Points on a Line
Two fans of the jamband scene find that the more they get into the music, the more they get out of it
by Lee Abraham
Bands thrive on the energy from their fans. Talk to the musicians and it's always the same: the more people get into the music, the more intense the experience is for everybody in the crowd -and- onstage. It's a communal thing. A collective consciousness entrained through music that becomes amplified as people other than the musicians participate in the groove. Of course, the blissfully smiling boneshakers on the dance floor are an immediately recognizable part of the synergy… feeding the fire with the reflection of its own flames. Not only is it very liberating to let go and allow the music to move your body, the band always appreciates the folks workin' up a sweat down front.
Currently, the jamband scene is still in a grassroots, homegrown stage of evolution. Because of its relative newness, there are many ways for fans to do a lot more than just boogie down at the shows and buy the bands' CDs. This month's column focuses on two people who are doing exactly that.
Tina Roach has been tending bar at Legends Lounge in Las Vegas for years. She was there before the club featured live music. Since then, hundreds of bands have played Legends and she's seen almost all of them. When Dean Budnick's book, "Jam Bands" came out last winter, she started having the bands autograph their page as they came through town.
The first to sign were the Ominous Seapods during their Halloween weekend run at Legends after the Phish shows. "It was a really busy weekend," recalls Roach. "I made it a point to get to each of them when they came in to set up. Every band that's in the book that's played here has been into it. They all say 'Yeah, no problem!'"
As we go to press, Roach has over 20 autographed pages in her book. Not only does she value the collectibility of her book, Roach treasures the relationships cultivated from the experience. "Meeting all the different band members and getting to know them is a lot of fun, and they all seem to think it's a great idea," she says. "As far as I know, I'm the only one doing this right now, so I'm being very protective of my book!"
Jim Vanos is a music lover from way back. Usually front and center when a touring jamband ventures into his rocky mountain home turf for a show at Quixote's in Aurora, Colorado, Vanos' participation in a gig starts weeks before a band hits the stage. As a "rep" for the Home Grown Music Network, Vanos is one of a growing legion of volunteers that help the HGMN bands in a number of ways.
"My role is to promote their music, which most likely is not in any of the local stores," says Vanos. "I always try to touch base with someone in the band, well in advance of the show to see what they may need, from accommodations, to promotion, or whatever." From hanging posters and distributing flyers way before the band ever gets to town to helping bands find venues to play, record stores to approach for CD sales, radio stations and local entertainment magazines to contact for exposure, the possibilities are endless.
Although HGMN reps don't get "paid," except for the occasional free CD or T-shirt, and of course passes to the show, the greater degree of participation is often reward in itself. "The music and people are refreshing," says Vanos. "Being a rep is a way to get involved in something like this, while at the same time giving something back to the music, because music has provided me with so much enjoyment for so many years."
During his tenure as a HGMN rep over the past year, Vanos has worked with many of the top jambands crisscrossing the country. While he's enjoyed them all, one band in particular struck a harmonious chord. For Vanos, the ties that bind to "Stir Fried," a super tasty and multi-faceted jamband out of New Jersey, have become tighter than simply a HGMN rep helping a HGMN band. An enduring friendship formed.
"Outside of their music, which I absolutely love, just hanging with everyone in that band is what it's all about," says Vanos. "It's sort of like having a sequence of friends in your life that you've either known for years, or not, and it's just a very good, genuine connection with them. They're just good to be around and talk about everyday experiences outside of the music scene. They are just really a fun group of folks."