Music News

Win, Lose or Jam

Page 3 of 3

"Anger doesn't really fit into the vibe," acknowledges promoter Hanley, who likes it better when Baraka gets into an extended funk groove toward the end of the night. "If you look at the big bands on the scene -- Phish, Widespread Panic, String Cheese -- a lot of their songs tend to be positive and kind of whimsical. Overall, you're not gonna get the same type of negative energy that you get at, say, a death-metal show. It just doesn't fit."

Getting "the vibe" right is a major element in a jam band's success. "We may not have the improv skills down yet," admits Andy Hobbs of Good People, a not-good-enough band eliminated earlier in the competition. "But we definitely have the vibe. It's that feeling that everybody's accepted. You can do no wrong here."

In the end, it's the Lymbyc Systym's brother duo of Michael and Jared Bell who take the title -- possibly more for their true-brother tightness than for their performance, which, when compared to the larger ensembles that followed, provided little spectacle. Most of the fans at the Sail Inn cite the Bell brothers' almost telepathic timing behind their improvisational tightrope walk, a sixth sense that can only come from playing in the same room for so many years (drummer Michael and keyboardist Jared started playing on toy instruments together when they were only 10 and 7, respectively). Some in the audience mention that they liked it when Michael dedicated the last song, the prettiest, to their dad, who had driven down from Flagstaff to see his sons play.

Not surprisingly, the members of Somebody's Closet and Baraka are good sports about the outcome. "Lymbyc Systym is so cool," says Christine Devlin, who insists her bandmates are okay with just having played to such a relatively large crowd. "Hey, we got to play outside for a lot of cool people, so whatever!" she says, smiling.

"I love playing with other bands that are good," adds Jeff Bujak. "I just enjoyed the night, hanging out with good musicians."

Arguably, the whole idea of a battle of the bands runs counter to the communal feeling people come to a jam-band show to experience, anyway.

"There is that element of irony there," agrees Hanley. "But the cool thing is, a lot of the nine bands who participated in this will end up opening shows for each other or jamming together later on. They become friends."

Dan Biederman, who's already made some good contacts since finishing short in the second night's competition, agrees.

"Competition is kind of contrary to the vibe," he says. "But hey, we played for 150 new people.

"That's awesome, dude!"

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Jimmy Magahern
Contact: Jimmy Magahern