• May 27, 2011
    http://www.dead.net/features/blairs-golden-road-blog/blair%E2%80%99s-golden-road-blog%E2%80%94-phish-wsp-derek-and-other-%E2%80%9Cfellow-travele
    Blair’s Golden Road Blog— Phish, WSP, Derek and Other “Fellow Travelers”

    I don’t dig Phish. Lord knows I’ve tried. Through the years I’ve had so many people attempt to convert me. I dutifully auditioned live CDs fanatical fans would pass to me. I checked out every studio album that came my way, wondering if this would be the Phish album that would have songs that actually resonated with me. I recall when one came out a number of years ago a Phish Head pal proclaimed it “Phish’s American Beauty.” Uh, no. I watched most of a live Phish DVD a while ago, wondering if perhaps the visual element would get me off. Nope. “But you gotta see a show, man!” No doubt. I’m still open to that. But at this point, I really have heard many hours of Phish and it just doesn’t do it for me. The songs don’t sing to my soul, and even though the musicianship is clearly amazing on a technical level, it doesn’t hit me emotionally.

    I’ve been through similar scenes with other jam bands (and my friends who like ’em). I can at least understand why Phish appeals to people, but in the case of Widespread Panic I don’t have a clue. They sound completely ordinary to me. Again, I’ve given them multiple chances to show me something — live and studio CDs — but the song craft isn’t there for me, the guitar playing does not blow my mind, and they lack even that quirky dimension that Phish has (way too much of). I suppose I have to see them live, too. So, who’s got my 10th row-center miracle ticket for that show? ’Cause in this era, with ticket prices what they are, I ain’t spending my concert money on a headliner there’s a good chance I won’t enjoy.

    But here’s the thing: I root for both of those bands, and really, just about all jam bands, because they are “fellow travelers.” No, not fellow communists, as that term was originally applied decades ago, but musicians out of the mainstream dedicated to playing improvisational music before spirited and adventure-seeking crowds. I like any crowd that will dance—sorry, just standing there doesn’t count; gotta shake it at least a little — and any band that will get people up and moving. To me, it’s the highest form of musical communion. The Grateful Dead completely spoiled me, because not only did they inspire you to dance, they had perhaps the greatest song catalog (originals and covers) of any band ever, so every part of your body-mind-spirit was engaged. At this point, I’ve learned to go to shows not expecting that sort of soul-elevating trifecta, so I am often pleasantly surprised when I get one or two, and if not for an entire evening, at least in spurts.

    It’s not like I want or expect bands to sound at all like the Grateful Dead. Yes, I love Furthur—it’s those guys and those songs, brought into The Now. But, as I’ve noted before, Dark Star Orchestra, who sound more like the Dead than Furthur, don’t do it for me. Even so, I still want them to do well, because they’re fellow travelers fighting the good fight and providing a space for the people who like them to experience something soulful and true.

    My favorite of the first wave of jam bands — moe.— doesn’t sound anything like the Grateful Dead. Nor does String Cheese Incident, who I’ve enjoyed intermittently through the years. SCI and moe. also have made studio albums I love: Untying the Not and Wormwood respectively, and have written many fine songs. A group that I’ve come to love the last few years who go to some similar musical places as the Grateful Dead but in a completely different way is Railroad Earth. Again, it’s good songs as vehicles for inspired jamming, but more from the bluegrass side. Yonder Mountain String Band is often lumped into the loose jamgrass category, too, but for whatever reason I have not gotten into them in the same way. But I root for them, too!

    The other night I went to the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco to see the Tedeschi Trucks Band, and they totally knocked me out with their alternately tight and jammy rock, R&B and soul sound. The crowd was great — hanging on every wail from Derek Trucks’ slide, and movin’ to the big, big sound of a surprisingly flexible 11-piece band, with Derek’s wife, Susan Tedeschi, out front with gritty lead vocals that at times recalled Bonnie Raitt, Bonnie Bramlett and other belters. Opening for the TTB was the married duo Tim and Nicki Bluhm (he’s best known as leader of the Mother Hips and also toured with the Rhythm Devils last year), and they were definitely not a jam band. They played short, catchy, country-flavored original songs—just two voices and one acoustic guitar—but you could tell they were fellow travelers because you could hear their roots in folk and old-time music, feel that the characters in their songs were flesh and blood, and that as performers they were connecting with each other and the audience. It was real. They got a tremendous reception from a crowd that was there to rock—but also open to being moved.

    When it comes down to it, I guess what I’m really looking for, whether it’s from so-called jam bands or a solo singer with one instrument, is some sort of connection. When you find it, you know it—you can’t miss it! And when you get it, you want more. So the search continues…

    OK, jam fans — tell us who you like and why! (And yes, I will take recommendations for THE Phish or Widespread Panic disc or download I have to hear!)

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I don’t dig Phish. Lord knows I’ve tried. Through the years I’ve had so many people attempt to convert me. I dutifully auditioned live CDs fanatical fans would pass to me. I checked out every studio album that came my way, wondering if this would be the Phish album that would have songs that actually resonated with me. I recall when one came out a number of years ago a Phish Head pal proclaimed it “Phish’s American Beauty.” Uh, no. I watched most of a live Phish DVD a while ago, wondering if perhaps the visual element would get me off. Nope. “But you gotta see a show, man!” No doubt. I’m still open to that. But at this point, I really have heard many hours of Phish and it just doesn’t do it for me. The songs don’t sing to my soul, and even though the musicianship is clearly amazing on a technical level, it doesn’t hit me emotionally.

I’ve been through similar scenes with other jam bands (and my friends who like ’em). I can at least understand why Phish appeals to people, but in the case of Widespread Panic I don’t have a clue. They sound completely ordinary to me. Again, I’ve given them multiple chances to show me something — live and studio CDs — but the song craft isn’t there for me, the guitar playing does not blow my mind, and they lack even that quirky dimension that Phish has (way too much of). I suppose I have to see them live, too. So, who’s got my 10th row-center miracle ticket for that show? ’Cause in this era, with ticket prices what they are, I ain’t spending my concert money on a headliner there’s a good chance I won’t enjoy.

