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JAMERICA by Peter Conners

JAMERICA

The History of the Jam Band and Festival Scene

By Peter Conners

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-306-82066-3
Publisher: Da Capo/Perseus

A meandering oral history of the modern jam-band landscape.

Conners (White Hand Society: The Psychedelic Partnership of Timothy Leary & Allen Ginsberg, 2010, etc.) is no stranger to these misty mountain hops, having already chronicled his latter-day tenure as a Deadhead in his memoir, Growing Up Dead (2009). Here, the author borrows the oral history form of history-making championed by the likes of Legs McNeil and dozens of lesser rock ’n’ roll historians. Although the narrative does get us, finally, to the present day, the book is very much rooted in the post–Jerry Garcia vacuum of the early 1990s, into which countless improvisational musicians stepped. Speaking of the infamous H.O.R.D.E. festival that originated in 1992, John Popper of Blues Traveler says, “We wanted to call it Lollapatchouli. But we wanted people to take it seriously, and my fantasy, being into Attila the Hun, was: it’s a cold day someplace in Kansas when, in from the south, comes Widespread Panic Fans consuming everything in their way, and from the north are Phish fans, and from the east comes Blues Traveler, and from the west comes Béla Fleck.” Conners includes interviews with all of these and more, including festival icon Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction and Mickey Hart and Bob Weir from the Dead. Some of the other bright lights, like Trey Anastasio of the seminal (and cult-inspiring) jam band Phish, seem to have been conveniently plucked from interviews in magazines like High Times. There’s some substance here in the debate over concert recordings, but Conners guides most of the conversations to talking about the vibe, that mystic connection between fans that may be lost on anyone who isn’t a serious devotee of this scene. A coda of comments from fans with bon mots like “Festivals are church for the open minded” ends the book, for better or worse.

A mostly superfluous volume that will nonetheless appeal to fans of the scene.