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Why do you like jam bands?

Old 04-13-02, 05:52 AM
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Why do you like jam bands?

Okay, maybe this is like asking why you like grape flavored candy... it's just the way it is maybe. But I love rock music of most forms with the exception of a few styles. Right at the top of my hit list is jam music. Almost worse than heavy metal I would list "noodle wank" bands like Phish, DMB and the Dead as stuff that drives me nuts.

Maybe it's that I really found a connection to taught, hard, no-frills rock like Wire and Gang of Four. Maybe it's because I don't like how fratboys (even though I was one) embrace this stuff. Or maybe, and this is definitely true, I don't like the fakey "peace and drugs" attitude. Maybe it's because I cannot understand anyone wanting 100 live Dead bootlegs when there is other music waiting to be devoured.

I've given the music a chance. I've seen the Dead before. I really felt like I was suffering through that concert. The silly flower girls, the endless solos, the tie die. I just don't get it. And this is coming from someone who DOES love late 60's psychedelica... but stuff more akin to punk rock ("96 Tears", etc.)

Anyway, I'm not trying to totally bash your taste. I am just curious why you like this kind of music. Do you like being identified with this crowd? Or does the music speak for itself?
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Old 04-13-02, 04:21 PM
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Do you not like the music or the scene? For me the scene has almost nothing to do with it. It's all about the music. And there are plenty of other people who are the same way. You don't have to be a hippy to enjoy it.

I enjoy extended songs with jamming, how sometimes a song can go in a different direction and just lock into this amazing sound. It did take me a while to really get into it - when I first started listening to Phish there were certain songs that just seemed so long and boring. But as I listened more I began to appreciate it more. Sure, there are still occasions where it doesn't click, but there are so many othere times where it does.

Bottom line is it's just a matter of personal preference. And don't ever let the scene turn you off if you enjoy the music.
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Old 04-15-02, 02:32 PM
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Because most of the jam bands are the only true "rock" bands around IMHO... It's about "rocking" idn't it? 4 minute blasts of three chord angst on the FM dial very rarely "rock". I call that "pop". The jam bands, for the most part, are interested in longer compositions that showcase chops, technique and many styles... It's about depth and telling a story, musically, while showcasing and exploring the music to see where it can go... It's about having fun, not making hits.

On a personal note, the Dead have always bored me to tears... The good jam bands have as much or more in common with Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa or Yes as they do with the Dead. I'll never understand why the Dead get the credit for being the fathers of the jam scene.

And Dave Matthews is about as jam as Green Day is punk... Frat boy garbage.

I Did the Phish thing for many years, but I've grown tired of it. Good call on their end to walk away, there was really nothing left to accomplish.

For my money, if you want to see the best jam band in the business, attend a moe. show.
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Old 04-15-02, 04:29 PM
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I like a band that's willing to take risks and be musically adventurous. Creating improvised music in front of thousands of people at every show is a pretty risky proposition, and when it works well, it can be pretty thrilling. When everything is right at a jamband show and the band is locked into one another, the experience is pretty amazing. Other times, the groove created by the band will be monotonous and boring and hopefully the band is intelligent enough to know to move on. But that's the thing with jambands...they take musical risks on stage every night, so you've got to accept that while most nights the band will make exciting, thrilling music, other nights they will verge into monotony.

Also, I like a wide variety of music...rock, funk, punk, alt-country, bluegrass, hop hop, electronica, etc., etc. Jambands tend to incorporate multiple styles into their songs and that naturally appeals to me. Jambands don't limit themselves to one style of music onstage like most bands do.

Sometimes the fans can be a drag...some people seem like they are there more to get messed up than to listen to music, but most of the fans are actually pretty nice people and truly love music. I'm not a hippie...don't look anything like one actually, but I don't mind the crowds.

I agree...you should check out moe. They are awesome. I'd also recommend...Galactic, String Cheese Incident or Particle.
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Old 04-15-02, 04:45 PM
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I'm with the first guy. I would never dog anyone for listening to this stuff. Everyone has their own taste. I've just never been able to stomach jam music. I guess the reason is I've always been less impressed with musicians who were fast, technically capable on their instrument, and able to improvise, and more impressed by those who can write melody. It's not the length that I can't deal with, because there are some long songs that I love, but those songs have of melody and structure. Sometimes simpler is better. Groups who experiment simply for the sake of experimentation do nothing for me.
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Old 04-15-02, 04:48 PM
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Re: Why do you like jam bands?

Originally posted by atlantamoi
Okay, maybe this is like asking why you like grape flavored candy... it's just the way it is maybe. But I love rock music of most forms with the exception of a few styles. Right at the top of my hit list is jam music. Almost worse than heavy metal I would list "noodle wank" bands like Phish, DMB and the Dead as stuff that drives me nuts.

Maybe it's that I really found a connection to taught, hard, no-frills rock like Wire and Gang of Four. Maybe it's because I don't like how fratboys (even though I was one) embrace this stuff. Or maybe, and this is definitely true, I don't like the fakey "peace and drugs" attitude. Maybe it's because I cannot understand anyone wanting 100 live Dead bootlegs when there is other music waiting to be devoured.