But here’s the thing: I root for both of those bands, and really, just about all jam bands, because they are “fellow travelers.” No, not fellow communists, as that term was originally applied decades ago, but musicians out of the mainstream dedicated to playing improvisational music before spirited and adventure-seeking crowds. I like any crowd that will dance—sorry, just standing there doesn’t count; gotta shake it at least a little — and any band that will get people up and moving. To me, it’s the highest form of musical communion. The Grateful Dead completely spoiled me, because not only did they inspire you to dance, they had perhaps the greatest song catalog (originals and covers) of any band ever, so every part of your body-mind-spirit was engaged. At this point, I’ve learned to go to shows not expecting that sort of soul-elevating trifecta, so I am often pleasantly surprised when I get one or two, and if not for an entire evening, at least in spurts.

It’s not like I want or expect bands to sound at all like the Grateful Dead. Yes, I love Furthur—it’s those guys and those songs, brought into The Now. But, as I’ve noted before, Dark Star Orchestra, who sound more like the Dead than Furthur, don’t do it for me. Even so, I still want them to do well, because they’re fellow travelers fighting the good fight and providing a space for the people who like them to experience something soulful and true.

My favorite of the first wave of jam bands — moe.— doesn’t sound anything like the Grateful Dead. Nor does String Cheese Incident, who I’ve enjoyed intermittently through the years. SCI and moe. also have made studio albums I love: Untying the Not and Wormwood respectively, and have written many fine songs. A group that I’ve come to love the last few years who go to some similar musical places as the Grateful Dead but in a completely different way is Railroad Earth. Again, it’s good songs as vehicles for inspired jamming, but more from the bluegrass side. Yonder Mountain String Band is often lumped into the loose jamgrass category, too, but for whatever reason I have not gotten into them in the same way. But I root for them, too!

The other night I went to the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco to see the Tedeschi Trucks Band, and they totally knocked me out with their alternately tight and jammy rock, R&B and soul sound. The crowd was great — hanging on every wail from Derek Trucks’ slide, and movin’ to the big, big sound of a surprisingly flexible 11-piece band, with Derek’s wife, Susan Tedeschi, out front with gritty lead vocals that at times recalled Bonnie Raitt, Bonnie Bramlett and other belters. Opening for the TTB was the married duo Tim and Nicki Bluhm (he’s best known as leader of the Mother Hips and also toured with the Rhythm Devils last year), and they were definitely not a jam band. They played short, catchy, country-flavored original songs—just two voices and one acoustic guitar—but you could tell they were fellow travelers because you could hear their roots in folk and old-time music, feel that the characters in their songs were flesh and blood, and that as performers they were connecting with each other and the audience. It was real. They got a tremendous reception from a crowd that was there to rock—but also open to being moved.

When it comes down to it, I guess what I’m really looking for, whether it’s from so-called jam bands or a solo singer with one instrument, is some sort of connection. When you find it, you know it—you can’t miss it! And when you get it, you want more. So the search continues…

OK, jam fans — tell us who you like and why! (And yes, I will take recommendations for THE Phish or Widespread Panic disc or download I have to hear!)

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I don’t dig Phish. Lord knows I’ve tried. Through the years I’ve had so many people attempt to convert me. I dutifully auditioned live CDs fanatical fans would pass to me. I checked out every studio album that came my way, wondering if this would be the Phish album that would have songs that actually resonated with me. I recall when one came out a number of years ago a Phish Head pal proclaimed it “Phish’s American Beauty.”

