Why do jam bands have such a stigma?

Categories: Commentary

011414_jam-band.jpg

Jam. Band. Apart, these two words are innocuous. Put them together, though, and for whatever reason, they become instantly polarizing. Whenever the subject of jam bands comes up, it seems to send some people into a frenzy of dogmatic snideness. In some cases, you get the sense that they'd almost rather you say their favorite band sucks than label it as a jam band. So why the stigma? Well, to answer that, we've probably got to go back to beginning.

See also: The ten biggest jam-band scene stereotypes

The Grateful Dead created the sound and were essentially the architects of the scene, and when Jerry Garcia died, in 1995, a huge group of people were left wondering what was next. As a result, many bands gained new fans looking for other free-feeling live-music experiences.

By the end of the '90s, many jam bands were at the top of their game -- bands like Phish, which had grown big enough to be playing large summer sheds, and groups like the Dave Matthews Band and Blues Traveler, which had tons of radio hits and went on huge tours of their own.

Bell-bottoms and '70s fashions also enjoyed a resurgence, and kids all over the country were rocking hemp chokers and Birkenstocks, wishing they were older so they could have seen the Dead in their heyday. It was actually cool to listen to jam bands for a minute there.

Fast-forward about a decade, and some jam bands have incorporated electronic music into their sound, staying up to date with what's going on in the music scene as a whole. Many have coined the sound as "jamtronica," a term meant to hold allegiance with the jam scene but nodding to the fact that it's something a little different now.

As more electronic-music listeners and a younger generation began listening to these jamtronica acts, there was a noticeable difference in the way the fans dressed. Neon dominated the apparel, along with anything else that lit up; the guy in patchwork pants and tie-dye now looked dated and corny at his own party.

But somewhere along the way, it was more than the look that began to be shunned; it was the whole jam-band scene that was being smirked at. People who saw Dave back in the day now laughed at the people who seemingly hadn't grown, who were still chasing the dream. The words "jam band" instantly evoked bad hippie clothes and other cringe-inducing things about the culture that should've been left in the past.

The problem with this sort of thinking is that the jam-band scene did evolve, and it's still bustling. There is no shortage of talented musicians who prefer to improvise on stage as they blend genres and take the audience and themselves on a total sensory experience. If you looked at a picture of the guys from Lotus, for instance, you would see that they dress more like a band from Brooklyn than a band from Woodstock.


Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
95 comments
Colin Shimkovitz
Colin Shimkovitz

Michael Salamone I like jam music live most because live improv is as good as it gets. I listen to music with words and album versions as well, but I am not excited to pay overinflated prices to watch a band that can at best sound as good as their album. I want the band that you have to see live to catch the magic. Maybe they find it that night, maybe not. But I get off on seeing them try something new and having the courage to rally the band and carry on to the next bit if a certain tangent isn't working. So yeah it is like an addiction to art, music, and the creative process.

John Dalby
John Dalby

Why do you jackasses post, and then re-post this shit to death. Ever heard of flogging a dead horse? Or do you not have any worthwhile Denver music stuff to post? I could make some suggestions, or I could drop my resume over there, and take yer job, because you DO NOT NEED TO RE POST THIS SHIT OVER AND OVER. Not amused, Westword...

Shawn Wilson
Shawn Wilson

It's not the music it's the 420 nerds who listen to it.

Gabe Chengery
Gabe Chengery

i am on house arrest till Wednesday but let's plan on it. maybe next weekend sometime for sure

Michael Sonnabend
Michael Sonnabend

the term "jamband" is antiquated. Bands like Phish, Widespread Panic and STS9 have little to nothing in common musically yet they get pigeonholed into the same genre. That probably explains why the author of this article spends more time talking about fashion than music.

Phil Knight
Phil Knight

Lame Noodle dancing and the over whelming stentch of patchouli oil !! & the music is boring... thats pretty much the source of the hate...

