Why Do Jam Bands Have Such a Stigma?

Categories: Fiesta!

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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.

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, and 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.

Continue to page two for more.

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32 comments
Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

no. i had to endure phish. i was praying for death.

Steve Scott
Steve Scott

Because they're boring I don't want to listen to a 20 minute two chord song.

Mike Goose Miller
Mike Goose Miller

I always thought "Jam Band" was the wrong term but I haven't come up with a better one

Willie Ryan Salomon
Willie Ryan Salomon

Good read. As a phish head I definitely appreciate this. Pretty well thought out and it does being up good points. I will say though, the reason is because people like me always inevitably put on some serious jam (preferably phish circa 93) and expect everyone to be as on board as we are. It's not that their hippies. They (me) are just annoying more times than not.

Brewneaux Welldone
Brewneaux Welldone

You see it as what it is on paper. That's why you don't get it. Got to feel it.

Mike Vestal
Mike Vestal

I think most of you are upset that your favorite musician got a DUI last night...

Jesda Ulati
Jesda Ulati

Because no one pays to see that kind of self-indulgent shit.

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

lmao. a I - IV - V chord progression over and over with some 8th note noodling is not over anyone's head.

Nick Fareel
Nick Fareel

Its just a dying genre. I mean, even you guys said Reelfoot was the best local jam band of 2013 and they are from Columbia and didn't even play a show in 2013. Not trying to call you out, just saying its dying.

Jen Moore
Jen Moore

There are plenty who get it right without going off the deep end. Frank Zappa is a perfect example. Experimental without self indulgence.

Rafael Gonzalez
Rafael Gonzalez

Apparently Tony Parente your a tool not all fans are like that. Your statement could go with any genre of music. ICP fans close to jamband fans I don't think so. Think before you speak .

Jen Moore
Jen Moore

Who wants to hear a 20 min drum solo? Nobody, that's who

Earl Kliethermes
Earl Kliethermes

Some is attention span and being axxustomed to concise musical statements. Then there are the lengthy sucking sections.

Amy Petty
Amy Petty

Because most people don't have an attention span longer than 2.5 minutes.

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

it's not the bands... it's the people that go to see those bands.

Tony Bologna
Tony Bologna

It's not the bands, its their stoner - loser - welfare ridden fans. Kind of like ICP.

Abby Moallankamp
Abby Moallankamp

Because people like what is popular, what they have heard before. When they go to a show, they want to be able to sing along, which requires the band to deviate minimally from the recorded version of the song. I can still remember seeing Tom Petty years ago... The band did a number of encores at the end of the set, then finished off with an amazing rendition of "Gloria." All the people who had been going crazy dancing suddenly stopped and gaped with empty faces as the band went into a totally awesome jam of the song, which really showcased their talents as musicians. All the momentum they had been building the whole show slowed down quite a bit when they began "Gloria," because few people could slosh their beers while screaming the lyrics.

Kim Hayes
Kim Hayes

For me, it's that songs just don't end. A 3 minute song that sucks is tolerable because it's over quickly but when a song I can't stand is still going strong 25 minutes later, it's just too much.

Jeep Naaked
Jeep Naaked

cause most don't realize how good of musicians they are and haven't' found "their" jam band. Wide Spread Panic is awesome I think..

Jen Moore
Jen Moore

Because most of them suck. Only a few decent ones out there

Shawn Telkamp
Shawn Telkamp

Zzzzzzz...I'm sorry...I fell asleep just thinking about it. ;-) lol jk

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