Joint Effort

By rolling jamband friendly music venues across the country into its fold, the HGMN gives previously isolated ‘micro’ communities a new way to share the buzz

by Lee Abraham

Community. More than just a word, the -concept- of community is the jamband scene’s foundation. Last year’s Jammy Awards proved it. Sometimes that’s what it takes - an event of common interest with enough magnitude to bring together a critical mass of movers and shakers in one place, at one time, for an exchange of energy.

Now when I say, ‘movers and shakers,’ I’m including jamfans. And why not, it’s the fans on the dance floor that do the real movin’ and shakin’ once the music starts. All attempts at clever wordplay aside, just talk to the musicians and they’ll tell ya - without fans there is no scene. Need proof? Check the bottom line - fans ultimately support everyone onstage and behind the scenes by plunking down hard earned shekels at the door of a nightclub, the gate of a festival, or in exchange for a CD. Fans pay the bills. Plain and simple.

In terms of the jamband ‘community,’ jamfans get plenty of love. Particularly among their own ‘micro’ communities. Take the Big Wu, Ekoostik Hookah, and moe., for example. The sense of community among their fans is -so- strong that these bands are able to attract thousands of people to their own music and camping festivals. And nothing cultivates the community vibe like dancing under the sun, sleeping under the stars, and waking to the new day along with a tent city of like minded music freaks. It’s a tribal thing.

Sure, the fans’ role in keeping the wheels of commerce spinning is obvious, but another pillar of the jamband community, the hard working folks who keep the scene’s lamps trimmed and burnin’, are often overlooked or taken for granted. I’m talking about the -venues-. That’s right, the nightclubs, beer joints and roadhouse bars that give the bands a place to play, and more importantly, fans a place to gather. Let’s face it, if -music- is the scene’s ‘religion’ and -fans- are its faithful flock, then -venues- are the community’s church. Can I hear a ‘hallelujah!’ brothers and sisters?

Unfortunately, music venues are often operating on rolling paper thin profit margins, just a few unsuccessful shows away from closing their doors. OK, fine - that’s the risk of going into the bar business. And few businesses are riskier, or more of a headache, than operating than a music venue. It’s the nature of the beast. The keys to a music venue’s success are no mystery though. In most cases, if a venue has a decent location, is professionally managed, and is serving an active and viable community of fans, it’ll do just fine. Like bands, a venue becomes successful, or ‘popular,’ if it can develop its own ‘micro’ community.

Now in my case, I’ve been lucky enough, or more accurately, on the move enough, to have entrained wavelengths with three rock solid jambars over the past several years: Legends Lounge in Las Vegas, Winstons in San Diego, and Peasants Cafe in Greenville, NC. While they all have very different locations, interior layouts and even clientele, all three share one common thread: by supporting jambands they give jamfans a place to gather, and as a result, a sense of community has developed around each club. Raising awareness is a challenge for any music venue.

The good news is music freaks love to turn each other on to great music and cool places. Generally speaking, jamfans will try to build a scene if their town doesn’t already have one. And in any given town, the challenge varies. Example: Las Vegas. Viva Las Vegas is such a weird, neon soaked and glitter dipped fantasy land, the irie day-glo radiating from even the most vibrant tie-dyed campfire is obscured by "The Strip’s" blinding laser lights. It took nothing less than the extended bliss of the Grateful Dead’s wonderful, five year Las Vegas run in the mid ‘90s to spark the neon city’s jam scene into developing a sense of community. Now in the post-Garcia era, some of the kind folks who bonded during the -Silver Bowl years- have formed the Las Vegas Jamband Society ( ). Their mission: build the local scene.

No doubt some towns have it easier than others. Of course, on a national level, has always done its part with the ‘Venue Of The Month" feature. And that’s been a great way to introduce individual venues to the rest of the world. But for all practical purposes, each local venue is effectively isolated, operating on its own, and in most cases, unable to transcend the physical limitations of its own micro community. Unlike bands and fans, who have the option of touring the rock and roll highway, venues are locked into a location. And because of that, the sense of community -among- the venues themselves, has been slow to develop.

Think about it. Venues supporting jambands on a regular basis have a lot in common. They book the same bands, fight the same fight at generating local media interest, face similar issues in the never ending struggle to keep income up and expenses down, and at the same time, they are all trying to build their local scene. And while music venues are often the center of their own micro community, the role of any given nightclub in the -macro- community, with the obvious exception of the Wetlands, has been abstract at best. But now that’s beginning to change.

The concept of a community -among- venues came into focus last summer when the Home Grown Music Network announced its ‘Venue Affiliate Program.’ It should come as no surprise that the HGMN, longtime scene builders that they are, expanded their community umbrella to include venues actively supporting the jam scene. The concept: bringing these venues together to pool resources for promotions and marketing through an online listserve that also includes HGMN bands, gives jam friendly venues an unprecedented forum to exchange ideas and network with each other. And as a result, each individual, ‘venue based’ micro community, has a new opportunity to participate in, and ultimately strengthen, the overall community.

To raise awareness about their community of venues, the HGMN has announced Spring Jam 2001. A month long, nationwide promotion throughout April, Spring Jam 2001 will feature members of the HGMN band roster playing shows at HGMN Venue Affiliates - check the HGMN website for the most current, up to date listings.

By bringing together venues and bands for Spring Jam 2001, the HGMN hopes to raise awareness and give recognition to the individual music clubs that are too often unknown outside their own city limits. In the process, they'll also be strengthening the overall jamband community. Hey, we all need love. And I for one am happy to see the people who run the venues where our scene evolves, get some. Who knows, maybe at this year’s Jammy Awards, they'll start giving a Jammy for ‘Venue Of the Year."