Matt Christian
Matt Christian

It's not about the clothes. It's just rare for a musician to be worthy of that much freedom. Recycled blues scales can be taxing to coherent thought.

Lauren L T Taylor
Lauren L T Taylor

usually people are just jealous that their favorite bands play power chords over and over again.

Michael Salamone
Michael Salamone

Many jam fans polarize themselves in this situation, by not being open to other music once they become jam-obsessed. And it's even worse should they latch onto just one band. I have life-long friends, that I haven't been able to enjoy music with from the point that they became jam only fans. Friends I went to hundreds of other types of concerts with prior to this obsession. Now, we can only share music we enjoyed together before that point when they became jam fans, that is, until they change the music to their jam band. They don't listen to new music. Unless it's jam. It's always their jam band that has to be in the car, or at the party. They've no problem talking to me about a show or a band, even if they know I've little interest for hours, but never, ever, will they listen to a new music suggestion from the non-jam-fan friends. And so, we non-jam-obsessed friends cut ourselves off from this culture. We avoid letting more jam-fans into our life. We roll our eyes at the mere thought or mention of the culture, like anyone who has lost loved ones to an addiction.

Jeremy Coss
Jeremy Coss

Molly is for the raver crowd. I'll stick to my weed

Jeremy Coss
Jeremy Coss

That's your opinion, and like I stated, I'm not bashing anyone for that. I'll still be having a good time.

Ezra-David Darnell
Ezra-David Darnell

Ask that one white guy with dreads dancing all jerky in the corner. He holds the answer.

Jeremy Coss
Jeremy Coss

I've never taken Molly in my life. I appreciate musicians that have honed their talent and can improvise like no other. Of course, whether its a persons cup of tea or not is up to them. I personally don't give a shit. I'll be having a great time no matter what.

Alex Danger Bruce
Alex Danger Bruce

The songs don't go anywhere, they just go on and on and on. Pretty damn boring.

Paul von Rottenthaler
Paul von Rottenthaler

The fans are the main reason I dislike the whole genre. I worked security for a venue. Out of ALL types of music fans the jam band fans were the most disruptive and unruly. Also they could be very violent towards each other and our staff. I find the music to be incredibly boring and unoriginal.

Christopher Maestas
Christopher Maestas

Because out of the thousands of Jam Bands in the world, like 18 of them do it well. It's not easy to do...

Steve Antonio
Steve Antonio

It's the truth. They may have musical ability, but they use it for TOTAL SUCKINESS. Take some more molly Jeremy.

Gabe Chengery
Gabe Chengery

Because I am so jealous I am not jamming with them, that's why.

Dylan Wikepaugh
Dylan Wikepaugh

People that listen to jam music are so cynical to other jam bands. Sad but true. Dead heads hate phish heads, phish heads hate cheese heads, etc. with that being said I love most of em

Jeremy Coss
Jeremy Coss

Steve Antonio they do not suck, musically they are quite talented. While their type of music may not be your thing, to say they suck is a flat out lie

Gregg Jarvis
Gregg Jarvis

there is a difference between construction composition and noodling ....

Venice Gas House Trolley
Venice Gas House Trolley

Within the cradle of music thousands dance out their sorrows and they pray for peace, of this we are sure

Jeffrey Grubesic
Jeffrey Grubesic

Jam bands suck ass. Finish the damn song already. Smelly hippies, get a job!

wcluce
wcluce

This whole debate going on here right now is ridiculous. Arguing over what constitutes good and bad music is the stupidest thing ever. Musical taste is just about the most subjective thing in the world.

Adam Taworoski
Adam Taworoski

Yes that is true, you can use the word "improvised" to describe more than one thing. Well played.

John Vincent
John Vincent

I saw that you like EOTO on your page.. All they do is improvisational music. Nothing is premeditated ever. They never talk about what they are about to do.. Just ask the two Members Jason Hahn and Micheal Travis. Who just happen to be in String Cheese.. Any monkey can go on the computer and press play *cough cough pretty lights cough cough bassnecter cough deadmau5 cough cough panty raid cough*

John Vincent
John Vincent

You should go to a Phish concert and try not to dance

John Vincent
John Vincent

This is the truth. If it is beyond their attention span then they can't appreciate it.

