Why Do Jam Bands Carry Such a Stigma?

jamband.jpg
By: Leslie Simon
Jam. Band. Apart, these two words are innocuous. Put them together, though, and for whatever reason they become instantly polarizing. Whenever the subject of jam bands comes up, it seems to send some people into a frenzy of dogmatic snideness. So why the stigma? Well, to answer that, we've probably got to go back to beginning.

The Grateful Dead created the sound and were essentially the architects of the scene, and when Jerry Garcia died in 1995 a huge group of people were left wondering what was next. As a result, many bands gained new fans looking for other free-feeling live-music experiences, and by the end of the '90s, many jam bands were at the top of their game.

Bands like Phish, which had grown big enough to be playing large summer sheds, and groups like the Dave Matthews Band and Blues Traveler, which had tons of radio hits and went on huge tours of their own. Bell-bottoms and '70s fashions also enjoyed a resurgence, and kids all over the country were rocking hemp chokers and Birkenstocks, wishing they were older so they could have seen the Dead in their heyday. It was actually cool to listen to jam bands, for a minute there.

Fast-forward about a decade, and some jam bands have incorporated electronic music into their sound, staying up to date with what's going on in the music scene as a whole. Many have coined the sound as "jamtronica," a term meant to hold allegiance with the jam scene but nodding to the fact that it's something a little different now.

As more electronic-music listeners and a younger generation began listening to these jamtronica acts, there was a noticeable difference in the way the fans dressed. Neon dominated the apparel, along with anything else that lit up; the guy in patchwork pants and tie-dye now looked dated and corny at his own party.

But somewhere along the way, it was more than the look that began to be shunned; it was the whole jam-band scene that was being smirked at. People who saw Dave back in the day now laughed at the people who seemingly hadn't grown, who were still chasing the dream. The words "jam band" instantly evoked bad hippie clothes and other cringe-inducing things about the culture that should've been left in the past.

The problem with this sort of thinking is that the jam-band scene did evolve, and it's still bustling. There is no shortage of talented musicians who prefer to improvise on stage as they blend genres and take the audience and themselves on a total sensory experience. If you looked at a picture of the guys from Lotus, for instance, you would see that they dress more like a band from Brooklyn than a band from Woodstock.



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15 comments
ebola714
ebola714

Hard to say, but refreshingly, it seems like the stigma is starting to fade, at least a bit, thanks to a group of artists who are breaking down the barriers, including Stephen Malkmus, whose new solo album nods to the scene, the National, which is coming out with a Grateful Dead tribute album full of indie-rock acts and Animal Collective, which samples the Dead.


This is a poorly written article by some "OC Weekly Contributor" seriously, what the F... is up with the comma-ridden catastrophe?  Don't like jam bands? Don't listen to them. There is no stigma, OC weekly you can do better than this turd.

GrimJimCrowley
GrimJimCrowley

Is this an editorial piece? Doesn't seem very researched, just 2 pages of opinion. 

downtownbrown
downtownbrown

Dave seems like a nice guy.  But nice guys usually make boring music.

Gil Martinez
Gil Martinez

Saw DMB, sorry he sucked horribly, all the freaks in audience LOVED him though.

Matt Frickert
Matt Frickert

What do you think live edm music is? It's just a jam band with a computer .

Nicole Krramer
Nicole Krramer

Im a huge DMB fan, and no we arent all hippies that smoke pot or wear Birkenstocks... I think the stigma started with phish and the grateful dead- which are fine- but nothing compares to a dave show.

Dezbrah
Dezbrah

How could you even write about the jam band scene without mentioning one that is almost as big as Phish and DMB, WIDESPREAD PANIC! Blues Traveler is barely in existence but because they had a radio hit they get a nod? PANIC routinely sells out venues and is a record holder for sell outs at Red Rocks, they survived the death of a founding member and have come back stronger than ever. The jam band scene is quite fine without the people who think its a stigma or isnt "evolving". SMH

Shannon Tiare
Shannon Tiare

Listen to the Dead dick around on guitar for 45 mins & you'll understand.

FishWithoutBicycle
FishWithoutBicycle

Stigma? Hardly. I think some people just don't like the idea of improvising and going where the music takes you. Their loss, I suppose. :-(

downtownbrown
downtownbrown

Listen to Phish, then listen to the Meters and shake your head at why Phish even has a career.

Brainwashed_in_church
Brainwashed_in_church topcommenter

Who (besides the author of this article) said there was a stigma? Artificial, manufactured, engineered controversy.

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