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Jam Central Station 1.24.14: The Band
Posted by Jeff Modzelewski on 01.25.2014

While The Band never experienced quite the level of mainstream success that many of their contemporaries did, in music circles their work is often looked at as just as important and influential as some of the biggest names in early rock and roll. While you would never confuse The Band with The Beatles, the fact remains that The Band's influence on rock and roll in the 60's and 70's was nearly as substantial and their legendary live performances set a standard that few bands could ever live up to. In the late 60's and early 70's they were as prolific as The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers, and often shared the stage with these acts as well as Bob Dylan and many others. Early in their history, however, it would never have been apparent that this group of Canadians (and one Arkansasian) would come together with the success that they ultimately had.

In the mid 50's, Leon Helms was playing in a rockabilly group in Arkansas called the Jungle Bush Beaters. Through playing with this band he met up with a young Ronnie Hawkins, who was looking for a serious backing band. Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks was put together in 1957, and due to certain connections that members had they began playing regularly in the Great Lakes region and in Canada. They moved the band to Toronto, where their wild rockabilly sound was very unique and soon gathered a following. However, most of the Hawks would leave Canada within a couple of years. Instead of deterring the band, however, they simply found some of the best young Canadian musicians to fill the voids. Robbie Robertson joined first, and was quickly followed by Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, and Garth Hudson. While Hawkins was the frontman of the group (and a star in his own right), the departure of the majority of southerners left Hawkins as an outsider in his own band.

The Hawks split from Hawkins, with only Helms remaining from the original group. They spent some time playing and recording together with Helms as the frontman, focusing on perfecting their heavy R&B based rock sound. They became a well known club band, playing music in bars primarily focused on getting people to dance and enjoy themselves. The band ended up meeting Bob Dylan through a mutual colleague, and Dylan quickly decided that this was the band that he wanted to use to "update" his music. They began touring with Dylan, focusing on his style of modern electric folk and learning how to be less rigid when playing live. Dylan's habit of changing songs on the fly forced his band to learn how to keep up. While this wasn't what they had been doing in years past, they learned to read each other and Dylan to follow where the song was going. They toured with Dylan in 1965 and 66 (although Helms left early in the tour due to the poor reaction of fans) and recorded The Basement Tapes with Dylan in 67.

There were significant disagreements during this time on how Dylan and "his" band should proceed. Dylan was primarily focused on his lyrics and had very little interest in how the production of an album sounded. The rest of the band, Robertson in particular, were interested in making an album that sounded great, where each voice and instrument had its own unique characteristic. The group decided to split with Dylan and record on their own. Helms re-joined the newly christened "The Crackers" (which was soon changed to simply "The Band"), they recorded some demos, and were soon signed to Capitol Records.

The initial tracks for Music From The Big Pink were recorded in New York and finished in Los Angeles. Each song on the album had a distinct feel and the band took great interest in things like the order of each track. Each member other than Helms contributed to the songwriting, and Dylan was also credited on the album. The album included some of their most well-known songs, including "The Weight" and "Chest Fever." While the album wasn't an instant success, The Band's songwriting and the excellent production and sound of the album soon caused fans and critics alike to take notice. As fans got word that this had been the band that recently toured with Dylan (and had recorded on the unreleased-at-the-time Basement Tapes), they gained a cult-like following, despite giving no interviews and not touring for over a year.

By the time the band began work on their second album, they had all grown significantly as musicians. Robertson also emerged as the primary songwriter and wrote every song on the album either by himself or with a bandmate. The eponymous album was a major success and considered to be their masterpiece. The songwriting was as strong as anything Dylan was doing at the time, and the single "The Night They Drove Ol' Dixie Down" was a hit single. Robertson and producer John Simon spent a week planning out the recording sessions before the band finally gathered in California to record. They began touring regularly, playing both Woodstock and the Isle of Wright festival.

