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Jam Central Station 3.22.14: A Brief History of Jam
Posted by Jeff Modzelewski on 03.22.2014





Hey all! So I'm sorry that I missed the past couple weeks, but I have a good excuse. My wife and I had our second baby two weeks ago, and writing just wasn't on the front of my mind. I'm sure you all understand. So for this week, I wanted to do a little overview of jam bands as a way to launch into some great spring and summer artist and festival coverage. Hope you don't mind, and enjoy!



So I've said this before, but when I started this column in 2009 (and when I went to Rothbury 2008 before that), I was pretty ignorant about "jam bands." I knew some of the bigger names, and I had an idea of what Phish and The Grateful Dead sounded like (without really understanding that they didn't sound anything like each other), but I just didn't get the vast size and scope of the genre. In fact, "genre" isn't even the right word. The "Jam Band" label can be put on an artist from almost any "genre." There's so much more to it than style. Talent, improvisation, and live performances are all a part of it, but there's truly no single indicator of a "jam band." However, there's still plenty to talk about.

Jam bands come from almost every genre. The Grateful Dead, The Band, and The Allman Brothers are typically considered three of the "original" jam bands, and they certainly have a lot in common. Early on, however, there was resistance to this label. The Allman Brothers famously stated that they didn't want to be considered a "jam band" but rather a "band that jams." despite the semantics, the original term often goes back to those three bands as well as other Woodstock era bands like Jefferson Airplane, Santana, and even Jimi Hendrix. The Grateful Dead, The Band, and The Allman Brothers all featured impressive live performances that never sounded the same twice. They played shows (and sometimes songs) that lasted hours, improvised heavily, they focused more on their live shows than on albums or radio play. They also had strong connections with their fans, and they were engaged in the hippie and drug community.

Despite some efforts, jam bands and drugs have always gone hand in hand. Early on it was primarily weed and LSD, and, while those drugs are still around, the drug scene has expanded to include mushrooms, various pharmaceuticals, molly, ketamine, DMT, nitrous, and others. Cocaine has sometimes been popular, and heroin is around but not as acceptable in the scene as many of the other drugs, but many fans focus on drugs that help them experience the music more fully. The rise in ecstasy and some pharmaceuticals has also been tied to the rise in electronic music in the jam band scene, although it's certainly not a direct correlation. To be a "jam band" fan almost always means that you have to be comfortable with a level of drug use, even if you don't take part yourself. I've been around jam band fans on a variety of drugs and I've also partied with folks that didn't do more than drink a couple of beers. So while "jam bands" and "drugs" are certainly related, the need to use drugs to enjoy a jam band has often been vastly overstated.

For years The Grateful Dead carried the community. The death of Jerry Garcia and the rise of Phish also led to a branching out of "jam band" fans into dozens of genres. In the early to mid 90's it was Phish, Widespread Panic, Blues Traveler, The Dave Matthews Band, The Black Crowes, The Spin Doctors, and a handful of others giving Deadheads a new sense of community. The HORDE Tour mixed some older artists with some of the up and coming jammers and gave bands like Panic, Phish, and The String Cheese Incident an opportunity to play large venues across the country. By proving that they could draw large numbers of fans with minimal radio support, new opportunities began to emerge. The biggest of this was the resurgence of large scale multi-day music festivals. Gathering of the Vibes and All Good started up in the 90's, and the early 00's brought Bonnaroo, Summer Camp, Wakarusa, and many others. Bands also began throwing their own events, from Phish's massive festivals to moe.down and Ohio's own hookahville, which, at it's peak, drew over 15,000 people.

Phish ruled the jamband scene throughout the late 90's until their "breakup," and continue to be the top ticket selling jam band since their reunion. The Dave Matthews Band successfully crossed over into mainstream radio, becoming by far the biggest jam crossover band. While Bonnaroo is far removed from it's jam band roots, at the time it got started it proved that you could still draw over 100,000 folks to a field for 3 days without focusing on mainstream bands. Around that time the "jam band" moniker widened considerably and now includes bands that are rock, bluegrass, funk, roots, hip-hop, jazz, blues, reggae, and every sub-genre in between. Since I started writing in 2009, the expansion of electronic music has been huge as well, as artists like Pretty Lights and Bassnectar have gone from being side-stage novelties to festival headliners in their own right.

So what makes a "jam band?" Who knows. As has been said about pornography "I know it when I see it." Most jam bands are known for extensive live performances, but that's not always the case. Most jam bands fly under the radar of popular culture, but Phish, The Grateful Dead, and The Dave Matthews Band obviously fly in the face of that, and even bands like Pearl Jam, Tool, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers have gained an extensive "jam band fan" following. There's no single style or characteristic that defines the label. More than anything, however, I'd say that jam bands can be defined by their connection with their fans. Jam bands tend to put forward the idea that the music and the fans come first. They're willing to take chances and try new things in order to get the fans excited and keep them on board.

As for this column, I'm looking forward to continuing to dive into the scene, find interesting bands and stories, and bring them to the surface. I like to give non-jam fans an idea of what's going on, and maybe open the eyes of some jam band folks and provide some insight on new bands and new styles. And, for me personally, this is always an exciting and fun exercise, allowing me to expand my knowledge and understanding of the community. I'm looking forward to continuing to do it.





















Gathering of the Vibes Lineup
Gathering of the Vibes dropped their initial 2014 lineup. The festival, which will be held in Bridgeport, CT from July 31-August 3, will include a pretty great lineup. Big names include Widespread Panic, John Fogerty, moe., Umphrey's McGee, The Disco Biscuits featuring Mickey Hart & Bill Kreutzmann, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Dumpstaphunk, Leftover Salmon, and many other great bands. And this is just the first announcement, so look for more names to drop in the future.