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I have some Phish but I am not a huge fan. probably because I am such a big Dead fan. Phish and Dave Matthews followed in the Dead tradition but it is a hard act to follow. Susan Tedeschi is from NE, so I have seen her quite a few times and she is good. Her latest releases weren't as good as the early albums. but hopefully the new Truck-Tedeschi which I ordered is good. She also was on tour with the The other Ones when I saw them in Hartford about 10 years ago. WSP, I am not all that familar with but in todays Wall Street Journal is an article about guitarist John Bell's alternative energy house.
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Actually, I have struggled with Phish for many years. Up through 2000, I followed them based on a potential that they would eventually become great. I largely ignored them in the 2002-2004 period. The return in 2009 was good, but inconsistent. 2010 was a great year for Phish, with many fine shows. Nonetheless, they still have a tendency to get carried away on energy trips, attempting to create a bigger peak out of a jam that's worn thin. Sometimes it works, but often, it's just noisy. Their Japan Relief release through their live download site is really good, particularly since they were making an effort to introduce themselves to a new audience. Being on such good behavior brought out the best in the boys. But I am a fan of dynamic music. August 18, 2010 showcases Phish attaining something really special, where the second half of both first and second set reaches a type of musical perfection I have not often heard anywhere. I think this is pretty well the best music I have ever heard from them. They are not the Dead, they are their own thing. As for other music I find extremely moving, Larry Coryell released a great instrumental trio album this past year called "Mongomery," and although the acoustic bass player is a little weak in the mix, I find this entire disc very engaging, and it tells a great musical stoy. Another must-have, in my opinion, is Herbie Hancock: "River: The Joni Letters." Here is an album that really does have it all. As with great art, you can't really judge it until you've formed a connection with it through repeated listenings. I hate to say it is superior to the Grateful Dead, but I feel that this single disc accomplishes everything the Dead set out to do and more. Great songs, great band chemistry, conversations passed around infinitely, brilliant moments of magic, and then: Nefertiti, for the intense space junkies. The album even has a great conclusion. As for the usual jam-band scene, it's funny to me. The Dead rolled on a poly-rhythmic groove, including point-counterpoint discussion among the sounds, and the contrapunctal bass lines of Phil Lesh. Further, Jerry Garcia's motto seemed to become "Don't Ease Me IN," which is to say, he wouldn't allow himself to get caught in any one theme for very long, creating a sense of traveling through space and time. Nowadays, most jam bands just lock in a groove, and there's a soloist on top. Since Phish returned in 2009, they have really sounded authentic to me for the first time, but you still have to filter though lots of fluff to find the really great stuff. LIkewise, I have heard some performances of Widespread Panic where the band transcended time and space, turning corners in their jams, blasting through doors of danceable grooves, and inventing great segues. But musicianship of the sort seems to be the exception, rather than the rule. Even String Cheese Incident would just fall into a groove. One band I have followed is the Disco Biscuits, as they maintained the danger and adventure, but when I stepped away and came back, they were also not exactly what they seemed. Lately, I have thought that their drummer is too good for them. On the other hand, if you listen to Nughuffer>Great Abysss from March 5, 2009, they may make you believe there is no finer band in the world. The recording on Live Music Archive is very good of that one. One thing that sets the Dead apart from the others seems to be the rule of volume. May current jam bands seem to choose volume of crescendo over the great plains of a good Amaericana groove. Rather than paint pictures of the world through the medium of sound, they only seek to get people dancing harder and harder to the hardest, loudest peak. Even the chaos sounds are more decorative than functional. Man, who had a better way with wrong notes than the Grateful Dead? Only a select few among the world of jazz artists seem to understand. And speaking of jazz, have you heard the Wayne Shorter Quartet? They get better and better and better. They make standard jazz form sound limited and restrictive. They may well be the pioneers of the jazz-jam-band. Although many jazz players (Garage Mahal, probably representing a true jam form above and beyond the others) promote themselves in the jamband scene, few are true jam explorers. Wayne Shorter contains an inverted musical sound, and although the setlists may appear similar, the music is original, adventurous, and often not repetitious. They reinvent themselves night after night without altering their basic sound. It's hard to find live recordings, but there are many radio broadcasts in the past decade that have made it onto download sites, and they sound brilliant. Larry Coryell: Earthquake at the Avalon is also a great album to play loud. Although some tracks are not the most inspired, there are more than a few that rank with the best guitar music in my collection. The track "Morning Sickness" started as a simple jam in the studio that was so good that it made it to an album in the late '60's. ON "Earthquake at the Avalon," the band performs it for the first time ever, and I think it qualifies as "jamband music," for all the great twists and turns over a country funk rock groove. As it goes, so much great music. But returning to the Dead, how about 9.19.70, 9.27.72, the Weather Report from 6.28.74, and an expanding list that goes on and on. There are really so many different and distinct "Grateful Dead"s. I only heard the 5.6.81 He's Gone for the first time recently. It's right up there with the best. So go to Live Music Archive, check out Dog Gone 4.13.2010, and tell me what you think. That's me on lead guitar digesting my influences through Grateful Dead standards (we didn't have time to prepare originals for that test gig). I just moved up to the Bay Area and am looking for some good people to work with. Life is chaos right now, much like this essay. But I'm ready to start something new.
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... but is there an archive.org equivalent where one could easily stream a given Phish show, like a couple mentioned by Dan above? Downloading from some sites is kind of a hassle sometimes; I love how on archive, you click it and you're listening...
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What about the Mule!!!! Right on with RailRoad Earth....Todd is a genius and they create great imagery with the music!!!!
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Loved 'em when I saw them a couple of years ago opening for RatDog in San Jose. Went to their Halloween show last fall at the beautiful Fox in Oakland and dug the first set--Who's Next turned out to be a perfect choice for their traditional Halloween album surprise--but found much of their second set to be slow and sludgy. Warren sure does like those midtempo, Bad Company-style rockers--and I don't.

I'm definitely pro-Warren, however...

I thought the version of the Allmans with him and Dickey Betts was awesome, and the version with Warren and Derek pretty good, too, but missing that Betts touch (and his voice and many of his songs) that has always helped define the Allmans' sound for me... I've also enjoyed Warren's stints in both the PLQ and The Dead, especially his singing on Garcia tunes. His sit-in with Furthur at the Best Buy last tour was also very cool...