The Band has historically gone down as one of the greatest albums ever recorded. While it isn't a concept album, the songs all deal with either historical figures or themes. While Robertson was the primary songwriter, many of the songs dealt with themes that were from Helms neck of the woods. Robertson was able to capture these different themes in a very real and impactful way, and the band's attention to detail assured that every nuance of the song was heard as the band intended. It was a songwriting and recording accomplishment that has rarely been matched.

The Band found themselves having a difficult time dealing with the fame and celebrity that suddenly surrounded them. They began looking for ways to have more fun with their music. They began writing a new album with the intention of recording the album live at a small show in Woodstock NY. However, the city turned down the show, and the band instead recorded the album in the studio in just about two weeks. While Stage Fright was initially planned to be a lighter, more fun rock album, the songs became increasingly dark during the recording process. The band had decided that they were more interested in being taken seriously as songwriters and musicians instead of playing for the typical "drunk rock" crowd.

After a year on the road they reconvened for 1971's Cahoots. The sessions were marked by tension, as Robertson's songwriting had become increasingly complicated and complex. Other members worried that Robertson was being complex simply for the sake of being complex, while Robertson felt that many of the songs were half-finished. Robertson was his own worst critic in regards to the songwriting, and his trepidation carried through the entire mixing process. The album did include some classic Band tracks, but more mediocrity than greatness.

The Band closed out 1971 with a trio of gigs at the Academy of Music in New York, accompanied by a horn section arranged by Allen Toussaint. The shows were so successful that they released a double LP commemorating the best of the shows with Toussaint and the horns. After a pair of lackluster studio albums, Rock of Ages showed The Band could still bring out their best. Still, it was their last gig for a year and a half. Their next show was the legendary Watkins Glen show in July of 1973 with The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers. The show is believed to be the largest concert ever produced, with over 600,000 attendees.

Later that year The Band released Moondog Matinee, a collection of R&B cover songs meant to highlight their roots. They then rekindled their relationship with Bob Dylan, going out on a joint tour with him. The tour was memorialized on the double album Before the Flood. They continued their Dylan collaboration by finally completing and releasing The Basement Tapes, which were originally recorded in 1967. The album included many of the over 100 songs originally written in those sessions as well as a half dozen songs written and recorded solely by The Band. It was an odd mix, and many critics wondered why Columbia included later tracks instead of just using the original session. The final product, however, is still lauded as one of the great albums of the era.

The Band finally got around to recording an album of new material in 1975. Northern Lights – Southern Cross was recorded in the Spring of that year and released in October. Robbie Robertson was the sole songwriter credited on the album. However, the rest of the band contributed with great performances on the album. Hudson's keyboards were layered in multiple tracks using a variety of instruments and Danko's vocals were a highlight of the album. Other instruments like a fiddle and accordion were brought in to add the appropriate feel to different songs. The album was considered a "comeback" album of sorts for The Band, and a very successful one both critically and commercially.

Given the success of Northern Lights – Southern Cross, it was surprising that the band was nearing their end. They were looking for a new record deal and growing tired of touring. They announced that they would play one final show on Thanksgiving 1976. The Last Waltz was immortalized both as a triple album as well as a movie directed by Martin Scorcese. The concert featured an amazing list of guest appearances. Along with both Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan, The Band performed with Neil Young, Joanie Mitchell, Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, Ronnie Wood, Emmylou Harris, Ringo Starr, and many others. The concert was an elaborate affair and a huge success, lasting until well past 2 in the morning. The movie is widely considered to be the greatest concert film ever, and the live album soundtrack was also extremely successful.

Despite recording The Last Waltz in 1976, it wasn't released until 1978. There were a variety of contractual reasons for this, including that the band wanted to release the soundtrack on Warner Bros. but were contractually obligated to give Capitol one more album. Islands is considered to be a throwaway album for The Band, despite it being the last studio album with the original lineup. Many of the songs were written in years past and not considered strong enough for other albums. While the cover of "Georgia On My Mind" was a modest hit, the rest of the album is lackluster at best.

