Could you recommend some good - i.e., musically talented - jam bands?
May 11, 2008 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Could you recommend some good - i.e., musically talented - jam bands? And some specific recordings to get my feet (ears?) wet?

Some caveats: I love the Allman Brothers, and cut my teeth to the Live at Fillmore East record back in '71.

I never cared for the Dead.

What I'm looking for is bands that improvise during their live performances, stretching their recorded work to new heights of musical inspiration. I have no problem with self-indulgence and excess when it comes to soloing.
posted by BartonFink to Media & Arts (35 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Of course, if you already like, the Allmans, you must know and love Gov't Mule already, right? You might also like Widespread Panic. I don't know specific recordings since I pretty much only dig the jam bands when I see 'em live.
posted by maniactown at 11:57 AM on May 11, 2008

You mention the Dead, so I assume you have heard of Phish, but there's a link just in case. There are tons of live recordings out there for them.

My brother really likes the Disco Biscuits, but I despise them.
posted by Corduroy at 12:00 PM on May 11, 2008

(Not that Phish is really very similar to the Grateful Dead, since you don't care for the Dead.)
posted by Corduroy at 12:01 PM on May 11, 2008

Definitely Widespread Panic.
posted by baphomet at 12:07 PM on May 11, 2008

Built To Spill is a modern group that can stretch guitar wankery to new heights in concert, but still they have strong indie rock sensibilities, see their newest You in Reverse for an idea of what their live show entails.

Likewise, indie giant Stephen Malkmus of Pavement fame is moving to a more improvised direction with his latest release, Real Emotional Trash.

These two groups are not traditionally considered "jam bands", but I think they do fit your requirements.
posted by rabbitsnake at 12:26 PM on May 11, 2008

You're not going to believe me, but try and find some Zwan bootlegs. Yes, that Billy Corgan band. The album they released is really no indication of how they sounded live - and they had some incredibly strong jam tendencies.
posted by clcapps at 12:27 PM on May 11, 2008

posted by nitsuj at 12:32 PM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

moe. is always a good choice. No Doy is pretty great.
posted by pedmands at 12:33 PM on May 11, 2008

If you like the Allman Brothers you should absolutely check out Curly And The Rocket. Wife and husband, she sings and drums, he plays guitar. Honestly, this is not really my type of music, but these two are just a mountain of talent, and I would still say that if they weren't friends (full disclosure, etc.). I don't really know how much improvising they do on stage, but they do play the jam band type festivals and seem to be well recieved.
posted by zoinks at 12:35 PM on May 11, 2008

I've always like the Why Store for this. Check out "Live at Midnight."
posted by dpx.mfx at 12:58 PM on May 11, 2008

Phish, with particular emphasis to anything before '95. Avoid the more "experimental" shows (the set-long Tweezer, for example). '90-'92 were probably Trey's most "coked up" years, thus feature some of the most extraordinary feats of guitar improvisation in history. Later stuff tends to be more "funky," slower, more mellow... easier to play, certainly, but less engaging. The Possum from the 1990 Symphony Hall show (around Christmas time), for instance. Or the Chestnut Cabaret in PA in '92... some balls-to-the-wall playing in that one.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:18 PM on May 11, 2008

Goes without saying, I suppose, but if you want a copy of either of those shows just send me an email.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:21 PM on May 11, 2008

I would get yourself a decent way to rip files off web pages (I use flashgot for firefox) and check out the live music archives at Many, many jam bands allow tapers at their shows and a lot of it gets posted at, with reviews and information. This is free, legal music downloading, encouraged by both the bands and the site, and a great way to discover the jam band scene.
posted by sophist at 1:54 PM on May 11, 2008

Any live Pink Floyd shows prior to 1973 or so. After Dark Side comes out, there is not a lot of improv in the live shows. But I have some amazing live versions of Echoes.
posted by Phoenix42 at 2:10 PM on May 11, 2008

Umphrey's McGee are the best jam band I've come across in the last five years.

From WikiPedia (linky):
Umphrey's McGee is an American progressive rock/jam band from South Bend, Indiana whose music is often referred to as "progressive improvisation."
Though the band's approach to their live performances has much in common with Phish and the Grateful Dead (ever-changing setlists, constant improvisation, two sets per night, open-taping policy), they are much more influenced musically by progressive rock bands such as King Crimson, Yes, Pink Floyd, Dream Theater, Frank Zappa, and Genesis, as well as heavy metal bands such as Iron Maiden. The band also identifies The Police, The Beatles, and Led Zeppelin as primary influences. [2] Artists covered in concert by Umphrey's range from Lionel Richie to Metallica to Toto to Snoop Dogg to Steely Dan to Paul Simon to Radiohead to The Rolling Stones.
Some of their songs delve into down-right metal jams, great stuff.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:15 PM on May 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

I have no problem with self-indulgence and excess when it comes to soloing.

I recommend the Mars Volta.
posted by Laugh_track at 2:30 PM on May 11, 2008

A third vote for Widespread Panic. Be sure to check out When The Medicine Takes and Everyday. Those are great studio albums. But it is their live recordings that really showcase their improvisational skills.
posted by mike0221 at 3:00 PM on May 11, 2008

correction....'Til The Medicine Takes
posted by mike0221 at 3:05 PM on May 11, 2008

You might try Percy Hill, though some of their albums were out of print last time I checked.

