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Thread: jamgrass bands

  1. #1
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    Default jamgrass bands

    I haven't paid much attention to the whole "jamgrass" scene. I've heard a few things but not a lot. I haven't deliberately avoided it but nor have I deliberately sought it out and I'm starting to wonder about my motivation for that.

    I listened to Chris Pandolfi's address to the IBMA last year and I found myself supporting his call for the "big tent". While I love traditional bluegrass, huge fan of the first generation bands and still listen to a lot of pre-1960 era bluegrass, I'm not hidebound either (or even top or side bound). I'm not afraid traditional bluegrass will disappear. It will never be huge, it's for the lucky few that can really appreciate it and that's good enough for me.

    I also like jazz and lots of eastern European, Arabic and Middle Eastern music with odd time signatures and strange modalities. I love classic funk and soul, R&B, cajun, oldtime stringband music and lots of other stuff. So I think I like music, feel it, appreciate it and am open to lots of different kinds of it.

    When Pandolfi asked the IBMA to consider the kinds of audiences these jamgrass bands were capable generating and asked to them to actively work to broaden the definition of bluegrass, or at least the concept of what bluegrass is, so those bands would feel welcome and included under the big tent, I thought he was on the right track.

    But what's got me second-guessing myself now is the undeniable fact that when I do run across one of these bands, I often don't like what I hear. I subscribe to an online service called "Bluegrass On The Tube" where they email you a new, random video every day. This was one that was in my inbox when I checked it earlier. I listened to it, twice, and I'm afraid it's thumbs down for me.

    I don't think the song is particularly strong, there's an awful lot made of one repetitive riff played mostly by the bassist. The singing feels weak to me and there just seems like a lot of fill-time, just stretching the song out for the sake of stretching it out. I also get weary of hearing tinny, plugged-in mandolins played as percussion instruments. If I have to sit through a whole show of that, I'd rather hear a drummer.

    So what say you all? Is anyone else like me - wanting to be inclusive but not particularly wanting to hear the kind of thing that's on this video?


  2. #2
    Long , Strange Trip Jim's Avatar
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    Default Re: jamgrass bands

    Nope, Angel is not my favorite Yonder Mtn song, but I like the band and the Jamgrass concept. If you don't want to hear it then don't bother , but, If you're interested try Boatmans Dance or Casualty.
    Jim Richmond

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    Registered User Mike Bunting's Avatar
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    Default Re: jamgrass bands

    I see that you are trying to raise the level of discourse here! I'm sure you know that you and I have basically similar tastes in the scope of music that we listen to so you can imagine that I'm not a particular fan of jam band music, be it Yonder Mountain or lynrd skynrd or, dare I say it, the long Grateful Dead material (they could be brilliant but often were terrible).
    What I find curious about Pandolfi's plea for the "big tent" is , why? Is it just because he doesn't want the IBMA to dry up and blow away? How many gigs is Pandolfi's band going to get by saying that they are bluegrass. If they are good, they will get gigs viz. David Grisman.
    As to your basic question "So what say you all? Is anyone else like me - wanting to be inclusive but not particularly wanting to hear the kind of thing that's on this video?". I don't know what inclusive means since I don't feel like I'm a particular part of the bluegrass tent, big or otherwise.
    I hope this makes some kind of sense, I'm tired!
    Mike
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: jamgrass bands

    Is it the "jam" concept/style itself, or how it's done? Concur with most of what OP wrote about the Yonder Mountain cut; there's a contrived feel about it -- "time for the 'rave' segment now, guys" -- and a sense that audience excitement was being manipulated, rather that evoked. (This very recent thread on "Showing off vs. performing" comes to mind.)