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Apart from the Dead, I am not a big jam band fan at all. I am the Dead Obsessed type- collecting facts, song histories, last time played, etc- but have found very few bands who bring the same level of songwriting, live energy, and experimental improvisation to the stage. I was into Phish in the '90's (they were the methadone to GD's heroin) mainly because of the improv, as I found many of their actual songs honestly unbearable. The only other jam band besides the Dead I have wholeheartedly embraced is moe. I love the songs, love the techno/house aspect of their better jams, and think that no one- not even the Dead- segues from song to song so seamlessly and effectively. Their live segues are like slowly transforming Escher paintings, similar to what the Dead would do with Scarlet-> Fire on a patient, in-the-zone night. I am also a HUGE Zappa fan, for countless number of reasons. If you have never ventured into live Zappa, there is some amazing improvisation there- guitar solos, jazz outings, weird electronic collages. Zappa brought to the stage what the Dead never even considered bringing- an incredibly tight well rehearsed band who could switch styles/tempo/mood at the drop of a hat and could also jump off the deep end into the most boundary-less improvisation. Amazing stuff. Most other jams bands? Just don't do it for me. J.T. Gossard http://thehallucinogenicbible.blogspot.com/
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I love Furthur to death but the best live band out there is WP!!! John Bell is the man. "It's got no signs or dividing line and very few rules to guide"
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speaking of warren... did anyone see the Mule show at Bonnaroo 07 where he had John Paul Jones sit in for some songs? Bobby played a few too.... I was front row and high flyin.... out the window...bare naked :)
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I can definitely identify with your feeling “spoiled” by the Grateful Dead. They really were one of a kind, and everyone else will pale by comparison. I was very resistant to Phish back in the day – literally ignored them – until I heard a couple of their songs on public radio and got instantly hooked (pardon the pun). For who they are and what they do, Phish are great fun, and the scenes at shows are a blast. Their jams can be kinda dry at times, but their music can definitely move you if you get into their groove. I do think they have a lot of really great songs, too, as well as fine choices in covers. Railroad Earth is another favorite. They really seem to be able to connect with their audience and get a sweet groove going. Like Phish, they have good tunes, top-notch musicianship and a willingness to jam ‘til the cows come home – what’s not to love? Nothing like the Dead though… those guys will always be the gold standard.
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The Dead is why we are here so ...Phish is cool, Back on the Train has that sound also Sand and 46 Days. Widespread is cool live but they have not hit it in the studio lately (sounds familiar) moe. is also cool live but nothing comes to mind from the albums Gov't Mule is an anomaly as Warren is so invested in so many other bands that the range of the Mule is beyond any Jam band type label and is just another of the the GREAT bands of our time. Warren's new disc Man In Motion is worth the price. Furthur is hitting the right spots. Mountain Aire was a highlight. Covering Abbey Road. . . whoa! New material - Big BAD Blues COME ON ! but if you want the real deal experience then come on down to SoCal and catch the best deadband in the land (IMHO) CUBENSIS on Tuesday May 24, 2011 they did a Terrapin>space>Morning Dew to curl your toes Jerry was smilin' on this one. but I'll still throw a Dicks Picks, Road Trips, Vault release, tape, archive retreival or gdradio.net on anytime I want some sound in the background. The Sky Was Yellow And The Sun Was Blue People Stopping Strangers Just To Shake Their Hand.
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In his own words... SHUT UP AND PLAY YER GUITAR! "Watermelon in Easter Hay"! One other comment: Most condescending asshole I ever interviewed!
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wow. Dan R. That is literally the best review I have ever read. I completely agree with you about the biscuits drummer. Not a huge fan, although I have seen them plenty. He is far too good for them. Thought I was the only one to think that. WSP.... is simply mediocre. For someone that considers the dead as THE BAND, you simply will not get WSP but don't fret, there are options for emotion. They just play and play with little direction. Far too much going on to truly enjoy. Too loud! Options for emotion... The Wood Brothers are simply amazing and just so talented. Mumford and Sons are thrilling. Dave is great. Dave is probably the closest to the dead with the combo of jamming and emotional tunes. Amos lee is good. The combo of emotion and jamming is so hard to accomplish. I would say that DSO is the best, but clearly the author does not. The thing about them is that they will toss all different styles from all different era's into the same song... as in they will play a thrilling help>slip from Boulder CO in feb of this year, that will have hints of the 70's, 80's, and 90's in it. I personally love this but everyone likes different things. Furthur... I like the covers they do so much. The Good loving>Fool in the Rain from Hampton of this year is stupid good. I mean really amazing. But I must say that I feel they fall flat sometimes with the traditional songs. I hate to say it on a Dead thread but just as I believe that the drummer from the biscuits is too good, I feel that Russo may be too much for Bobby and Phil. He is a flipping monster that I feel leaves others in the dust live. Again, personal opinions. Cheese... I feel as though I can FEEL their ego's when they play. These are guys that are all playing music outside cheese that are completely different from cheese, which should be desired, but I personally do not think it works for them. I mean Travis has EOTO, who are a complete waste of time. Nersh has a number of traditional grass bands. Kyle and Kang are playing cheesesque tunes.... When they get together, it doesn't really work for me. I think they are forcing themselves to play together. So with that, the early stuff is good but they are not hitting it as of recent. Phish... They are what they are. Sometimes good and sometimes bad. I wouldn't look to them for emotion or meaning but rather a damn good time. The dead are a band that one could take seriously due to killer lyrics, killer timing, and them just being them. Phish are far superior musicians than any band in the jam band scene but they never had the intention to be prolific. Chalkdust torture? Guyute was an ugly pig... really? But damn they can shred. They also have great timing. They got big when the Dead were declining... and the times were just changing. No band can be on top forever and Phish offered something new and innovative. Now Mike Gordon can write a good tune and some goodish lyrics. His Solo act is the business. Anyhow, I would suggest looking into what the band wanted to be. After the Dead, who I think are the only original Jam Band, all other bands really geared their presentation to become something. They had a jumping off point and could really be geared to what they envisioned. I like to think the Dead BECAME what they ended up as more so than other bands. Again, opinion. To sum it up, I think if someone is into the dead, and I mean truly into the dead, then that is it, there is no comparison. A Moe. fan can be a phish fan can be a cheese fan can be a lotus fan and so on. Thanks for letting me write this!! I never get to talk tunes as my friends are all metal heads!!
