Rollingstone.com last week asked its readers to nominate their favorite jam bands, in celebration of Phish, the Dead and the Allman Brothers all announcing tour dates.
Well the list is in, and as would be expected, it’s causing a bit of a stir.
1. Allman Brothers Band
2. The Grateful Dead
4. Umphrey’s McGee
6. Widespread Panic
7. Led Zeppelin
8. My Morning Jacket
9. Dave Matthews Band
10 Gov’t Mule
11. Jimi Hendrix
12. String Cheese Incident
14. Disco Biscuits
As awesome as the Allman Brothers certainly are, I find it very surprising that they beat out the Grateful Dead, who arguably influenced more people in the modern “jam” scene than any other band. Still, you can’t say the Allman Brothers aren’t deserving of such an honor. These guys without a doubt epitomize the spirit of the jam.
Then there’s Phish, Umphrey’s, moe., and Panic. Right on. Anyone reading this blog lately knows we’re fans of these bands.
But Zeppelin? My Morning Jacket? Dave Matthews Band? Jimi Hendrix? Really? I’m a big fan of each of these bands, and certainly each is capable of some monster live shows, but I wouldn’t really classify them as “jam bands.” Having either listened to or attended many shows of all these guys, I feel it’s more that they throw in extended jams in a few select songs during a set, as opposed to shaping their sets around the jam. In other words, the songs still primarily drive the shows, not the jams.
In my mind, however, a “jam band” does just the opposite — it sees the jam as driving the show, not necessarily the song.
Does this make sense?
Readers have also been sounding off on whether the Disco Biscuits and Sound Tribe (STS9) should be on this list, and I say hells yeah, absolutely! Sure they’re more electronic than the other bands on the list, but it’s undeniable that their live shows are grounded in improvisational jamming.
Jon Gutwillig, guitarist for tDB, recently talked to me about the spirit of jamming and improv at live shows, saying the goal is to transcend the physical act of playing. Check out the unedited interview. It’s pretty funny.
One of the best parts of a “jam band” show, in my opinion, is when the band collectively takes the music so far from the original song that you completely lose track of what song they’re actually in. I always crack up when the band then ends up wrapping back around to the song — sometimes after mixing in other songs in between — and am grateful for being able to lose myself in the music.
In the end, lists are never perfect. But still, I’d gladly listen to any of the bands in the RollingStone.com list. Come to think of it… I’m in the mood for a little moe., considering I’m going to see Vinnie Amico (drummer) play this weekend with the Willie Waldman Project in Bridgeport, Conn.
Long live the jam!