Werk Out Lineup announced
The 2014 Werk Out Music & Arts festival will be held at Legend Valley in Thornville, OH from August 7-9. The Werks will perform for 3 nights, and they will be joined by Papadosio for 2 nights, Emancipator, future Rock, Zoogma, Dopapod, Zach Deputy, Toubab Krewe, The Main Squeeze, Rumpke Mountain Boys, and many others.

Umphrey's McGee announce album details
Umphrey's McGee will release Similar Skin on June 10 through their own label, Nothing Too Fancy Music. The album will include a handful of older songs that haven't gotten studio treatment yet, some songs from the past few years, and a couple yet-unheard tracks.



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.

DelFest
May 22-25, 2014
Cumberland, MD
Performers include: The Del McCoury Band, The String Cheese Incident, Ricky Skags & Bruce hornsby, Yonder Mountain String band, Railroad earth, Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Greensky Bluegrass, 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, Zac Brown Band, Lotus, EOTO, The Devil Makes Three, Greensky Bluegrass, and many others

Dark Star Jubilee
May 23-25, 2014
Legend Valley
Thornville, OH
Performers include: 3 nights of Dark Star Orchestra, Yonder Mountain String Band, Galactic, Keller Williams & More Than A Little, Anders Osborne, The Werks, The Wailers performing Legend, and many others

The Ville
May 23-25, 2014
Clay's Park Resort
Lawrence, OH
Performers include: 3 nights of ekoostik hookah, Flether's grove, Tropidelic, Blue Moon Soup, and many others.

Sasquatch! Music Festival
May 23-25, 2014
The Gorge
George, WA
Performers include: OutKast, The National, Queens of the Stone Age, MIA, Foster the People, Kid Cudi, Neko Case, Violent Femmes, and many others.

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

Wakarusa
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.

Bonnaroo
June 12-15, 2014
Manchester, TN
Performers include: Elton John, Kanye West, Jack White, The Avett Brothers, The Flaming Lips, Neutral Milk Hotel, Zedd, Umphrey's McGee, John Butler Trio, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Yonder Mountain String Band, and many others

Snowmass Mammoth Festival
June 13-15, 2014
Snowmass Village, CO
Performers include: LEftover Salmon, chris Robinson Brotherhood, Xavier Rudd, Les Claypool's Duo De Twang, The Motet, Bonerama, and many others

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.

Electric Forest
June 26-29, 2014
The Double JJ Ranch & Resort
Rothbury, MI
Performers include: The String Cheese Incident (3 nights), STS9 (2 nights), Ms. Lauryn Hill, Stephen Marley, EOTO, Anders Osborne, The Revivalists, Nahko & Medicine for the People, Rising Apalachia, Zedd, and many others.

High Sierra
July 3-6, 2014
Quincy, CA

Sasquatch! Music Festival
July 4-6, 2014
The Gorge
George, WA
Performers include: Soundgarden, Kraftwerk, New Order, Frank Ocean, Neutral Milk Hotel, Spoon, Tegan and Sara, Gogol Bordello, Atmosphere, and many others.

Northwest String Summit
July 17-21, 2014
Horning's Hideout
North Plains, OR
Performers include: Yonder Mountain String Band, The Motet, Steep Canyon Rangers, Fruition, Dead Winter Carpenters, The Rumpke Mountain Boys, and many others

Forecastle
July 18-20, 2014
Waterfront Park
Louisville, KY

FloydFest
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
Performers include: Widespread Panic, John Fogerty, moe., Umphrey's McGee, The Disco Biscuits featuring Mickey Hart & Bill Kreutzmann, Ziggy Marley, Dumpstaphunk, and many others.

Werk Out Festival
August 7-9, 2014
Legend Valley
Thornville, OH
Performers include: The Werks (3 nights), Papadosio (2 nights), Emancipator, Future Rock Zoogma, Dopapod, Zach Deputy, and many others.

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

Arise Music Festival
August 8-10, 2014
Sunrise Ranch
Loveland, CO
Performers include: Galactic, Grateful Grass, Nahko & Medicine for the People, and many others

Peach Music Festival
August 14-17, 2014
Montage Mountain
Scranton, PA
Performers include: Allman Brothers Band (2 nights), Bob Weir & RatDog, Trey Anastasio Band, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Lotus, JJ Grey & Mofro, The Revivalists, Dopapod, The Infamous Stringdusters, papadosio, and others.

Camp Barefoot
August 21-23, 2014
Bartow, WV
Performers include: Beats Antique, Papadosio, Lettuce, Kyle Hollingsworth Band performing a tribute to Motown, Dopapod, Kung Fu, The Motet, Zach Deputy, and many others.

moe.down
August 29-31, 2014
Snow Ridge Ski Resort
Turin, NY
Performers include: moe. (3 headlining nights), Lotus, O.A.R. Les Claypool's Duo de Twang, Soulive, Twiddle, Aqueous, and others.

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

Phases of the Moon Festival
September 11-14, 2014
Kennekuk County Park, IL
Performers include: Widespread Panic (2 nights), Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gov't Mule, Galactic, Leftover Salmon, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, and many others.

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

Harvest Music Festival
October 16-18, 2014
Mulberry Mountain
Ozark, AR

Jam Cruise
January 6-11, 2015
Departs from Miami, FL



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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