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Nice observations... and so civil! Could turn ugly, I guess! ;-) I band I liked for a few minutes back whenever it was, was God Street Wine. No clue what happened to them...
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or at least one of their guys turned up at a Rex benefit on the East Coast not long ago as I recall!
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on the bus since 68. enjoyed phish when i saw them 93-95 in louisville [where i live], they seemed to me to capture not only the instrumental brilliance of the dead, but also some of the relaxed humor of the dead's 1st 15 years. listen much more to jazz, which i started seriously listening to in 68 (charles lloyd w/ keith jarrett, gary burton w/ larry coryell . . .). never did see that much in wsp, but different strokes and all that. love allman brothers at least until dickey was fired [i was fortunate enough to see original lineup in n'awlins many times 70-71]. sonny rollins, at 80, blew the crowd away at n'awlins jazzfest recently, some of the same sense to me of the early dead, intelligent and danceable improvisation. derek trucks another true musician, wearing jazz influences proudly on his sleeve.
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Good topic. I've thought about this from time to time. I'm just a few years younger than "the boys". So, sometimes I wonder, "What's next?" No need to answer the question yet. I tend to listen to those, "once removed", Grisman and Kimock do it for me. Some really good shows of Kimock's at archive.org. One of the best non-Dead member shows I went to was "Ghosts of the Electricty" at Ashkenaz. I wish they would play again. It was all Dylan, all show. The show is also on archive.org. Of course, the entire band is "once removed" so maybe that's why I liked it so much. I listen to the Jam station a fair amount. It's good but nothing sticks for me. Then again, there are still so many Dead,Ratgog, Phil, etc. shows I still haven't heard. Let's face it, we're spoiled!!! toogr8fltm
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I have to say that I am in the same boat as Blair. I went through a brief Phish phase in high school, but a lot of "jam bands" just don't move me. I tried to listen to Panic recently and just couldn't see what all the fuss was about. At the same time, I never rooted against these guys (except for Dave Matthews - I think he's terrible. Got a great rhythm section, but that's it). I always say that friends don't let friends listen to STS9 or the Disco Biscuits. All those electronics just lack the soul that Blair so accurately described as part of the Dead's music. It's kind of funny to me that he mentions Derek Trucks because I've been HUGE into him for over 10 years now - talk about soul! RRE is another favorite of mine. I've always been a believer that part of the Dead's success was that they wrote great songs as vehicles for jams, and not vice-versa (I think I read Hornsby say that at one point and it really stuck with me). Blair - and everyone else - if you want to check out some playing that just drips with soul check out Rory Gallagher's "Irish Tour" CD. If the opening track - Cradle Rock - doesn't blow you away nothing will. Also, I'm a big fan of Paul Pena and his "New Train" record. Not a "jam" album, so to speak, but REALLY solid, and Jerry adds some pedal steel. I wish his first record would be re-released on CD. Oh well. Thanks for the great blog post Blair! "Is maith an scéalaí an aimsir." Time is a great storyteller. -- Irish Proverb
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Along with all the Dead shows and all the above mentioned bands, I'd just like to mention and show some love for Merl Saunders! I don't know if that counts as a "jam band", but he was definitely a "fellow traveller"! The love and energy that happened at his concerts was amazing, and I'm sure he's up there in heaven jamming with Jerry right now. Any love out there for Merl?
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I loved Merl! What a great spirit he was--and a great player, obviously. Yeah, I forgot about Dave Matthews. Another one I never quite "got," much as I tried. His success baffles me. I interviewed him and Emmylou Harris together a few years ago and I found him to be very charming and bright. (And I've had a crush on Emmylou forever!) But except for a song here and there, I haven't cared much for his music... It amazes me he was able to sell out stadiums year after year...
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Blair, . I think you might be experiencing a generation gap. Let me explain. Im a Jam Band Hippie, a third generation deadhead. My first Grateful Dead show was April 3,1991. I was a college freshman in Georgia at the time. The jamband movement continued the touring lifestyle for those of us just getting our feet wet with the Grateful Dead. Phish was the band in the northeast and Panic was the band in the south. Panic's "Everyday" and Phish' s "Rift" were the albums that dominated my college experience and are psychedelic touchstones for me to this day. The Dead was playing huge places in the 90's and they would only be in the south for about a week each year in the spring. However, I could see three Panic shows, in three different towns all less than three hours away, on a weekend, and only miss a couple days of school. Tickets were between 15 and 20 dollars, the crowds were small, the shows were crazy and the cops didnt care . You felt like you were in on a secret that the rest of the world was missing out on. I can imagine this is what deadheads in the late sixties and early seventies must have felt. I only got into ten Grateful Dead shows, but Ive seen Widespread over 200 times. JB and the boys are now celebrating their 25th anniversary by playing some incredible runs in some amazing venues before taking a hiatus in 2012. So Blair, you should definitely go see them live before judging them as ordinary. If you are in the Bay Area, go see them at the Fox in Oakland. You wont regret it. As for that miracle, I've got your Red Rocks ticket if youre serious about it.
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If want to listen to extended and inspired improvisation I listen to JazzIf I want to listen to Americana and rock and roll...well there are many choices But if I want both there is still only one place to go..the Grateful Dead In the words of Dylan (happy birthday Bob) on Garcia 'There’s a lot of spaces and advances between The Carter Family, Buddy Holly and, say, Ornette Coleman, a lot of universes, but he filled them all without being a member of any school… '
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I agree with you there Garyfish..they are are the closest thing I have heard in music and spirit.
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Well, Blair - we are right on the same wavelength here. My 18 year old son is on Cloud 9 because he gets to see Phish tonight. He got there through seeing Ratdog, Phil and Friends, and The Dead (2009) with me. We have seen a few others over the last few years and .moe was about the only "electric" jamband that got me. I saw Phish a couple years ago after his ride fell through and I agreed to drive him. Once I was there I figured I might as well go in. It was entertaining and fun but did not really hook me. I have never seen String Cheese in person but would love to; I listen to a lot. I have experienced Railroad Earth - What an amazing treat! And I like Yonder Mountain but they don't quite click the switch. Add to the mix: Greensky Bluegrass. Check out some live shows on Archive (Start with 7-17-09) and then their live CDs. Great originals, a strange selection of covers - from Salty Dog to Road to Nowhere - that never sound like novelty pieces, and jams, jams, jams. I just got to see them recently for the first time and I would put them on or at least near the level of Railroad Earth. Railroad Earth and Greensky Bluegrass are as close as I can get to the feeling of the Grateful Dead shows. But, when I hear what so much rock and roll sounds like I love the idea that the jamband branch of the tree keeps growing from the roots that we all love so much - even when I am not crazy about the particular bands.