The Last Waltz was originally simply supposed to mark the end of the touring era of The Band, but it actually was the end of The Band as fans knew it. Member went on to form other bands and record solo albums. All of the members other than Robertson would play together in various collaborations in the years following The Last Waltz, and a reunited The Band (sans Robertson) began touring in 1983. Richard Manuel committed suicide while on tour with The Band in 1986, although the reformed group found a replacement and continued. They finally called it quits for good after Rick Danko passed away in 1999.

The story of The Band is really a great one. They went through so many styles and adjustments in their early career, all of which culminated in their recording and touring history as The Band. The original group didn't overstay their welcome and left on as high of a high note as any band. They left a legacy in their wake of amazing songwriting, legendary live performances, and some of the best studio recordings ever made. There are surprisingly few recordings of Robertson-era shows, so it's difficult for fans to relive those moments. But the influence of The Band continues to be felt over 30 years after their last show.

Wanee announces lineup
The Wanee Festival announced their lineup for 2014. The festival that kicks off the summer jam band festival season will, as usual, include The Allman Brothers Band. Other artists include the Trey Anastasio Band, Umphrey's McGee, moe., Lynard Skynard, Gov't Mule, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and many others.

G. Love & Special Sauce to reunite
The original lineup of G. Love & Special Sauce will reunite for the first time in 8 years for a new album and extensive tour. Sugar will be released on 4/22, and the band has a tour that will span over 3 months announced. Each show will include 2 sets, with the band performing their self-titled debut each night in the first set.

February 5 Cincinnati, OH – 20th Century Theatre
February 6 Detroit, MI – St. Andrews Hall
February 7 Cleveland, OH – House of Blues
February 8 Pittsburgh, PA – Stage AE
February 9 Buffalo, NY – Town Ballroom
February 12 Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Bowl
February 13 Uncasville, CT – Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun Resort
February 14 Boston, MA – House of Blues
February 15 Philadelphia, PA – TLA (Sold Out)
February 16 Philadelphia, PA – TLA
February 19 Norfolk, VA – The NorVA
February 20 Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
February 21 Raleigh, NC – Lincoln Theatre
February 22 Atlanta, GA – Variety Playhouse
February 23 Nashville, TN – 3rd & Lindsley
February 26 Charleston, SC – Music Farm
February 27 Jacksonville Beach, FL – Freebird Live
February 28 Ft. Lauderdale, FL – Culture Room
March 1 St. Petersburg, FL – Jannus Live
March 4 Orlando, FL – The Social
March 5 Pensacola, FL – Vinyl Music Hall
March 6 New Orleans, LA – Tipitina's
March 7 Austin, TX – Stubb's Waller Creek Amphitheatre
March 21 San Diego, CA – House of Blues
March 22 West Hollywood, CA – House of Blues
March 23 Fresno, CA – Strummer's
March 26 San Francisco, CA – The Fillmore
March 27 Petaluma, CA – McNears Mystic Theatre
March 28 Reno, NV – Grand Sierra Resort & Casino
March 29 Lincoln, CA – Thunder Valley Casino
March 30 Phoenix, AZ – McDowell Mountain Music Festival
April 3 Grants Pass, OR – Rogue Theatre
April 4 Seattle, WA – Showbox at the Market
April 5 Portland, OR – Wonder Ballroom
April 6 Vancouver, BC – Venue
April 8 Missoula, MT – Top Hat Lounge
April 9 Garden City, ID – Visual Arts Collective
April 10 Salt Lake City, UT – The Depot
April 11 Boulder, CO – Boulder Theater
April 12 Boulder, CO – Boulder Theater
April 13 Steamboat Springs, CO – Steamboat Springs Ski Area
April 16 St. Louis, MO – Duck Room at Blueberry Hill
April 17 Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue
April 18 Chicago, IL – Metro
April 19 Milwaukee, WI – Northern Lights Theater at Potawatomi Casino
May 18 Portland, OR – Tom McCall Waterfront

Greensky Bluegrass add dates
Greensky Bluegrass added another set of dates to their winter tour. They're now set to be on the road through March, with summer festival dates already lined up as well.

