Want to see Phish play your local rock club? Tough luck. But the country’s teeming with less-massive, like-minded jammers, many of whom are just as seaworthy as more famous road warriors like Phish and Widespread Panic. Here’s a look at a few of the tastiest budding bands, all of which recently earned nods at Jambands.com’s first annual Jammy Awards.
WHERE THEY’RE FROM Philadelphia
WHY THEY’RE PHAT They’re taking the jam-band scene to rave new worlds. ”We call it trance fusion,” says guitarist and singer Jon Gutwillig, 26. ”We don’t do any of the rock & roll or bluegrass jamming that Phish and a lot of the other bands do. We stick pretty much to dub, Goa, and jungle beats. At our shows you see hippies teaching ravers how to be hippies and you see ravers teaching hippies how to dance.”
RECENTLY WON A JAMMY AWARD FOR Jam of the Year, for improvising a live score as Akira screened above them.
WHAT’S UP WITH THE SILLY NAME? A homage to rhyming ’80s new wavers Wang Chung, perhaps? ”No, we don’t do any Wang Chung,” jokes Gutwillig. ”We were called Zex Sea, but people had no idea what we were saying. One time a friend started screaming ‘disco biscuits’ at us and we just went with it.”
WHERE THEY’RE FROM Durham, N.H.
WHY THEY’RE PHAT Whereas most neo-hippie bands consider the stage their natural habitat, Percy Hill serve as the scene’s answer to Steely Dan. ”Our forte is the studio,” says keyboardist and singer Nate Wilson, 24. ”I think we’re a good live band, but what maybe sets us apart is our focus on songwriting and making the songs come across on record.”
RECENTLY WON A JAMMY AWARD FOR Studio Album of the Year, for the finely crafted jam-pop disc Color in Bloom.
WHAT’S UP WITH THE SILLY NAME? Their rep says they chose a name that didn’t mean anything so that their music could speak for itself.
WHERE THEY’RE FROM Boulder, Colo.
WHY THEY’RE PHAT An instrumental septet with horns, vibes, and turntables, they’re jam-rock’s jazzy avant-garde. ”We’re trying to be different,” says keyboardist Erik Deutsch, 25. ”We have experimental electronic tracks, dance tracks, rock, and modern jazz. We’re checking out lots of pop and hip-hop and ambient music. That allows the band to grow and our ears to grow.”
RECENTLY WON A JAMMY AWARD FOR Best ”new groove” (jam-parlance for best new artist, chosen by the site’s readers).
WHAT’S UP WITH THE SILLY NAME? ”It’s not a good name,” says Deutsch. ”It’s a funny name. It’s the name of this Herbie Hancock composition we learned at our first rehearsal. It stuck and we don’t know what to make of it.”
WHERE THEY’RE FROM Buffalo, N.Y.
WHY THEY’RE PHAT They’re hippie-rock’s new traditionalists. ”Our songs actually mean something,” says bassist and singer Rob Derhak, 31. ”Well, some of them do. They’re not just based around jamming and nonsense lyrics. You could cut 10 minutes and you’d have a nice little radio song.”
RECENTLY WON A JAMMY AWARD FOR Live Album of the Year, for the double CD L.
WHAT’S UP WITH THE SILLY NAME? It’s a nod to Louis Jordan’s jump-blues classic “Five Guys Named Moe.”