Jamming with a double-edged sword
In an attempt at well-roundedness, this week is dedicated to jam bands. By braving the improv waters, my problem is twofold: 1) If I report favorably, I’m considered sub-cool. Jam music was once a fringe assortment of roots-based artists who shunned pop-song formats in favor of free-form musical virtuosity. Currently, it’s a huge commodity, at times less known for talent than indulgence. Ironically, making fun of jam bands in Asheville gives you “hipster” status. 2) If I join the too-cool-for-school chorus, I’m dissing the genre, thus angering the Asheville jam community.
Jammed if I do, jammed if I don’t.
National touring act SeepeopleS has recently shed the jam mold and veered more into indie rock territory, while year-old Phuncle Sam is firmly entrenched in extended play.
SeepeopleS, The Corn Syrup Conspiracy: Three Stars
• Genre(s): Jamband, indie, electronic, hints of Brit-pop
• You’ll like it if: You don’t get enough political-oversight ponderings on C-Span.
• Defining song: “?!” — Veers away from idyllic improv and into lollipop lamentations reminiscent of the Beach Boys and the Super Furry Animals.
Politics and music have always been a volatile mix. The music is usually the fall guy, thanks to heavy-handed social calling weighing down the orchestration. The audacious quartet SeepeopleS knows how to take both theories and develop a communal existence. Recently transplanted from New England to Asheville, SeepeopleS (spearheaded by multi-instrumentalist Will Bradford) address what is on the lips of many progressive causes — corrupt governments and the corrosion of civil rights. The outrage is sprinkled with tons of genres — ambient, rock, pop, etc. Some of the tracks tend to wander aimlessly, and it will scare off those who prefer more concise bursts of creativity. Still, the superlative guests (Tim Reynolds, Spearhead’s Dave Shul) give The Corn Syrup Conspiracy added validity.
Phuncle Sam at Westville Pub; Thursday, Nov. 14: Two stars
• Genre(s): Jam band
• Be glad you stayed home if: You prefer your noodling to reside in creative pasta dishes.
• Defining moment: Their cover of The Band’s classic “Ophelia.”
The “ph” pandemic will never cease. For some reason, the letter “f” has fallen out of favor with bands that rely on twirlers to jumpstart a crowd. Phuncle Sam, a seven-piece jam unit, continues this “f” eradication. (They even have a drummer that goes by the name “Phunsticks Mott.”) Trying to hide my fondness for the sixth letter in the alphabet, I gave the band an objective listen. Their covers of the Dead and the Band led me down a nostalgic path, and fans of this type of music will gravitate to Phuncle Sam. However, this formula has done more laps than the history of Nascar. Folks looking for the “it” sound should venture elsewhere.
[When he’s not bending readers to his will, Hunter Pope cooks, gardens, hikes and spends his mortgage money on CDs he’s never heard.]