that may or may not be good. Because of the oftentimes superior songwriting and production skills of independent musicians they often fair better in the record market.

Jam fans pride themselves on loving great music but are actually surprisingly closed minded besides a handful of crossover bands or supposed influences. The musicianship can range from adequite to exceptional but often doesn't translate to record.

The fans are so different it's not funny and I am with you that I am really fu©king tired of indy rock twits getting all the music press, promotion and everything else. I hate this sh!t. I love the jam kids much much better but well you know I hate them too.

Whether you want to believe it or not one of the biggest differences is that indy musicians are often good enough that they could likely make it as 'jam' musicians playing to drugged out hordes but they don't have to because they write brilliant songs and put out great records. The same is not true in the opposite direction.

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get a closet scene going on

find a cool Lebanese restaurant somewhere just off the beaten path near downtown somewhere and start booking bands there... start off with some decent name acts, mix it up some with the odd songwriter night, poetry night and/or rock show or band jam night with well known local musicians... all owners like making money, the restaurant would be closing around 10 or 11 anyways so why not have some extra staff keep the place open until legal last call and sell a bunch of booze

it worked in Hamilton at La Luna and in Toronto (which was so indie at the time it was ridiculous) at some Portugese restaurant we used to go see One Step Beyond and other popular jam acts before the other clubs realized there were bucks to be had... each scenario over a decade ago but it can still work where the jam clubs aren't established

I mention a Lebanese club as middle easterners tend to be big on making money and are usually relaxed about people popping out to the parking lot between sets (La Luna is Lebanese and after the success of the first place moved to a bigger location to accomodate seperate rooms for a restaurant, live band room and a lounge... all started from the profits of getting a large and loyal jam/arts scene into the bar)

get out and shake some hands and see who wants to make some money and have some fun

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"Jam fans pride themselves on loving great music but are actually surprisingly closed minded besides a handful of crossover bands or supposed influences. "

The irony I continually laugh at. Its funny, because its true.

Ctowns, all I can offer as advice, would be to stop labelling bands as 'jam-bands' or whatever. If they ask you what a band is like, throw out a bunch of fluff instead of a short-sighted term. Too many people hate 'jambands' and in many respects, I dont blame them.

How would you refer to Burt Neilson? A 'jamband' definitely gives them the short end of the straw.

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I am dead serious about them being better musicians. You guys just don't get it. You don't get the legitimate perspective of indy musicians who deserve the praise they get. Like take Do Make Say Think for example, they are all highly educated musically, play in a variety of bands, tour North America and the world (I mean they're playing the fu©king Bowery Ballroom for christ sake) and deservingly. These guys have a far superior understanding of their instruments, timbre, tenor, pitch, dynamics, volume and tone - in short everything that makes 'true music' what it is. Those skills if deployed to simply titillate the audiences brainbones would be mind numbingly good. Instead they compose and craft brilliant works of art and dutifully rehearse and practise for years to bring those works to life. These guys don't just show up in a town plug in their instrument and jam away.

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also work on building your own local community... if someone's a graphic artist who likes the music you do, take a note of that for posters, flyers

oh, you have a show at the university radio station...

so you hardly use this P.A. huh? what would you rent it out for?


maybe throw some house parties first and see how the response is

when in doubt dose the punch (kidding, I just like saying that)

can't get into arguments about who are better musicians, grew up playing pretty technically good piano (grade 6 classical) and just about died of boredom, quit at 14, though I didn't tell my folks for a year so I could blow my piano money on weed

seen people from any genre suck, and from any genre absolutely amaze me... technically amazing can also be amazingly boring... I like bands from any genre who you can tell feel the music every time

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Luke as much as you may know about music, you obviously know nothing about playing an instrument. You're making yourself look ignorant in the process.

agreed... was going to mention that it seems like a point of view of a non-musician

like a photographer describing architectural flaws

[edit to add]:

I do, or at least have, liked a lot of indie bands... there are "jam bands" I care for less than others, though I don't make a big deal about them on here

I think which style you're into at a particular period of time depends on what sort of energy you're in the mood for... I find indie usually in your face, even if its quiet and ballady, whereas I find "jam" more anonymous... I usually seek out jam more because I appreciate the anonymity I can experience at a show, doesn't feel like I'm as on display

[edit to add a bit more]:

guess I should mention that I also go on the local indie board every day as well... those kids can be picky to talk to though, seems like most of the discussions are about finding the magic road to getting discovered... I find some people over there definately very closed minded about what kind of music is ok or not (though there's open minded people over there too)

again, think it just comes down to personal preference at a given point in time... I think any true music fan likes or at least appreciates all genres at some point

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That may be but why don't you lay it down for me then Oh Great Dave. You would be the exception in our scene because you have a virtuosic ability on your instruments that would fair you well in other settings. I am trying to account for the public's perceptions and why the artist's and critic's perceive jam music to be derivative. In these regards I can speak quite adequitely. And just so we're clear I am incredibly angry right now not at that remark but at what tools the bunch of you can be. I'm just so tired of this petty bullshit. I'm going to end up touring jazz bands around Europe for top dollar or running my own festival in god knows where and it ain't gonna be know day in the garden Evolve style fuckfest. I've reached the end of my tether with all of this. You're all good people (most of you), you mean well, but many of you aren't very deep or effective thinkers or communicators and participating in this forum causes me more angst then anything else.

