Jammed for All Time

The Improvisational Rock Scene Isn't Just for Hippies Anymore

He means the approach to making music, but he could easily include production and distribution. One of the most vital aspects of jamband success has been the encouraged taping and trading of live concerts. Among the diversions at Bonnaroo was a Music Sharing Village, where almost 6000 attendees created and burned free, personalized live-music compilations culled from tracks, sets, and entire concerts supplied by the bands.

"The Disco Biscuits made a whole CD book, they were so excited," says Annabel Lukins, project manager for the attraction. "It was interesting dealing with the labels because they didn't want to give away anything for free, but it was easy to convince them that this was a good thing. Gateway helped to promote the bands' Web sites too, which in turn promoted album sales. It was a win-win situation for everyone."

So while the mainstream scrambles to capitalize on the next big thing, the jamband scene, driven forward by events like Bonnaroo and the Jammys, quietly enters a new era. An insufficient African American presence is slowly correcting itself, and two of the scene's most sought-after guest musicians, DJ Logic and Robert Randolph, are paving the way for jam-based hip-hop and gospel. Gov't Mule keep about 20 of the world's greatest bass players on speed dial, and Kid Rock might just drop in unannounced.

"As much as we can get away from choreographed, overproduced music the better," Shapiro declares. "The more the jamband term can be associated with good live music rather than just being considered a niche, the easier it will be for the scene to grow."

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