Color in Bloom is their most well known album (and the only one I've heard). It won a Jammy Award in 2000 for Best Studio Album.
posted by Jahaza at 3:19 PM on May 11, 2008

Sunburned Hand of the Man improvise quite a bit within the bounds of folk / psych / krautrock.
posted by galaksit at 4:29 PM on May 11, 2008

Agents of Good Roots are/were amazing. Not as jammy/"hippie" as others, but they could stretch it out. A lot of jazz influences, and one of the better drummers that I've ever seen. Here are two of my favorite shows.
posted by bah213 at 5:20 PM on May 11, 2008

I don't know how improvisational they are, but My Morning Jacket gives their studio work a nice stretching out live. I pretty much despise the Dead; too much aimless noodling for my tastes. MMJ's jams have some definition and tension, and their sound holds great appeal for this aging boomer...
posted by Bron at 6:49 PM on May 11, 2008

Not a fan of the dead, or even ordinarily of jam bands, but I enjoy the hell out of Galactic, especially live.
posted by Space Kitty at 7:40 PM on May 11, 2008

Robert Randolph and the Family Band. If you like the Allman's, this is the band for you. One of the great live bands. My Morning Jacket. A great Jam Band. I also like the Drive By Truckers, althoiugh not sure how "Jammy" you would consider them. Just saw them a month or so ago in NYC and loved them. To a lesser extent, the Dave Matthews Band live shows are full of extended jams.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:03 PM on May 11, 2008

>I never cared for the Dead.

Given what you are looking for, I can't let the above comment go without comment.

The Dead were really several different bands over the years, as the band varied personnel, playing styles and recreational pharmaceuticals. If you don't like the Dead from one era, you might like another. OTOH, you may just not care for the Dead.

Suggestions. Check out the commercial release One from the Vault. Check out any of the 5 star soundboard shows from the 1972-1974 era on's Live Music Archive. Maybe you'll find that you do like the Dead, after all.

(They have shows from most of the other bands referenced in this thread, too)

BTW, check out this legendary show from 1973 with the Allmans and the Dead together
posted by dudeman at 8:10 PM on May 11, 2008

In case anyone is interested...
Supposedly these links will work for 90 days... let's find out! And I know I'm going to hell because these aren't lossless FLAC, and they're grouped into four large MP3s for proletariat consumption instead of split by song for posterity... sue me.

Phish @ The Chestnut Cabaret, Philadelphia, PA (March 21, 1992)
    Set 1
  1. The Landlady
  2. Runaway Jim
  3. Foam
  4. Sparkle
  5. Split Open and Melt
  6. Silent in the Morning
  7. Dinner and a Movie
  8. The Squirming Coil
  9. My Sweet One
  10. Stash
  11. Golgi Apparatus
    Set 2
  1. Buried Alive
  2. Oh Kee Pa Ceremony-> Suzy Greenberg
  3. Take the A-Train
  4. My Friend, My Friend
  5. Poor Heart
  6. All Things Reconsidered
  7. David Bowie
  8. Weigh
  9. Cracklin' Rosie
  10. You Enjoy Myself
  1. Bouncing Around the Room
  2. Rocky Top

posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:47 PM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite] is behaving a bit funny for me, but Aquarium Rescue Unit might be up your alley. Oteil Burbridge in particular can play some stunning stuff, and the whole band has some real chops. A little more gospel/soul sounding than your typical jam band, which really adds to their sound. No Egos Underwater is probably my favorite track by them, but Workin' on a Building kicks some ass too and is a little more representative of them jamming out.

Disclaimer: I like the Allman Brothers and you couldn't pay me to see Widespread Panic. Seriously, I've left shows before they've played.
posted by Benjy at 9:16 PM on May 11, 2008

2nd'ing the Umphrey's McGee recommendation strongly.

They have some really well-mixed, hour long podcasts available for download that give you a great overview of some of their more recent stuff. They also have tons of matrix live recordings up on the Archive.
posted by Roach at 11:00 PM on May 11, 2008

You're going to get lots of good main-line suggestions, so I'll go for the "out-there" suggestion and just say:

Listen to Krautrock. That's German music of the early-to-mid-Seventies. It's long, meandering, improvisational, ambient, chill, somewhat modernist, and fun. You'll probably like Neu! but especially make sure to listen to the kings of Krautrock, one of the greatest bands that's ever existed, Can. Jamming? Yeah, "Yoo Doo Right" clocks at 20 minutes on their first album, but that's only because they had to edit it down from a recording of the song that was six hours long. Their singer is a Japanese guy they found street-performing by the name of Damo Suzuki; he sings in English, German, and Japanese, sometimes all at once.

Start with this awesome live rendition of "Halleluwah." Then, if you're feeling froggy, buy the album it's on, Tago Mago, which is a certifiable classic.

If you like long-form live rock improvisation, I guarantee you: it doesn't get any better than Can. They're spiritual, transcendental, holy, pure, and balls-out, all at once.
posted by koeselitz at 11:02 PM on May 11, 2008

Medeski Martin and Wood are pretty good. Here's a sample with John Scofield.
posted by Wolof at 12:38 AM on May 12, 2008

Cul de Sac, live in Athens, Ga., 2002.
posted by Sonny Jim at 3:51 AM on May 12, 2008

They're not exactly a jam band, but the Black Keys might float your boat. They are pretty amazing.
posted by sully75 at 7:44 AM on May 12, 2008

I've been a fan of The Slip since the late nineties. I could listen to their album "From the Gecko" a million times and never get sick of it. Their more recent stuff is more poppy, less jammy.
posted by Shebear at 2:18 PM on May 12, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you, thank you, thank you!
You've reminded me of artists that I'd forgotten about (Gov't Mule, Medeski, Martin, and Wood, Aquarium Rescue Unit), gave me excellent resources to hear bands that I'd heard of but never heard (Widespread Panic and Phish), gave me names of some bands I'd never heard of at all (Cul de sac, Galactic, Umphrey's McGee, and many others), and drew a line connecting Krautrock and jam bands that I'd never have drawn myself.


posted by BartonFink at 5:57 PM on May 13, 2008

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