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These guys have a far superior understanding of their instruments, timbre, tenor, pitch, dynamics, volume and tone - in short everything that makes 'true music' what it is.

No, that list is not "everything that makes 'true music' what it is". You left out one key component: rhythm. When I saw DMST a couple of years ago, my main feeling was that while they may do stuff, make stuff, say stuff, and think stuff, it'd be nice if they'd actually play stuff. A concert composed of gentle washes of whole notes, with no discernable followable rhythmic pattern, made for some of the most boring music I'd ever heard.



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I really didn't mean to come off harsh or all knowing. I certainly am not. Just picking up an instrument and fu©king around isn't what I think anyone is going for. You could just as easily say that most of the indie rockers are just trend following lemmings who capture their "zeitgeist" from exclaim magazine.

I wouldn't choose to believe that either "scene" is more or less legitimate than the other. Don't discount how difficult a thing it is for a bunch of non-jazz musicians to learn how to improvise (there is a jazz language, there isn't a rock improvisation language) and manage to pull off something interesting. I have a great appreciation for those (phish for example) who have mastered the art of spontaneous composition outside of a pre existing method/tradition/language.

I also love great 3 minute songs, Well crafted albums and great production.

What I don't really care for is cool haircuts or neat shoes or deciding whatever is cool is whatever I'm told is by some pompous music writer that was all about swing bands, then was all about rock being dead, then was all about easier to swallow versions of the new york dolls, and is now selling me recycled synth pop.

Don't get me wrong. I really think there is a huge amount of great music coming from a lot of scenes. Including the "jam scene"

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I think that as soon as something has a label it becomes diluted and the same is just as true of the Jamband scene as it is for the indy scene. There is a lot of truth to what zero is saying as far as guys showing up, grooving for ten minutes on a simple chord progression--or one chord--and calling themselves a jamband. The same can be said of the indy scene where people show up with a chord progression--or variation of--something the beatles wrote, or the Stones ripped off, dress like a young Elvis Costello and think about how their going to sell it to the masses. There are exceptions, but really, the majority of bands in any type of music won't even make it out of their own town into a venue near you. I agree with avoiding the labels and providing fluff, stock responses that will motivate people to get out and see it. If you're a virtuoso in a band full of them, then people will probably dig you--but come on, there is not too many of those--if you suck you'll wonder why people aren't coming to your shows and then blame it on those indy hipsters or freaky hippies who probably possess a little more talent. People like good sh!t, regardless of the genre. Marketing and labels is all about selling the bad sh!t, piggybacked on the reputation of the good.

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These guys have a far superior understanding of their instruments, timbre, tenor, pitch, dynamics, volume and tone - in short everything that makes 'true music' what it is.

I have seen plenty of musicians who aren't exactly masters of their instruments that have moved and impressed me. Often one's heart and soul make better music than one's instrument. Likewise, one's ensemble can be made of up less than stellar musicians. The band is often greater than the sum of it's parts.

It's not so cut and dry. It's art.

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It is no wonder that outside of the sanctioned "jam"-media, which is tiny in relative comparison, this music garners little interest and not a little derision. The infrastructure of bars, message boards and media outlets lend it a sense of importance it doesn't always deserve because the best "jambands" know that they need quality material, or mind-blowing chops and taste, to make them stick out from the pack. Once they've been able to achieve those standards they've essentially compromised their relationship with their noodle-happy audience, who – let’s be frank here – just need some background music for the Dazed & Confused portion of their lives. Just look at what happened when BNB started unleashing some of the best material they had written - all you heard were complaints about they "gay", "short", “poppy” songs or whatever. Late period Phish is a prime example, also.

Paisley may have inadvertantly said it best when he spoke of the “anonymity” of the jam scene. I know he was referring to himself personally but I can apply that to the whole scene in general. The territorial, “scene”-obsessed attitudes of the jam hordes don’t always serve to raise the artistic bar higher. And, sorry, but you don’t have to be a working musician to measure that. That’s why there are artists, and there are audiences.