    But, but, but -- an extended jam, in the right hands (or the right band) can have all kinds of excitement. The 1970's Seldom Scene stretched out Rider for twice as long as Yonder Mountain did Angel, and made it interesting and exciting and adrenalin-ish:



    So while I'd be fairly skeptical of a "jamgrass" band that made every song stretch out for ten minutes, while the mandolin player acted like Mick Jagger and the guitarist riffed through what seemed to be an octave doubler, I would pay good money to see someone like the late Mr. Duffey take his fingers up to "Florida" and a top-flight band push the envelope just a bit. In a genre where everything seems to be over in 2:30, it's got some appeal.
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    Registered User catmandu2's Avatar
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    Default Re: jamgrass bands

    This song sounds (and looks) like the approach taken by many examples in the "country rock" genre. IME, folks attending "jam-band" genre shows (I've not attended a YMSB show) seem to appreciate a "break down" segment when the tempo is fast; the concert-goers here probably enjoy the "rock" element in the mix

    I'm not necessarily criticizing--but I'm sure the rock, folk, "oh brother where art thou" melange is commercially viable

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    Default Re: jamgrass bands

    The tent is big enough for different styles in different areas. I love good music. I don't always play good music , but I try. I have heard some Blue Grass tenors that are so whiney and nasal that I just wish that they would please play a fiddle tune. And banjo players that are so light speed that the melody becomes background noise. And harmonies that aren't quite "there" yet. In a jam all the above are fair and square and part of the music. Even when breaks are doubled or tripled. In performance whatever it is ..if it takes from the music it isn't giving to the music. I want to hear the melody lurking in any "break" , hearing the singer even when the words aren't there. When the vocals are in progress I want to not hear a fight for musical supremacy with the instruments. It's all at times good. Just not all the time. Here is where my line is... BeBop is music just not Blue Grass music...... Luck All... R/
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    Registered Mandolin User mandopete's Avatar
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    Default Re: jamgrass bands

    I don't think one should condemn a band or genre based upon one (or even two) songs. Give it a chance and listen with an open mind and after that if you don't like it, move on.

    I'm not a fam of the term "jamgrass", but I get the concept and there are things like I find that I like about it. I think Pandolfi's agrument for inclusion is a good one and one that more festival promoters and radio programmers should endorse. I think the more people (all with different tastes) you can attract the better off you'll be.
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    Registered User catmandu2's Avatar
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    Default Re: jamgrass bands

    Yep

    Also & fwiw..I don't want to generalize and imply that all music from this genre (or featuring lengthy interludes without a tremendous amount of thematic or melodic development) works better with a little assistance from mild hallucinogens...or at least live presence...but...it really is a music better experienced live, rather than in recordings; without this "context" it's rather like listening to dance music without participating in the dance, etc

    Again, not necessarily a criticism...

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    Registered User Laird's Avatar
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    Default Re: jamgrass bands

    Jamgrass was my way in to Bluegrass (thanks forever, Jerry, David, Peter, Vassar, and John!), and I still prefer it to the tighter, more buttoned-down trad stuff. I end up playing more traditional takes than jammy stuff these days (at least in our local bluegrass jam), and it's good for me to have to compress my breaks that way. When I think I can get away with it, though, I'll give the players extra time during their breaks ("Keep it going!") and I'm almost always pleased with something that happens when people have the room to explore.

    As for Yonder, they were an early favorite of mine, as I was coming out of the Dead>Phish>String Cheese tour scene. I saw them for the first time for free at Avo's, a sweet little tempeh shop in Fort Collins, Colorado, back around 1999. I wasn't even there to see them--just having dinner with my sweetie when they started off in the next room. They started pretty traditional, which was fine, but it wasn't about to keep us there. Then somewhere around the third song, I felt something subtly tickling my jammies down to the roots, and by the fourth song we were up and twirling around the room (picture swirls of paisley, overalls, and braids). I dug 'em so much that we drove down to Boulder next night and loved them again.

    I saw them a lot in those next few years, and one of the best shows of my life was New Year's Eve 2000 at the Fox: traditional first set, increasingly groooovy second set (just in time!), and full-on psychedelic third set (melting face). To this day, there's nothing I love to hear more than acoustic instruments exploring psychedelic jams!