I've given the music a chance. I've seen the Dead before. I really felt like I was suffering through that concert. The silly flower girls, the endless solos, the tie die. I just don't get it. And this is coming from someone who DOES love late 60's psychedelica... but stuff more akin to punk rock ("96 Tears", etc.)

Anyway, I'm not trying to totally bash your taste. I am just curious why you like this kind of music. Do you like being identified with this crowd? Or does the music speak for itself?
With every post, atlantamoi, I'm realizing that you and I think and feel the exact same way about music. I agree with everything you've said here. I could care less for someone's virtuousity. Save that for the guitar center.
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Old 04-15-02, 05:57 PM
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Well Yancey, we might feel the same about a lot of music, but I'm pretty sure you know much more than I do! I've really lost touch with what is out there under the surface. At least I think that's true, but maybe I'm not giving myself any credit. Sometimes it seems difficult to find the wee bands I know I'd like... but I do enjoy looking for them! Anyway, I really like reading your posts.

Johnny Zhivago, that's funny who you mentioned as fun and not the short punky songs. I actually really like Led Zep, but that's not what I think of when I think of FUN. Fun to me is a band like the Fleshtones, Pizzicato 5 or even They Might Be Giants. It seems rare to me that the word "fun" and "long songs" fit in the same sentence.

cdollaz, touche. Melody... a good song.... that is what I'm more drawn to (even melody in the midst of some heavy noise). The thought of someone being able to copy Eddie Van Halen's "Eruption" or Steven Vai does not impress me one bit. And, again, that's just people having different tastes. One of my all-time favorite albums is "I've Seen Everything" by the Trash Can Sinatras. Most people would dismiss them for not rockin' enough... but that is one gorgeous, melodic ROCK recording.
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Old 04-15-02, 06:19 PM
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Originally posted by atlantamoi
Johnny Zhivago, that's funny who you mentioned as fun and not the short punky songs. I actually really like Led Zep, but that's not what I think of when I think of FUN. Fun to me is a band like the Fleshtones, Pizzicato 5 or even They Might Be Giants. It seems rare to me that the word "fun" and "long songs" fit in the same sentence.
Fun, for the musicians involved in creating the music... Let me ask you this... Do you play an instrument?

If so, is it more fun to beat out three chords over and over night after night or is it more fun to push the boundries of your instrument, experiment with friends and lock into a groove?

If not, can you see where I'm coming from?

Simplicity is good, I fully agree. However, "too many notes" is generally the type of music I prefer... My background is in guitar... I no longer play much at all (did so for 10+ years, heavily) and when I do play now, it's mostly acoustic based and is pretty "simple". But, it's those notes and the jamming / interaction that get me off as a listener...
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Old 04-15-02, 06:28 PM
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I think that jambands are some of the most "fun" acts in music today. In addition to the music itself, many of the bands have a very good sense of humor. In fact, you'll see few bands that have as much fun onstage as Phish does (did). Why can't a song be long and fun at the same time. Take "Run Like an Antelope" for example. It's usually at least 10 minutes and often over 20 onstage, but it's one of the most playful, good hearted songs I've ever heard.

People who dismiss this stuff as "wankery" aren't really listening. A good jamband does not noodle...they improvise toward a larger goal, which is probably why I'm not really into the Dead, who did have a noodling tendency to them. A good jamband knows that a good jam is all about tension and release, which is basically what any good band knows a live show or an album should contain anyway. Building up to that one crescendo where everything gels together.

I don't see why you guys are so down on a band being musically proficient and exceptionally talented on the instruments that they play. To me that is much more exciting than a band that knows three chords and uses those same three chords in every single song. Don't get me wrong, I love that music too, but I'm not nearly as impressed by it as I am by a band that gets onstage and literally know how to make their instruments do anything they want them to.

Finally, one of the biggest misconceptions about jambands is that they have no conception of melody. That's bs. Jambands create some pretty amazing pop songs. While most Phish fans hate it, listen to "Bouncing Around the Room", which is as pop and as fun as anything by They Might Be Giants. There are plenty of great pop songs recorded by jambands...Phish and moe. in particular.

This is coming from someone who used to hate jambands for many of the reasons that you guys have given. But my dislike was actually directed more at their fans than the bands themselves.
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Old 04-15-02, 06:47 PM
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Originally posted by Gdrlv
I don't see why you guys are so down on a band being musically proficient and exceptionally talented on the instruments that they play. To me that is much more exciting than a band that knows three chords and uses those same three chords in every single song. Don't get me wrong, I love that music too, but I'm not nearly as impressed by it as I am by a band that gets onstage and literally know how to make their instruments do anything they want them to.
I have absolutely no problem with someone who is talented on the instrument that they play. But when their songs are built around this fact it bothers me. Hearing a 10 minute guitar solo does nothing for me mentally or emotionally. If there has to be a guitar solo (and really, I'd rather there not be), then I like it to be noisy and off. A perfect example for you Gdrlv -- Jay Bennet's completely off-tune squeaks in "Via Chicago." Those notes are more about the emotion of the lyrics than any fancy fretwork.