Having said all of that, I have no reason to believe similar discussions aren’t mirrored in other musical “scenes”, and I am sure the indie scene is awash with fly-by-night bands seeking a thrill and a piece of the pie. Good luck to all of them, they all have to start somewhere. But it is no mystery to me why some people say “jambands” suck, which is harsh to be sure. On any given night they could be exposed to some of the most exploratory, impassioned, visionary, free-form spontaneous jamming in the Universe for less then $10 but more likely won’t be, sadly.

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Okay I take what I said back this thread is evidence of the deep level of thinking many of you are capable of. For anyone interested Dave just wrote that I sounded like a non-musician and it made my remarks come off ignorant. He didn't mean anything by it and explained his point. Understand that I have been through about the most stressful experience of my life (seriously) and I'm riding a precarious knife's edge of hyper productivity and soul swallowing despair. I'm going through the quickening. My problem is that I genuinely know just a ton of these musicians whether it's Do Make or The Slip or BSS or nero. I think some may think I'm a bit much but don't doubt my sincerity. So I hear directly what they say about other bands, I soak up their attitude and indy rock hipness if you like (style and sometimes a lot of it) and I just intuit the rest. Most of the time I bet my intuitions are right. So I know whereof I speak here and on a number of points and it's not that I demand to be right it's just that you would need to have similar experience bases to mine to appreciate it and those who do get it.

On the Do Make remark you made Brad I think you came up with a great way of describing their sound.

A concert composed of gentle washes of whole notes, with no discernable followable rhythmic pattern, made for some of the most boring music I'd ever heard.

What they are doing seems deceptively rudimentary. Pete and Tash both used the word cacophonic or cacophony to describe it which I thought interesting. It reminded Pete of the Spree's approach in terms of hammering you with their sound which I found interesting. Other comparisons would be Broken Social Scene, The Slip (currently), Sigur Ros or Mum. The thing is this is a particularly unique approach to music right now steeped in an intense awareness of music history and the potential of electronics and global travel. I guess I understand how someone might not enjoy this kind of music but it's definitely ultra current and authentic. That really is the ultimate judge of a band or person and something we all struggle with. Are we being authentic, are we being true to ourselves, are we being our true self? You all accuse me of egotism or narcissism periodically but at least I am conscious of the machinations of either the ego or the narcissistic processes. Narcissism is a love of your false self just as is grandiosity. Many of these bands are trying not in turn to exhalt their false selfs but to embrace their true self. Insomuch as an indy or jamband can be deemed authentic I have no issues with either.

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im just kinda thinking out loud here as i read this, and i guess it seems like its the same thing that keeps the 2 genres apart, and its not even related to the music. its the fashion. i mean, the indy kids associate the term "jamband" with "dirty hippies" and thats why they dont like the music. the jam folk associate the "indie bands" with stuck up thick rimmed glasses wearin psuedo punks who talk real whiny like. fine. but none of it matters to the music, or the person, really. the fact is, i dont think lauzon is gonna be a better guitar player if he grew big porkchops and started wearing more tighter plaid, same as i dont think plaskett is gonna be a better song writer if he grew a big beard and started wearing less plaid and baggier clothes. i think these are 2 markets that depend heavily on a college/university age group, and well, lets be honest, most colleges and universities are all about the trendzzzz, maaaaaaaannnn.

now, by definition, arent most jambands indie bands, anyways? so, aside from a sound, they're one in the same. so lets take the sound down. well, not all "indie bands" sound the same, and not all "jambands" sound the same. sure they may share some of the same flavours, but i think many of them have their own distinctive qualities, whether good or bad. so, it should be about the music. do you like it or not? does that sound tickle your trunk, or do you wanna punch the bass player for boring you to death? it shouldnt matter what the person beside you is thinking or doing or looking like while any of that is going on.

as for the musicianship between genres, well, i cant fairly say if i know that one team has far more technically superior players, but i can tell you when i like what im hearing, and when i find it interesting.

i often like it when "indie bands" jam, and when "jambands" lay it down for a quick few minutes, and i've always thought that if people on both sides of the court gave it a chance the scenes could blend together real well. but it goes back to the question of the marketing, and how to bring them together in as open minded a fashion as possible, and i really dont have an answer... it really is a hard thing, to change peoples minds.

see, this is why i love the slip: you got the best of both worlds, and its real hard to argue that. but again, case in point, look at the rift in their fanbase over a new direction in sound from a jazz/jam type band to an indie type band.. hmmm....

i still think its the fashion show that drives most genres away from each other.

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im just kinda thinking out loud here as i read this, and i guess it seems like its the same thing that keeps the 2 genres apart, and its not even related to the music.

Ding-Ding-Ding!!! Give the man a prize! Or as it was once put in the great Sloan lyric:

If I drink concentrated OJ

Can I think Consolidated's okay

It's not the band I hate, it's their fans

Three cans of water perverts me


Mr. M.

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