This article was a collaborative effort between: Danielle Hanson, Anne Conway and Jordan Kalb.
Once again, this year’s Jam for Jamaica was a success. People from Madison, Milwaukee, Oconomowoc, and everywhere in between showed up to jam and support a great cause. The weekend was blessed with beautiful summer days, and refreshing, cool evenings! The Concord House, the venue that hosts the event every year, is located just off the highway in Sullivan, and provides much needed room for all those attending. Those who stayed the whole weekend were able to catch a variety of local and out of state music, as well as glass blowing, hula hooping, and other amusements. This is not a large music festival by any means, which could be the best part, considering there is this ability to meet your neighbors and build new friendships or meet some new folks that will become good friends. The man of the hour, or weekend rather, Craig Baumann, started this non profit organization, Jam for Jam, in order to help support those families back home in Jamaica who need our help and resources by us listening and supporting reggae music here at home. The festival however features more genre’s of music than reggae, and as a matter of fact the lineup this year was diverse and well put together.
Thursday night kick started the weekend festivities. Performances included I’m Not A Pilot, who sounded polished and as a result received an intense encore as well as first time listeners asking Peter Thomas to stay on stage with his cello and play with the other bands.
After I’m Not a Pilot’s set, Venice Gas House Trolley followed in their footsteps. This courageous five piece, organically fused Madison band posed a stand of out there full-bodied comedic tension. They held a very experimental procedure throughout their performance. Front man, the vocal effects master, Adam Pergament, carried a raspy, deep voice that strayed into an eerie whisper at times. Their out-of-the-box approach geared toward a musical style of poetry where each word was spoken in its entirety and pieced together a story without having to say much.
The set was all across the board, labeling some methods to take on a hard rock maneuvers, to almost hip-hop characteristics, similar to that of Rage Against the Machine at points. Quieting gradually then speeding up utilizing looping features, these five love their pleasant, tame, crisp transitions. The honest, set back sacred effects hold the mood of a Shaman performing cleansing rituals. Their across the map system leaves trails of simple deserted messages such as lyrics like: “shootin’ dice, drinkin’ rum outta’ coconuts, and changing up to the guiding paths of a Rastafarian viper.”
Branching into the late night scene, Ifdakar, closed out Thursday evenings bill with a blastful pace of slammy jams. This four-piece Appleton originated group has seen much stage time in Milwaukee, Madison, and festival stages across the map. Gearing up for their own festival, IFDAKAMP, they pre-partied like a prom queen at the Concord House last Thursday.
Their vocals flow smoothly and under the radar to their powerful instrumentals. They hold an on-point momentum of talent by slapping the guitars, using agitated frequencies, and creating boppy jams that just go on and on. They have a no mercy technique that riles up a crowd and gives off a scholastic, lurking vibe of passionate intensity. Amongst the strict fluent flare and wicked grooves, time has no meaning when these guys are on stage.With a style of in the moment rhythms and soulful chants that lead into full on fast paced planned bebops, they hold their own in the jam scene. Red and yellow lighting takes effect and each member seemed to follow a suit then drastically bend to differentiated empowering formats. The drummer maintained a “no holds barred” attitude by just firing away these rapid drives of energy.
The enjoyable high-pitched tone stands with them to create a maximum power of impactful resistance. Snowflakes rotated on the canvas banners above, and you could tell this was a late night set by the glaring toxicity levels on the dance floor. This band throws an electronic cheers to technology by utilizing new age equipment adequately, but by no means relying on it. They warped into a trippy phase, and were able to seamlessly generate back into a genuine whole hearted jam without stutter.This flavorful match of systematic anarchy take a step back to the basics and simply roll with it, playing from inside their hearts. Embraced by stellar, rowdy emotions, these mastersounds never breach any harsh clashing pitches or take away from another’s moments of integrity. Encoring with a track from Notorious B.I.G, the drummer spit the lyrics to Big Poppa’ flawlessly; the group then released back into a remorseful jam, filling the hall with lime green lighting to end their set. Quite a funky salutation if you ask me.
Friday brought more sunshine and great tunes. During the day the stage is set up on the front side of the Concord House with the sound facing all those hanging out in the camp ground. Jam Funk AllStars, Recalcitrant, The New Fuse and Undercover Organism all played during the day.
Pullin’ off the breakfast set Friday morning were the Jam Funk All Stars, a five-piece reggae/rock/funk group that can be seen regularly at Cranky Pat’s in Neenah, WI. Attendees slowly lifted their heads in realization that it was a new day and either moseyed toward the stage or just nodded their heads in a hung-over stupor around their campsite. With the bubble machine on, bubbles floating everywhere, a gentleman strolled by yelling, “its 2001!”