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I've wondered about the generation gap theory, but I'm younger than you and my thoughts have already been posted. I think it really just boils down to different strokes for different folks! "Is maith an scéalaí an aimsir." Time is a great storyteller. -- Irish Proverb
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"Mediocre"?? You may not like them and that's fine but they are far from "mediocre". You don't sell out 3 nights at Red Rocks if you are "mediocre". Sorry but I had to comment on that one. I will agree however that they are the loudest band I have ever heard. Really the only concert where I have to wear ear plugs. But "mediocre"??? "It's got no signs or dividing line and very few rules to guide"
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Should be on this list as well. "It's got no signs or dividing line and very few rules to guide"
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11 years 5 months
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blair-- i'm with you-- phish isn't for me, and i like widespread sortof... but bruce hornsby speaks to my soul- there's something about a piano and a man with heart and humor sitting behind it. keller williams is a groovin good time. i've also got a thing for the allman brothers in its multiple forms and neil young and bruce springstein and i wanted to be chrissy hynde when i got old enough, talented enough, or hot enough... but like most of us here, i can't- and don't want to- escape the gravitational (in all its various meanings) pull of the grateful dead. caroline
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I also got into Phish in the 90's as a way of dealing with the loss of the Dead. I saw them a handfull of times and will go back and listen every once in awhile but as far as I ever get with them is amused and slightly entertained. Widespread tends to fall into that pattern of song after song of spiraling guitar solos over a groove. It's something I enjoy for about a half a show then start getting bored with becuase it starts to just sound like three hours of the same jam. (I'm not suggesting their songs all sound the same just their jams) as far as connecting goes, the closest I've connected with any non-dead music would be John Prine. I feel like I personally know the people in his songs and really appreciate the subtle humor he finds in life.
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Out where I live we don't get many bands, but thank you for mentioning archive.org ! I'd never been there before, just added it to my "favorites" list.
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Lunchbox, I agree with you on the different strokes thing. As for the generation gap, I was commenting on people like myself who started seeing Phish and Panic in their formative years. There is a sense that you helped in building and nurturing those communities. With the Dead, I was really more of a spectator in those huge stadiums and arenas. I LOVE the Grateful Dead, but Widespread is more personal to me. Their songs were created right in front of me on stage. If you were lucky enough to see them with Michael Houser between '95 and '00 you got to witness a band evolving, growing, and improving on almost a nightly basis. They hold true power for me. Now with Jimmy Herring they are a different band, but i think it is hard to deny their musical credibility as song writers and as a live band. And yes they are fucking loud and I love it.
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I was almost going to mention the generation gap myself in the original posting, as it's certainly something I observed. It is always fun to find that new band or act and feel as though you are, in sense, discovering it. Not to mention the smaller venues and cheaper tickets. (I felt that way about U2, who I LOVED on their first-ever U.S. club tour, saw all of their subsequent Bay Area shows for years, but haven't been able to afford to see in years... and don't want to go see in a stadium anyway.... but they'll always be one of "my bands"...) Not to dump on WSP any more--as I really have nothing against them, as I said; just not my cup of tea--selling out Red Rocks for three shows is a sign of large and devoted fan base, but it is no more a sign of quality than Britney Spears selling out two nights at Madison Garden or the aforementioned Dave Matthews selling out Soldier Field. However, I will say that in my many years of being in the music business and writing about bands, I've tried very hard not to hold a band's success or over-exposure against them. More power to 'em! Listening to music and supporting musicians at any level is cool!
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The way you feel about WSP is pretty much how I feel about the Derek Trucks Band. First saw them on my 19th birthday - 12/1/00 (check it out on Archive - a SWEET show, and a great pull by David Hamilton) - and really feel like that's the band that I got to see evolve over the past decade. I probably uploaded 50% or so of the DTB shows on archive, myself. I should see if they need an archivist for their vault.... It kind of went without saying that the Allmans are on the list for me as well. It's sad that so many of the musicians I really dig are no longer around like The Band or Bob Marley, the aforementioned Rory Gallagher, etc. Talk about musicians with soul! And, of course, the Grateful Dead. I never got to see them with Jerry, but I've seen some of the post-Jerry configurations. One of the reasons I don't get into newest stuff, I think, is because there is so much good stuff from back in the day that I haven't heard yet and I know most of that stuff is really good. Plus with concert tickets costing what they do these days I'm more apt to buy CDs and d/l the shows afterward. "Is maith an scéalaí an aimsir." Time is a great storyteller. -- Irish Proverb
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A few of the comments reminded me of something that always seems odd to me. I have heard, or read, of musicians from Dave Matthews to Railroad Earth saying that they are not jambands. They give a few reasons for their dissatisfaction with the term. As I recall, and a paraphrase, Dave Matthews said that the jamming was individuals satisfying their egos at the expense of the band - compare with what Phil and others have said: jamming being all about listening... From the Railroad Earth side, one complaint was that they start with strong songs and not with jamming. If, as I and a few on this thread would say, the jamband idea all but starts with the Grateful Dead, I doubt whether very many song writers from around this broad genre are going to claim that they do consistently better than what the Dead produced - start with American Beauty, for instance. Blair and others noted that it all starts with good material and I agree. I read somewhere (how is that for a citation) that jambands happen when bands start with their own music, whether folk, or blues, or hard rock, and approach it live like a jazz band. I guess that is how the label can stick to Greensky Bluegrass and Umphrey's McGee (both of whom cover Pink Floyd but in very, very, different ways!). So, I will agree with an earlier post that when I want to hear "jams" I also think Coltrane, or Eric Dolphy, or etc, etc.