    That said, I haven't seen Yonder in a few years now. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I get a little tired of Jeff's voice, and I was also getting sick of songs about drinking. (Not that I abstain, but my binge drinking ended in my twenties, and I'd prefer to see shows where folks are getting off in less sloppy ways.) I love me a good Railroad Earth Show, as well as Trampled by Turtles and Greensky Bluegrass. Big fan of Emmitt-Nershi Band! I also dig Hot Buttered Rum (though they're not for everyone).

    I do think the state of mind has a lot to do with receptiveness to jam musc--I never GOT the Dead till my brain chemistry was properly adjusted--and I don't think the typical concert experience really prepares crowds for exploratory-music-as-cosmic-adventure, so I get that people don't feel the same attraction. That said, check this out:


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    Long , Strange Trip Jim's Avatar
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    Default Re: jamgrass bands

    These guys are why I got into jamgrass, a little before it had a name.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sAuLzex6QEI seem to remember the Dillards taking some extended breaks too, and that makes them a jamband in my book.
    Jim Richmond

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    Registered User Patrick Hull's Avatar
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    Default Re: jamgrass bands

    Interesting discussion. I'm a big fan of the "big tent" concept and everybody doing their own thing. I'm also a big fan of many of the jam bands... The Dead, Phish... Not such a big Yonder Mtn fan. I'm not a traditionalist. But Old & In The Way was bluegrass it seems to me, whereas the Dead never was (and of course didnt try to be, although Jerry broke out the banjo occasionally). I just think no matter how big your bluegrass tent is, that's not in it. I'd have them in the tent if I could, but I just can't.

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    Registered User Laird's Avatar
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    Default Re: jamgrass bands

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim View Post
    These guys are why I got into jamgrass, a little before it had a name.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sAuLzex6QEI seem to remember the Dillards taking some extended breaks too, and that makes them a jamband in my book.
    Dillards for sure! Also enjoy New Grass Revival, but seeing these 80s fashions--'specially on the bass player--gave me a belly ache.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Laird View Post
    ...these 80s fashions--'specially on the bass player--gave me a belly ache.
    I tried to like NGR...really tried to like NGR...i love bela and so thought--I would really like NGR...

    one day I was down at Bart's (shopping for CDs) on the mall, and in walked Sam, John Randall and John Cowan for a few quick tunes

    I simply can't listen to John. He's a great singer...I just can't listen to him

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    Registered User Mike Bunting's Avatar
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    Default Re: jamgrass bands

    I'd rather have this dude in the tent.

    Mike
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    Default Re: jamgrass bands

    Quote Originally Posted by Laird View Post
    Dillards for sure! Also enjoy New Grass Revival, but seeing these 80s fashions--'specially on the bass player--gave me a belly ache.
    I guess you could try closing your eyes........
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    Default Re: jamgrass bands

    I would be much cooler with the whole jamgrass thing if the band members would be able to have honed their craft and play better. It just seems backwards to have longer solos and instrumental showcasing when a lot of the players aren't very good and interesting to hear on those extended breaks. I mean the banjo player for Yonder Mountain is just so bad, and the mandolin playing as well. There are some really good bands you might categorize as jamgrass or whatever, but it seems like a lot of the most popular ones aren't very good. I don't see why that's the case unless the point was being missed on a large scale. I'm all for loose jamming and not holding pickers to be great in order to get some exploratory musical expression out, but not in high-grossing professional settings. I think a lot of people seem irked by the whole thing because such great and creative bands and players are having a rough time making it on the road and making a decent living while some dare I say hack players are out there prospering in disproportionate fashions. And then when you start talking bluegrass with someone and they cite these bad players and bands as "the greats" it is hard to just nod your head. I don't mean to sound like any of this really keeps me up at night, but as far as "newgrass" bands, why is it that incredible progressive ensembles like The Deadly Gentlemen are nearly unheard of on a large scale and then bands like Yonder Mountain sell out multiple nights at Red Rocks Amphitheatre? Well, at least The Punch Brothers seem to be getting some well-deserved notoriety. Not all has gone sideways in the world.

