What is the Jam Scene exactly?
This is something I have been working to define for a while…pretty much ever since I met my husband. Not because I ever felt like it NEEDED some sort of definition. It doesn’t, and one of the great things about it is that it doesn’t have one. I don’t like to give him credit when he is listening because I don’t want to swell his head, but it’s because of my husband’s influence that I found myself here. It’s not the whole reason because there were a lot of reasons, but those times I refused to listen to a band, check out a festival, or explore that inner flower child that I knew was there (hell, she was bred into me by my parents)…I stopped myself because I already thought I knew what the scene was. I thought I knew everything I needed to and that it was NOT FOR ME. I was extremely closed minded. The real truth is that I had no idea what the Jam Scene really was. The truth is that it’s a lot of things to a lot of people. It’s something uniquely different for everyone that becomes a part of it. It’s probably easier to try and tell you what the scene isn’t than what the scene is, but what fun would that be?
So I set out on a quest to find out from people who call this scene home – WHAT IS THE JAM SCENE TO YOU?
I’ll start with myself. I was looking for something in my music. It was something I could not explain. It was something just under the surface of everything that I was missing. For a long time, I tried to find it. That exploration over the years was rich and wonderful and it took me on incredible journeys and gave me some of my very dearest friends. I just wasn’t finding that THING I was after. What made it harder was that I had no idea what it was I was looking for. Fast forward to meeting my husband in 2012. He was a bassist in a band that was a part of the jam scene. This was a scene I didn’t know much about personally, but WOW did I make a lot of assumptions. I thought because I knew people in the scene that I understood what the scene was. I thought because I heard two Phish songs that I knew who Phish were. Repeat that with moe., Umphreys, the Dead, and then just keep going. I thought I knew everything. What was worse, I assumed I didn’t like it.
I have talked about it before in these blogs. My podcast, my blog, my focus was ska and reggae and I thought I knew it all. I was pretentious about it, like a lot of people are. A lot of the arrogance that taught me had become ingrained in me and as such, I refused to listen. I heard things, I just didn’t listen to any of them. It was Twiddle that changed that for me. Now, suspend any sanctimonious Twiddle dislike you have while you are reading this please. It’s irrelevant here and I don’t care. For me, they were the thing. They were the crossover. They were my jam scene gateway drug. I heard Lost in the Cold, felt the vibe, heard the horns, and thought…wow. I dig this. Not only that, I can actually feel this. And it genuinely opened me up. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t immediate. It took about a year for me to open my head up all the way and let it all in, and honestly that process is still taking place. I don’t like everything. Some of it I downright can’t stand. But that is every genre. What left me was the need to be so pretentious.
But that’s not even it. That was just the door cracking open enough for me to smell the air inside. I realized I liked enough music that I wanted to hear more. And then more. And then I wanted to see those bands live. And then there were more bands. The thing I never realized was that the jam scene is not one kind of music. It’s not one genre. It’s not just “this” kind of music or “that” kind of music. It’s NOT, as I long suspected, a whole bunch of bands trying to be the Dead or Phish (though that does exist) or reggae bands all covering Sublime tunes (though that does exist) Not hardly. It’s some of the most killer funk bands I have ever encountered. It’s some incredible folk music. Its wonderful singer/songwriter collaborations. It’s deep and powerful soul music. It’s some of the best dance music I ever heard played not through a computer, but with a live band! (I should not need to say that with such enthusiasm, but seriously) This scene took everything I thought I knew about bluegrass and flipped it upside down. It’s all these different types of music that come together. That play together. That have these massive meet up festivals and all JAM together. I’m often amused now when I see other scenes talk about their shows and festivals and the novelty of one band playing with another band. That is what this entire scene is! That happens at EVERY show! I don’t judge anyone for it because that was me once too, and wow. There was so much I thought I knew.
What I never saw coming though was this community. I never expected to be as embraced as I was not just by the other fans, but by the artists as I began to write about the scene. It’s not like there are not a ton of other blogs and publications on this scene. I struggle as a small independent writer to be noticed among them, but that never dampened the appreciation from the artists and the community for what I strive to do in sharing the music. My first festival was an eye opener for me. The music I saw, the community I met, and as much as I hate camping, I embraced that concept as well and enjoyed being a part of this little compound for a weekend. I never knew what that was. I never experienced that for more than a few hours.
Then I realized what I had been missing.
It was peace.