I'll be the first to admit that these bands are good at what they do. But it's also impossible to ignore the whole cult around them. The best way to experience a jam band is to see them live, but I'd rather not have to deal with that scene. I've been to jam-band shows before (either when I was in high school and wanted drugs or on assignment), and the crowd really bothered me.

And atlantamoi, I think you are overestimating my knowledge. I only talk about the things I know well. I ignore everything else. I must admit that I do not own any Trash Can Sinatras, but I believe I am going to pick up that record this week.
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Old 04-15-02, 07:18 PM
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Originally posted by Yancey


I have absolutely no problem with someone who is talented on the instrument that they play. But when their songs are built around this fact it bothers me. Hearing a 10 minute guitar solo does nothing for me mentally or emotionally. If there has to be a guitar solo (and really, I'd rather there not be), then I like it to be noisy and off. A perfect example for you Gdrlv -- Jay Bennet's completely off-tune squeaks in "Via Chicago." Those notes are more about the emotion of the lyrics than any fancy fretwork.
But there's a big difference between a "jam" and a "solo". A ten minute solo is overindulgent and often dull. A jam is more about the instruments working together as a whole to create something meaningful and emotional. The best jams, in my opinion, have no discernable solos in them, and they convey a lot of feeling.

I'll be the first to admit that these bands are good at what they do. But it's also impossible to ignore the whole cult around them. The best way to experience a jam band is to see them live, but I'd rather not have to deal with that scene. I've been to jam-band shows before (either when I was in high school and wanted drugs or on assignment), and the crowd really bothered me.
Yeah, as I noted, the crowd can be a bit of a bummer. A writer once said that Phish's greatest strength and greatest detriment was their fans. Their strength because they put enough trust in the band that they've allowed them to quietly become the most sonically adventurous band in music. Their detriment because the fans also turned people off of the band that would probably like them normally. The crowd at these shows can be annoying, but the upside is that they're generally way friendlier than crowds you see at concerts but also leave you alone if you want them to. I've learned not to let the crowd bother me.
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Old 04-15-02, 09:45 PM
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Originally posted by Gdrlv


But there's a big difference between a "jam" and a "solo". A ten minute solo is overindulgent and often dull. A jam is more about the instruments working together as a whole to create something meaningful and emotional. The best jams, in my opinion, have no discernable solos in them, and they convey a lot of feeling.
I agree, like you said earlier it's all about tension and release. Phish are the masters of this IMHO. Listening to an amazing jam just gives you this feeling of riding an enormous wave - ebbing and flowing, surging ahead then falling back.
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Old 04-16-02, 07:53 AM
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Well, I'll admit that from what I've seen, Phish does seem to have a sense of humor. I might be reacting against the herd mentality of the fans as much as the long jams. I'm sitting here thinking of Stevie Ray Vaughn as the only guitar player who thrills me with guitar wizardry (in a jam-sense). And I probably like him because his sound can be a bit rough.... especially his "Texas Flood"-ear stuff.

Yancey, the Trash Can Sinatras are kind of in the same territory the Smiths were. Not exactly, of course, but similar. They are from Scotland and only have 3 recordings going back to 1990 (they are recording their 4th album now). After two CD's they were dropped by London USA and their last album wasn't even released in the U.S. THIS is what I hate about certain bands becoming popular because really good stuff goes by the wayside it seems. TCS might not be that important...but it's really a sound I'm very fond of. "I've Seen Everything" is my favorite CD from the '90s and I never get tired of it.
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Old 04-16-02, 11:04 AM
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Originally posted by larryw


I agree, like you said earlier it's all about tension and release. Phish are the masters of this IMHO. Listening to an amazing jam just gives you this feeling of riding an enormous wave - ebbing and flowing, surging ahead then falling back.
I personally think the slow build to crescendo formula is the most overused in rock today. It's the same reason I dislike Godspeed You Black Emporer. The best build ever was in "A Day in the Life" by the Beatles. Now everyone is trying to replicate that, but they can't because when the Beatles did that, it was surprising. I'm never surprised when someone does it now. I see it coming a mile away.

Or, as I said in a lede to one of my reviews:

"Anyone tired of the extended build-to-crescendo formula that has overtaken "serious" rock as of late, slowly raise your hand in the air and wave it in an increasingly energetic manner."
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Old 04-16-02, 11:05 AM
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Originally posted by atlantamoi
Yancey, the Trash Can Sinatras are kind of in the same territory the Smiths were. Not exactly, of course, but similar. They are from Scotland and only have 3 recordings going back to 1990 (they are recording their 4th album now). After two CD's they were dropped by London USA and their last album wasn't even released in the U.S. THIS is what I hate about certain bands becoming popular because really good stuff goes by the wayside it seems. TCS might not be that important...but it's really a sound I'm very fond of. "I've Seen Everything" is my favorite CD from the '90s and I never get tired of it.
I don't like the Smiths, but I'm going to give them a listen. I have heard about them for years, but I have never sought them out. I will and I'll let you know what I think.
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