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thanks for the discussion. Im glad it hasnt dissolved into the "my jamband is better than your jamband" argument. I pretty much like all this hippie shit. If I had the money to see it all I would. I've really enjoyed phish since they've returned. However, its been a little difficult to get tix for the western shows. Furthur has been great. I also love the latest formation of the ABB. As far as newer acts, I was blown away by Xavier Rudd's live show. Great musician and great energy. Octopus Nebula is a great new band from Denver that has its own special brand of psychedelic jamtronica. We are spoiled here in CO with all our great venues. There is just too much to see and it seems like all of these bands love to play our state.
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Jerry's dead and fish stink, I guess we should all go home. Except for Furthur, John k has my vote for the new, DEAD guitar
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I am a huge grateful dead fan as well as jerry and bob solo stuff. A couple of years ago I started experimenting (not that way) with different types of bands and styles of music, I found Phish and I absolutely love them. They have to grow on you a little bit. They have some quirkyness to them you have to get use to but when they grow on you, you can love them. I constantly listen to them, bought several live DVD's (best one I think is "Coral Sky" and "Live in Brooklyn") and have tons of their studio and live stuff. Like the Dead you can't judge them by their studio albums, listen to their live stuff. Their release "A Live One" is a great live album along with "Live in Brooklyn". To like Phish, you can't just listen to a couple of songs, they have to grow on you, take a week or two and just listen to live phish concerts, get to know their sons and style and I'm sure they can grow on you.
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I forgot to mention how much skill they have. Trey Anastasio is an amazing guitarist and it really shows in a lot of songs, he has an amazing skill, get speed and knowledge of the fretboard, Jon Fishman is great a drumming, he can really do a lot behind the kit, Mike Gordon is an amazing bassist (listen to weekapaug groove) he nails it. and Page McConnell is great at keyboards, he has like 6-7 different keyboards and plays them great. All these guys put together have great skill, just listen to their songs, very few sons are just chords, they are complicated pieces of art.
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I never really became a Phish fan, and never liked Widespread too much. Considering Zappa to be a "jam band" to me is a bit of a stretch, due to the nature of his compositions, but I have to say that I'm surprised that no one has mentioned those talented asskickers from New Orleans, THE RADIATORS !! Currently wrapping up their farewell tour, these studs will be sorely missed!
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"take a week or two and just listen to live phish concerts, get to know their songs and style..." See, Deadhead570, that's more of a commitment than I'm willing to make...
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I kinda agree with the generation gap, I think that has something to do why I've never gotten totally into Phish, WSP, etc. I've heard tunes that I've liked, but to Blair's post above, just not motivated to invest the time. I'm sure to some of you that's my loss, and that's cool. One 'jam band' I really got into, if it counts, is Max Creek. Growing up in Rochester NY, they were a staple at the Mason Jar then the Warehouse. They started out as a Dead cover band, but quickly built a catalogue of great individual songs, and their take on other artists songs, such as Paul Simon's 'Late In The Evening', were very cool. Scott Murawski and John Rider are two very talented musicians.
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one of the things that has kept me from Phish in particular is their, in my opinion, really lame lyrics. They can be jamming along and I am bopping along thinking this is pretty great, and then somebody opens his mouth and that is pretty much the end for me. But their version of Terrapin on the Jerry Jams tribute on the other hand (http://rexfoundation.org/2010/11/01/jerry-jams-for-rex/), which I understand was pretty much a huge moment with not a dry eye in the house in real time, is pretty darn lovely. Some of the other bands, I like their music when I hear it and I love that there's so much going on, but my festival days are behind me....
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...the four times I've seen Trey play Grateful Dead music live--the three Phil & Phriends shows (also with Page) at the Warfield more than a decade ago and then the "Comes A Time" show at the Greek a few years back--he was fantastic! I think he really brought a fantastic energy and imagination to those concerts. I can understand his reluctance to get pegged as yet another GD-style guitarist (like Kimock, who's been reluctant to wear that tag, as well), but he sure did it well! I have a lot of respect for him and I love reading interviews with him--seems like a very cool guy to me...
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IDK I've got two bands that most of you probably have never heard of. If you get the chance go to the archive and check out Flying Colors (their jams come straight out of the boy's hands...without sounding like rip offs) and Cabinet (like RRE but I love their songs and their jams better...I'm happy at a RRE concert, I leave Cabinet crawling on the floor cause I can't dance any harder). Hey and who ever gave a high five to Cubensis, high five to you, love those boys.
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I wholeheartedly agree, marye, on the Phish lyrics. As much as I truly dig Phish, their lyrics are horrendous. Good for a chuckle now and then, but mostly wince-inducing....
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I am going to check out my first full Panic show on 6/17 in Dallas. I'm excited to experience the show the WSP scene. I will have to report back after the show. I saw the last few songs of WSP's set when they opened for the Allman Brothers a couple years ago. There was a lot of energy in those last 3-4 songs (I was out of my head by this time so I'm sure that helped the experience!). I'm looking forward to seeing the entire show this time and really finding out what this band is all about.
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Thanks hippie pat! I checked out Cabinet on Archive and then the band's Website. Hot!! It will (at least) take a while for them (or anyone) to pass Railroad Earth or Greensky Bluegrass, but Wow. They operate in my current neck of the woods so it looks as if I will be able to catch a show very soon. On the "generation gap," I saw Phish two years ago and was by far the oldest person I saw there (in my 50s). Someone handed my a leña and, I swear, called my sir: "Would you like some, sir?" Very odd experience. The band have been around for almost 30 years so there has to be older "heads."
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Blair, I'm curious. Do you like Medeski, Martin & Wood? Calling them a jam band isn't entirely accurate, but their shows are tremendous. It's closer to jazz. Talk about chops. They have it in spades and make improvisation look easy. Whenever they are in the Boston area, which isn't nearly enough, I get out to see them. Another band worth checking out is the new Warren Haynes Band. I saw them a couple of weeks ago. It's R & B and soul-flavored with tight jams and great backing vocals. And the audience was on their feet, dancing all night. I was in about the sixth row, and a couple of times I turned around and said to myself, "wow, EVERYONE seems to be dancing tonight!" And he played none of his 70s-inspired rockers that he seems to enjoy so much with the Mule. Lastly, have you caught Keller Williams? It's a fun show. He's very talented, but not much of a song writer (at least in my eyes). He throws interesting dead covers into almost all of his shows. I went through a little faze with him, but haven't followed him recently. The whole thing kinda gets tiring, but I respect that he's out there doing what he does.
