And I hope you like jammin' too

Feb. 13, 2003, midnight | By L.A. Holmes | 17 years, 11 months ago

Jam bands mix improvisation, creativity and energy to revive American traditional rock

There's only one genre of music so sweet, cool and groovy that Ben & Jerry's actually titles flavors of ice cream according to bands that play it. Cherry Garcia, named after the late lead singer of the quintessential jam band, is even the ice cream magnate's number-one seller. But if you walk the halls of Blair, you'll find that more students have tasted these frozen delights than have heard the sweet sounds of their namesakes.

According to an informal Silver Chips survey of 100 students conducted on Jan 28 and 29, 72 percent of Blazers have never heard a jam band before, despite the fact that American traditional rock got its start in the same rock ‘n' roll heyday that produced the classic sounds of the Beatles and Janis Joplin.

Jam bands got their start in the psychedelic ‘60s with such bands as the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band. At the time, jam bands could be best described as experimental, improvisational rockers who fooled with new guitar effects and funky time signatures while they were, admittedly, tripping on hallucinogenic drugs. But Blazers looking for a legal high need only to tune in to the transcendent vibe of such bands as Phish, the Grateful Dead and Dave Matthews Band to see what innovative rock is all about.

Cherry Garcia

Band: The Grateful Dead
Groove: ‘70s peace, love and rock ‘n' roll
Sounds like: The quintessential jam band
Would your mom like it? Certainly, especially if she was a flower child

Nearly half of the country mourned when the Grateful Dead's lead singer Jerry Garcia died in 1995. To some, it was the end of an era. The first great champions of American trad rock, the Grateful Dead, pioneered the mesh between country and peace rock that jam bands now try to emulate. And even today, rehashed as the Other Ones, the Dead's musical influence rides on.

The 1970 release American Beauty is indisputably the best album of the Grateful Dead's more than 100 recordings, at least according to critics. The songs are incredibly precise; "Friend of the Devil" features a clever interplay of several guitars that underscores the Dead's musical genius.

The classic record has an unmistakably mellow, country feel to it and is so well organized that its entire 48 minutes passes like a continual opus. It's the type of album that encourages listeners to enjoy it holistically, boasting such a constant groove that one can visualize the music taking shape. For sure, American Beauty is the sort of introspective, fine-tuned record that can ease the brain during those late-night study sessions.

Phish Food

Band: Phish
Groove: Artsy experimental rock mixed with mellow jazz rock
Sounds like: Nothing you've ever heard before
Would your mom like it? If she has the time to listen to ten-minute songs, she will

Phish got its start in the early 1980s but has bred only a small cult following. That's probably because its music can be classified as weird at best and incredibly weird at worst.

In "Cavern," a song from its 1992 release A Picture of Nectar, Phish evokes a funky vibe not heard since the early days of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. "Cavern" is a musical odyssey within one song; it flows from one phrase to another without break, all the while holding your interest like a good novel and making perfect sense as it changes. Singer Trey Anastasio's voice accents the music like a chime, quietly allowing listeners to focus on the instruments.

The All Music Guide, an online handbook with information on nearly every recording from a plethora of artists, rates A Picture of Nectar as Phish's best album to date, a must-have for fans and newbies alike. And at the very least, "Cavern" is certainly Kazaa-worthy.

One Sweet Whirled

Band: Dave Matthews Band
Groove:Jazzy, groovy and how!
Sounds like: A range, from honky-tonk to sweet ballads and melodious epics
Would your mom like it? Without a doubt

Dave Matthews Band (DMB) hasn't reached such classic status as the Grateful Dead, but recordings such as 1996's Crash set the band well on its way. Crash is a melange of sound, ranging from funky trip-hop beats to moody, jazzy ballads.

The album is expertly intertwined, showing the true diversity of the artists. "Tripping Billies" demands your attention, blasting out of the start with an orchestral mix that only DMB has employed successfully. In a 180-degree spin, "Two Step" has a subtle, driving pace that builds up to an emotional climax wherein it proclaims that life is short but love endures.

Such an eclectic mix is to be expected from this motley crew. Matthews was raised in South Africa during Apartheid, and he draws lyrical inspiration from the injustice of the period and rhythmic patterns of the towns in which he resided. Saxophonist Leroi Moore and violinist Boyd Tinsely add jazz funk to such songs as "#41" and "So Much to Say."

Crash offers 12 tracks that don't fail to please. Skip the mp3s and pick up the album; it's more than an hour of mind-blowing music that can't miss.

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L.A. Holmes. L.A. Holmes is a SENIOR!! ('03 Baby!) in the Communication Arts Program. L.A. currently reigns as Managing Opinions and Editorials Editor of <i>Silver Chips</i> with her dear friend, Rachel Yood, and she is the first in <i>Silver Chips</i> history to hold the hotly contested and … More »

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