January 21 Louisville, KY—Headliners Music Hall
January 22 Pittsburgh, PA—Rex Theater
January 23 Philadelphia, PA—Theatre of Living Arts
January 24 Boston, MA—Paradise Rock Club
January 25 Northampton, MA—Pearl Street
January 26 Burlington, VT—Higher Ground
January 29 New Haven, CT—Toad's Place
January 30 Brooklyn, NY—Music Hall of Williamsburg
January 31 Stroudsburg, PA—Sherman Theater
February 1 Washington, DC—9:30 Club
February 4 Ithaca, NY—The Haunt
February 5 Buffalo, NY—Town Ballroom
February 6 Columbus, OH—Woodlands Tavern
February 7 Cleveland, OH—Beachland Ballroom
February 8 Royal Oak, MI—Royal Oak Music Theatre
February 21-23 Avon, CO—WinterWonderGrass Festival
February 23 Park City, UT—Park City Live
February 26 Missoula, MT—The Top Hat
February 27 Portland, OR—The Crystal Ballroom
February 28 Eugene, OR—WOW Hall
March 1 Seattle, WA—Neptune Theatre
March 2 Bend, OR—The Domino Room
March 5 Arcata, CA—Arcata Theatre Lounge
March 6 Santa Cruz, CA—The Catalyst Club
March 7 Stateline, NV—Crystal Bay Casino
March 8 Solana Beach, CA—Belly Up Tavern
March 9 West Hollywood, CA—Troubadour
March 11 Phoenix, AZ—Crescent Ballroom
March 12 Santa Fe, NM—Santa Fe Sol
March 13 Tulsa, OK—Cain's Ballroom
March 14 St. Louis, MO—Old Rock House
March 15 Nashville, TN—Exit/In
March 21-22 Live Oak, FL—Suwannee Springfest
May 1 New Orleans, LA—Jazz Fest
May 9 Aiken, SC—Aiken Bluegrass Festival
May 10 Huntersville, NC—NC Brewers & Music Festival
June 19 Telluride, CO—Telluride Bluegrass Festival

One Big Holiday
January 26-30, 2014
Riviera Maya, Mexico
My Morning Jacket will be performing 4 nights at this event.

Aura Music & Arts Festival
February 14-16, 2014
Spirit of the Suwanne Music Park
Live Oak, FL
Performers include: Papadosio, Lotus, Conspirator, Zoogma, The Werks, The Revivaalists, Particle, Marco Benevento, Dopapod, and many others.

International Incident
February 19-23 2014
Hard Rock Hotel, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Performers include: Multiple shows from the String Cheese Incident, EOTO< Kyle Holingsworth Band, The Motet, and Prophet Massive.

Winter Wondergrass
February 21-23, 2014
Nottingham Park
Avon, CO
Performers include: Greensky Bluegrass featuring Sam Bush, Leftover Salmon, The Infamous Stringdusters, Elephant Revival, Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers, Fruition, and many others.

Jam in the Sand
February 28-March 4, 2014
Negril, Jamaica
Dark Star Orchestra will host the event. Other performers to be announced.

Panic en la Playa tres
March 17-21, 2014
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Widespread Panic will perform four shows during the event.

Suwannee Springfest
March 20-23, 2014
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oaks, FL
Performers include: Avett Brothers, Punch Brothers, Sam Bush Band, Southern Soul Assembly, Donna the Buffalo, Greensky Bluegrass, and many others

Hoopla in the Hills
March 27-30
Poston Lake Music Park
Athens, OH
Performers include: Papadosio, Keller Williams, EOTO, Larry Keel & Natural Bridge, Cosby Sweater, Rumpke Mountain Boys, and many others.