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I haven't seen MMW in a number of years. Not really my favorite sound, frankly, though I recognize they can all play... Not really a huge fan of organ as a lead instrument... Haven't seen or heard the latest Warren band. Seems like it would be up his alley, though... He can sing about anything IMO... Did a nice "Roadrunner" with Furthur, which is in his new soul bag, I guess. Saw Keller once a few years ago and have listened to his last couple of albums. Fun, energetic guy. I heard he was good with the Rhythm Devils...
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They are contrived, though some originality. I notice, living in the place where they came out of, they really don't have too many die-hard fans. This has been a great thread for the opinions of others. I'll be checking out more than few of these. Thanks everybody.
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    shug9
    6 years 6 months ago
    Fellow Travellers at Red Rocks!
    Good description of Wilco, thanks for that! Yep, Glenn Kotche kills it on drums and Nels Cline on guitar is a force to be reckoned with. I never got to see the Grateful Dead at Red Rocks, in fact I've never seen any show there. Now this summer I'm seeing two nights of Wilco in June and two nights of My Morning Jacket in August! I can feel the synchronicity starting to brew already! I can only imagine what it was like to see the Dead there... must've been awesome! I'm also gonna catch Tedeschi Trucks for the first time in Sept. I do love a soulful big band ala Delaney and Bonnie or Mad Dogs and Englishmen, I'm really looking forward to it.
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    Oroboros
    6 years 6 months ago
    I concur on Wilco, see these guys live.
    When I saw Wilco several years ago at the 10,000 Lakefest in Detroit Lakes, I saw many bands that week (WSP, DMB, etc) but I really enjoyed these guys, fine live show, dynamic mix, quiet to deafening, simple to almost (but not quite) frenetic, fun and personal lyrics, really Jeff Tweedy (lyric/music) reminds me of the personal songwriting/story telling of Neil Young and at times John Lennon (without much of the political stuff). Musically & arrangements reminiscent of Beatles Revolver/White ablum eras, with synth and prepared sound. Guitar work of course is top notch and lead guitar player Nels Cline is stratospheric, along with Tweedy and the other guitar player (who also plays keyboards about 1/2 the time) who are no slouches either. Saw Wilco more recently in that small theater in Kansas City 'The Uptown Theater'. Nick Lowe was their warm up (solo on guitar) and then later Lowe came out to play his 'hit Cruel to be Kind at the end of the Wilco set with Wilco playing as his back up band. Wilco has a loyal fan base who really to get into the shows. Very good ensemble playing. Their drummer is a monster, the base player has been with Tweedy the longest (I believe) and sings harmony vocals very well, and Jeff Tweedy in his rumbled suit coat or crunched hat as the front man telling the story and taking us all along for the ride. Lead guitar player Nels Cline can play feedback that will make your jaw drop and at times he appears to be using a wood rasp for a slide. He can go from such sweet delicate finger picking to hammering the guitar ala Neil Young. Nels' leads really can soar. He can surprise you, and often then the band is swirling around him and they all do one of those 'lifts' and then crescendo, dropping back to a quieter more sedate play on the main melody, only to ramp up again, and whip the crowd into a frenzy. Wilco is playing a couple shows at Red Rocks (my favorite outdoor venue) in June. Anyway, can you tell that I recommend Wilco? "The bad news, is there is no key to the universe, the good news, it was never locked".
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    shug9
    6 years 6 months ago
    My Morning Jacket, Wilco and The Black Crowes
    I didn't read all 15 pages of this thread so I don't know if they've already been mentioned, but for me right now, Wilco and My Morning Jacket are my favorite bands to see live these days. The Black Crowes, in 2005 and 2006, with the return of Marc Ford, were, IMO, at their peak and they, like the Dead, were torchbearers for almost every kind of good American music style in their originals and many covers. Seeing their 5 night December runs at the Fillmore 2008-2010 was a lot like going to see the Dead in that you'd run into people from the year before and make new friends all the time. And they'd do 5 nights with only one or two repeated songs, pretty impressive. They also got more and more "rootsy" and less hard rock in the last few years. My impression is that many Deadheads find/found them too "hard rock" and not soulful enough. Chris Robinson has become more and more of a Deadhead himself and he truly has an encylopedic knowlegde of lots and lots of music. His current band, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, is even more in the flavor of the Grateful Dead and appeals to the more hippie segment of Crowes fans. Wilco are like the Dead in that they play ensemble rock, even though they don't jam, per se. The mood may be way too angsty for lots of Deadheads, but when they get cooking, especially with their three guitar mode, they are freight-train powerful (check out their live DVD Ashes of American Flags and particularly the song Impossible Germany). Bobby recently said he was way impressed with them live. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7I79m7_kAnA My Morning Jacket have a charismatic, passionate and shaggy leader in Jim James and they rock the f*%k out!! They seem to blend the spirit and style of the best of the 70s bands. They are super-tight and they have some trippy moods. The best way to get into them is their live DVD Okonokos. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLLJ4sD9JN4&feature=related
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    Jotis
    7 years 3 months ago
    A couple of other faves...
    Nothing like the GD, but two other groups who are surely in "the transportation business" are Antibalas for a seriously sweaty Afrobeat/funk show and STS9 for a more electronic dance/groove show.... Great musicians in both groups, taking wildly different paths to make people get up & move. Improvisation, tension/release, a bit of the unexpected - all of the good stuff that sends me home with a smile on my face.... I've sen Phish a number of times since back in the day when they were playing colleges around New England, and never got 'em either. Always had a good time, but never more than that. Just felt too much like an "in joke" that I didn't get.
  • Mr.TheEleven
    7 years 3 months ago
    Ain't gonna happen
    Blair, PHISH obviously doesn't "speak" to you and in all likelihood, never will. I think you can safely stop trying. I tried for years to get my wife to love the GD - and it ain't never gonna happen. At best, she tolerates them, likes a couple songs, dug The Dead when I took her to see them in 2004 I believe, but if she never heard them again, that would be just fine with her. Like you and PHISH, she just doesn't "get" them. As far as other improvisational music I like, it's basically prime Allmans and a whole lot of jazz. Saw Lee Ritenour's "smooth" jazz band last night - freebie tics no less! - and they were awesome - tight and improvisational at the same time. Once in a while you get shown the light In the strangest of places if you look at it right.