I have struggled with anxiety and depression for most of my life. For me, it’s chemical. It’s something I have worked just to learn to live along side of as part of my world. In its chaos, I have struggled to find inner peace in my life. As I became more and more immersed in this scene, the more I realized I was slowly starting to find that peace I had been seeking. Depression does this thing to you. It makes you feel isolated no matter how many people you surround yourself with. For most of my life, I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. The feeling of not quite fitting in has been reality for me every day as long as I can remember. It’s something I wouldn’t tell my friends, but I didn’t understand why they wanted to be around me. I didn’t feel a part of their world. I was just kind of…there. Never fully being able to relate to them. Never really feeling like they related to me. Naturally I usually felt like I was proved right after a while when my own introverted behavior sent me into hermit mode, and as such, I never lost this sensation that I just don’t fit in.
This year, when we went to Disc Jam, that started to change a little. It’s not a full reversal of those deeply rooted issues, but I realized I was meeting more and more like-minded people. I never felt judged when I met anyone there. None of these people I was meeting were anything like I thought they would be. In fact, they were like me. They were like me in ways I could not really explain. It had nothing to do with our appearances or even music taste. It was inward. It was an understanding. I don’t really ever meet people like me. Maybe it was the euphoria of the music. Maybe it was those damn good bloody marys. Maybe it was the moment I felt my anxiety slip away for the first time in a long time, but there is just something there within the community. It’s a peace.
I think that is how the scene gets you. It’s how it pulls you in. It wraps itself around you with music and friendship and you realize that there are people like you. Maybe that is how every scene gets you. I don’t want to declare that it’s just this one, and that somehow people outside of it are not getting what we have here. That’s ignorant and closed minded. I guess what I am saying is that this is why this scene is great to me. That got me thinking though. Why is this scene great to YOU? Then I decided I would just start asking people.
Will Hanza – Guitarist for Escaper
“What the jam scene means to me… First of all, I think the scene has grown a whole bunch the past ten years. While some fest have come and gone, I feel the scene- people whom are in it and you see and hang out with often, has grown and become closer and closer as time has gone on. I feel I only got into going to fests about 5-6 years ago and Escaper has been around for just 2 and a half years. I have to say that here is a lot of love in this scene. Love for live music- to the point of addiction (glorious addiction), love for each other. Especially those that champion it, help propagate it. There is a genuineness to most people in this scene and a real sense of community. It takes village to raise a jam band. The amount of love I have felt from people for Escaper, as well as me as a person, has been almost overwhelming at times. I can’t say enough- I have met so many people through this music and I have come to sincerely love so many of them. When I was younger, I was much more in the rock ‘scene’. There definitely was not the same sense of community. If anything, fellow bands often were more competitive than seeing each other as family that could help each other. Maybe the jam scene has grown, even, to be more familial. Music is a composition, not a competition, right? We all have so much wealth of soul and sweat in us. Why not share it and boost each other? Rising tides raise all ships and all that. The more we believe and live that way, the better we all are. I believe this to the core, as do my best friends in this scene. Aaaaand we get to play highly improvisational, exploratory, heartfelt music? What? Yes, please.”
David Loss – Guitar/Keys/Vocals for Aqueous
“Being a part of the Jam Scene is like being a part of a large family. Especially at the summer festivals, you get the feeling of being at a family reunion. Seeing people you haven’t seen in awhile and meeting up with friends and musicians alike. Beyond that, I think the scene offers a little something for everyone. There’s so many talented musicians out there and so many dedicated fans. Overall, I feel, the scene just provides a kind atmosphere and one that I’m happy to be a part of!”
Alzie Sisco – Drums for Newton Crosby
“To me the scene is an ever evolving thing. Its about acceptance, growing and meeting many different people that will have an impact on your life forever. Being involved in it for so long, I’ve gotten to discover so much about what I like and even question it sometimes and relearn what you thought was “the way to do things”. I’ve gotten to meet so many talented artists and learn from them. It also represents family because the people you meet in this scene are just that…and they shape your experience…not to mention, its FUCKING FUN!!!”
Vincent Ventriglia – Guitar/Vocals for Wig Party
“The jam scene to me is a place where people can go see music made by musicians for people who like music. There are multiple sides to that as far as styles of music are considered. It like the best buffet you have ever been at. But instead of it being egg rolls or some type of chicken or a meat dish, its Jazz, Blues, Rock, folk, Hard Rock, Rap, R&B, EDM, Funk etc. Literally ever style of music. “
What does this scene mean to YOU? I would love to hear your answers for a follow up! Send me a message! Tell me your story!