    EDIT: observe the banjo playing here. I mean, dude. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrcWTuWwBrI

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    Default Re: jamgrass bands

    But I shouldn't be acting as though I'm blaming the band. If you started a garage bluegrass band and played a few clubs and hoards of kids came out to spin to it, wouldn't you keep playing for them?

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    Default Re: jamgrass bands

    messed up a post

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    Default Re: jamgrass bands

    Quote Originally Posted by Laird View Post
    Dillards for sure! Also enjoy New Grass Revival, but seeing these 80s fashions--'specially on the bass player--gave me a belly ache.
    See, this might be part of the problem. It might be that the hipness of the scene is overshadowing the quality of the music. :-p

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    Long , Strange Trip Jim's Avatar
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    Default Re: jamgrass bands

    Yonder Mountain sell out multiple nights at Red Rocks Amphitheatre? Well, at least The Punch Brothers seem to be getting some well-deserved notoriety. Not all has gone sideways in the world.
    Sitting at dinner with some early 30 somethings they expressed that both Yonder Mtn & the Punch Bros were "too traditional". I did not know what to say. I do agree that yonder mtns Banjo doesn't really keep up. The YMSB does get a crowd going in ways I've not seen a Bluegrass band or Rock Band do very often. Though I fully appreciate the skills of the Punch Bros and mostly prefer their music I doubt they would fill Red Rocks let alone have people dance through the whole thing. I've played alot of gigs myself and when people dance through the whole thing you are def doing something right.
    Jim Richmond

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    Registered User catmandu2's Avatar
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    Default Re: jamgrass bands

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim View Post
    ... when people dance through the whole thing you are def doing something right.
    Jim, I'm sure you and your band are fine

    But, really, have you noticed the folks (at every show) who get up and start dancing as soon as the music starts...and don't quit...? We have folks here in Missoula known as "the dancing couple" who are local favorites...they even move/groove to the city band performances



  25. #22
    Registered User Mike Bunting's Avatar
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    Default Re: jamgrass bands

    And they're all doing the helicopter dance.
    Mike
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  26. #23
    Long , Strange Trip Jim's Avatar
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    Default Re: jamgrass bands

    Didn't say I liked lookin' at em I'm actually a little old and beat up in the knees and wish people would sit down and listen to the music so I could sit down and see. However YMSB had all of Red Rocks standing through the whole show ( much to my dismay) and thats not something everyone can do. I was a powerful performance , I sure the crowd they draw was more prone to that sort of thing too. Still, I've seen alot of shows there and not Grissman, Fleck or even String cheese had that effect.
    Jim Richmond

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    Registered User Laird's Avatar
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    Default Re: jamgrass bands

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    But, really, have you noticed the folks (at every show) who get up and start dancing as soon as the music starts...and don't quit...? We have folks here in Missoula known as "the dancing couple" who are local favorites...they even move/groove to the city band performances
    LOVE 'EM! One of the great gifts of my Deadhead days was getting over inhibitions enough to dance to anything that moves me, even if I'm the only one out there. Sure, sometimes a little voice might pop up and second-guess my choice when I'm dancing by myself in some club or festival, but I recognize it as the voice of debilitating self-consciousness that kept us all down at those Junior High dances--and then dance all the harder to celebrate getting past it. And of course there's nothing better than someone else getting up to dance, then thanking you for giving them the courage!

    Dancing has been one of the great joys of my life, and I've been inspired by a character from my Eugene days--Old Man Dancing--who would strip down to a white loin cloth and swirl away, his long white hair and beard a'flying. Turns out he was a little cranky, and I've heard more than one performer ask him to quit shaking that damn egg, but I sure hope there's some wild dancing ahead of me in my final years.

    Hey, here he is on You Tube! (Sorry, no loin cloth in this shot.)

    Last edited by Laird; Dec-09-2012 at 8:56pm.

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    Registered User catmandu2's Avatar
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    Default Re: jamgrass bands

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim View Post
    ...standing through the whole show
    Like Irish stepdance, the dance is done with a quiet upper-body, and the hands are free (in this case, enabling relighting of the "one-ie"--without missing a beat)

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