Wanee Festival
April 10-12, 2014
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oaks, FL
Performers include: Allman Brothers Band, Trey Anastasio Band, Umphrey's McGee, moe., Lynard Skynard, Gov't Mule, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Dumpstaphunk, and many others

Tortuga Music Festival
April 12-13, 2014
Beach Park
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Performers include: Sheryl Crow, Train, Slightly Stoopid, Ziggy Marley, Brett dennen, Delta Rae, Moon Taxi, The Revivalists, and many others.

Counter.Point Festival
April 25-27, 2014
Kingston Downs, GA
Performers include: Outkast, Pretty Lights, STS9, Foster the People, Krewella, Big gigantic, Thievery Corp., Griz, Shpongle, Moon Taxi, and many others

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
April 25-27 and May 1-4, 2014
New Orleans, LA
Performers include: Phish, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, Santana, String cheese Incident, John Fogerty, Galactic, Avett Brothers, and many others.

Hangout Music Festival
May 16-18
Gulf Shores, AL
Performers include: The Black Keys, The Killers,Outkast, Jack Johnson, Queens of the Stone Age, Pretty Lights, The Avett Brothers, STS9, The Flaming lips, Modest Mouse, Zedd, and many others.

Summer Camp
May 22-25, 2014
Three Sisters Park
Chillicothe, IL
Performers include: moe., Umphrey's McGee, Trey Anastasio Band, Bassnectar, Primus, Yonder Mountain String Band, Lotus, EOTO, and many others

Dark Star Jubilee
May 23-26, 2014
Legend Valley
Thornville, OH

Nelsonville Festival
May 29-June 1, 2014
Nelsonville, OH
Performers include: The Avett Brothers

June 5-8, 2014
Mulberry Mountain
Ozark, AR
Performers include: The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, STS9, Umphrey's McGee, John Butler Trio, Flaming Lips, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Lettuce, Dr. Dog, Papadosio, and many others.

Mountain Jam
June 5-8, 2014
Hunter Mountain, NY
Performers include: Gov't Mule, Bob Weir & RatDog, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gov't Mule, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Umphrey's McGee, Pretty Lights, and many others

Governor's Ball
June 6-8, 2014
Governor's Island
New York, NY
Performers include: Outkast, jack White, Vampire Weekend, The Strokes, Skrillex, Interpol, and many others.

June 12-15, 2014
Manchester, TN

Telluride Bluegrass Festival
June 19-22, 2014
Telluride, CO
Performers include: Sam Bush Band, Bela Fleck & The Colorado Symphony, Brandi Carlile, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Del McCoury Band, Leftover Salmon, Greensky Bluegrass, and many others.

Firefly Music Festival
June 19-22, 2014
Dover, DE
Performers include: Foo Fighters, Outkast, Jack Johnson, Imagine Dragons, Pretty Lights, The Lumineers, Weezer, Girl Talk, Tegan and Sara, and many others.

High Sierra
July 3-6, 2014
Quincy, CA

July 23-27, 2014
Floyd, VA
Performers include: Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite, Ms. Lauryn Hill, ray LaMontagne, Thievery Corporation, Ziggy Marley, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Buddy Guy, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, and many others

Gathering of the Vibes
July 31-August 1, 2014
Seaside Park
Bridgeport, CT

Outside Lands
August 8-10, 2014
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA

Lockin' Music Festival
September 4-7, 2014
Arrington, VA
Performers include: The String Cheese Incident, The Allman Brothers Band, Phil Lesh & Friends, Widespread Panic, and Bob Weir & Ratdog

Catskill Chill
September 5-7, 2014
Camp Minglewood
Hancock, NY

Thanks again for stopping by. I'll be back next week with more jam. Until then, check me out on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute concert announcements. Until next week, Jam On!


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