Last weekend, I went to a music festival. A festival full of jam bands.
As you might imagine, I had many preconceived notions of what such a festival might be like. I imagined clouds of fragrant smoke, lots of dazed looking hippies, body odor, and songs that go on and on and on and on and on for no discernible reason. For the most part, these preconceptions were accurate (although I did not encounter nearly as much body odor as I expected). However, I did learn a lot, and I'd like to share some of that with you.
1. Jam band. noun. A group of musicians usually including a drummer, bassist, guitar player, keyboardist, with other instruments optional. Jam bands employ a musical style characterized by long, repetitive, songs with little formal structure. Telltale signs that you might be listening to a jam band: 1. You don't remember when the current song started. 2. Everyone in the band is soloing at the same time. 3. Songs build to a climax, seem to be over, only to restart for another group-solo. YOU'RE NOT TRICKING ANYONE, JAM BAND!
2. Writhing is not dancing. The first show we saw was Mike Gordan, the bassist from Phish (duh) in his new side project. A couple thousand blitzed kids contorting themselves semi-rhythmically reminded me of the Little Mermaid, and the graveyard of souls that Ursula kept chained up out back. Except the movie has a catchier soundtrack.
3. Jam-fans are courteous folks. Sometimes I felt like there were homeless people all around me, but instead of asking for money, they helped me carry my cooler and gave us a ride in their u-haul. And such respect for your spot on the grass! Spread out a blanket, and it will be gingerly stepped around by dirty sandals all day long. Never a push, shove, or an asshole who barges through to the front of the crowd just because he can.
4. Jam-fans don't judge. Although it's safe to say I'm about as whitebread as they come, I was welcomed into jam-land by the friendly hippies, frisbee enthusiasts, and jewelry-makers who inhabit it.
What's the take home message here? I guess it's this: if you're going to go to a jam-band festival, at least take comfort in the fact that you won't be surrounded by art-school dickheads and indie scenesters. Rejoice in the fact that nobody cares if you bring a cooler full of High Life through security, get over yourself, and have a good time.
And I swear to god if ANY of you name your kid after a Phish song, I'm calling social services.