John Vincent
John Vincent

If you like Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, BB King, Miles Davis, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Pearl Jam, Jeff Beck, John Mayer and many more then you like Jam Bands.. The most versatile musicians who can play any style and with anybody are in the "jam band scene." These guys are so much more than one dimensional musicians. One guy will be influenced by Bootsy Collins and Bill Monroe, and you will here both in one song.

Donaven
Donaven

The big problem I have with followers bands is their fans are bad for the environment. Instead of waiting for the show to come to them they drive around the country burning gas and leaving a much bigger carbon foot print then necessary. I know that some use bio fuels and other green ways their vehicles but most don't. I've worked a bunch of festivals now and hippies leave more waste then any other subgroup. Have you ever been to Morrison after there has been anything hippie related at red rocks. It's a sad site to see this nice little town covered in garbage. Strange thing is middle age soccer moms leave the least. Also they are tools of the worst kind. If one of their hippie leaders like Jerry tells time to do something they do it with out question if they are told to buy something they will stand in line for it with out question. For gods sake Jerry was fucking high on heroin constantly he would stand on stage so fucked out of his mind and strum the same cord over and over. Jerry was a cunt Learn to compose.

Sterling Meeks
Sterling Meeks

No, it's not. What to know else is "improvised?" A bunch of screaming toddlers inside a department or grocery store. Would you call that "music to your ears?" No, you wouldn't. Shut up; you're dumb.

John Vincent
John Vincent

Who ever said any monkey can pick up an instrument and improv probably doesn't play music... It's all about the live performance. Each night is different, each night is new, each night is completely unique in the jam world.. But if listening to a dude press the play button on his MacBook is your thing then so be it.

Sterling Meeks
Sterling Meeks

I'd wager most hate both, though with scorn scale leaning slightly towards the former.

Kyle Hartman
Kyle Hartman

*Also I love jazz, classical, and prog just for the record. Which are not the standard length. Those types of music take you places. Jam music is just sanitized post-hippie elevator music. It's feel good but there isn't much depth. It doesn't challenge you.

Kyle Hartman
Kyle Hartman

@Mark- Just because Phish can play four nights in a row of their own songs doesn't mean they are good songs. It just means they have a lot of crappy music that they can stretch out. Quality over quantity. @Adam- That is completely your opinion man. I honestly think improvisation is the most boring kind of music. It's primitive, any monkey can pick up an instrument and improvise. It's building off improvisation and fine turning that makes the most beautiful pieces of music. Also that is really small minded of you to say a three minute song can't be as vital as a twenty minute song. There are amazing examples of both. But improvisation is in general musical masturbation. I'd rather listen to a 3 minute piece someone spent years perfecting that maybe they tweak and change live than a bunch of old trustafarians playing the same riffs over and over for a bunch of wannabe hippies on their first acid trip.

lalala65628
lalala65628

none of those bands are jam bands. sorry but you are wrong. 


Gmoney
Gmoney

@Donaven Totally agree. Phish destroyed/trashed Morrison in '96. A group of people following the Phish camped in my front lawn, and bathed in our sprinklers. They also offered me marijuana and liquor at the age of 10.

I have lived in the town of Morrison my entire life and been to every type of concert, (including Mariah Carey in 2003) by far jam bands leave the most garbage, most overdoses, and unpleasant behavior.


I have been STS9, Disco biscuits, Umphrey Mcgees, Phish, Widespread Panic, etc. all at Red Rocks and it is not my type of thing. I find it boring after a few minutes because I find that it is very relative, and repetitive, (in my opinion). I m very happy/thankful that this type of music does bring lots of enjoyment to certain group of folks because life is short. Enjoy it.    

Now Trending

Denver Concert Tickets

Around The Web

From the Vault

 

Loading...