With a case of the heavy sunshine blues they broke into Pink Floyd’s ‘Breathe,’ putting a unique raspy reggae spin into it. This crew was very collaborative and fed off each other quite well. After a few covers they gave the crowd an original tune describing the festie-scene and how there’s too much to do outside in the hippie village. One of the members stated, “We strip these songs you know of everything you love about them, and we make them our own.”
Their sequential patterns and slouched mood granted the listeners with a special amusing funk of soulful sing-a-longs to go along with their lunch. Reenacting a mass range of covers this afternoon, they dove into the backcountry of dusty archives and played a 1925 song “Don’t let your deal go down”, by Charlie Poole & the North Carolina Ramblers. Pink Floyd’s ‘Time’ was also on the Jam Funk All Stars ballot during this show, as well as twisting up the lyrics from Sublime’s classic ‘Smoke 2 Joints’ to ‘Smoke 2 Blunts’ bringing a Jamaican sunshine vibe to the entire campground. ‘Kinky Reggae’ also made its way to the list.
This talented group just loves to have fun, and they just happen to play music as well. It seemed like most received a nice smile out of the experience and had fun being able to sing along. Gearing up for Recalcitrant, the All Stars finale was a mash-up of Michael Franti’s ‘Ganja Babe’ and Wookiefoot’s ‘Plead Insanity.
Local Milwaukee favorite, Undercover Organism, a jam-rock-funk-tronica infused quartet scooped up the hottest slot of the day. During this vacillating scorcher of a day these guys managed to keep things cool. Starting off with a smooth, safe jammy journey of true instrumentals fitting the scope of the scene for the weekend they powered through the heat and gave off a confident, yet relaxed vibe.
There was a liberating feel to their set as it moved into a slow trance with momentum switch-ups. Nothing seemed fabricated, and they had a plush grasp on the true influence of music. A bubble machine was placed directly in front of them and spat out rounds cruising past their faces. Their set balanced out to a slowed whimsical mellow drum dance with Rick Carlson utilizing the deep dense tones of his heavy bass drum. The floaty charisma stationed on stage held a motionless tune as the crowd swayed back and forth.
Moving on to a three-step then pause beat with a clash to the symbol forcefully hurdled into an instigating treasure of a full bodied jam with accumulating lacerations of vocals and instrumentals. Winding down to the creative sounds similar to that of a willow tree swaying in the wind, the spirit of this set used a balance fueled by saturation filtrations of tropical intensity and embraced new age technology and efficient basic instruments.
We Are Your Father, Metal Mistral, De La Buena, and The Fatty Acids filled in the Friday night set on the main stage. “Somos Tu Padre” made everyone in the audience head bang as usual with Wolfgang Luthy’s lyrics and Ryan Albe’s agressive electric bass, everyone ran up to the Concord House from their tents to catch the show. Sean Williamson or Metal Mistral rocked us with violent electric guitar and his remote amp. He also joined De La Buena on stage. If you don’t know how to salsa, don’t worry about it, it seems as though De La Buena’s music will naturally teach you.
Jam for Jam welcomed The Fatty Acids to the festival for the first time on Friday. The Fatty Acids played a brief but exciting set, filled with energy, enthusiasm and of course, balloons with glow sticks inside of them….Why not?? Drawing from their repertoire of crowd favorites (like the vocally challenging “Light Polluted Constellations”) as well as some newer tracks, the band kept the audience singing, dancing and laughing along. Always progressive, the Fatty Acids are showing a slightly grittier tone of rock with their new songs and hopefully a new album is in the works to showcase this because it sounds great. With an ambitious tour schedule coming in June, which spans the South, Midwest and East Coast, the boys are most likely not going to get much sleep for a while but something tells me they’re ok with that and the exposure they’ll get will make it worth their while. If you haven’t yet, make sure to catch the Fatty Acids live, it’s an experience not to be missed!
Out of all the day’s of Jam for Jam, Saturday was the best. One was able to catch music stylings of all flavors, from blues to tribal rock n’ roll. Chicken Wire Empire started off the early crowd of not so hard partiers in the morning. Their set was perfect for chilling on the hill and enjoying the company of friends. Following Chicken WIre Empire, Danny Miller Band compromised the attention of those hanging at the festival as the sound from Danny Miller’s harmonica echoed across the campgrounds.
The highly anticipated Honest Monday, played in the early afternoon on Saturday and their mellow blend of jam rock and folk definitely fit well with the laid-back atmosphere after lunch at the Concord House. Having only seen the band play before in the dimly lit and cozy environment of The Jazz Estate, it was great to see them play outside in the 90 degree weather, sun beaming down on the audience scattered about the hillside, birds whistling in the background. Their unique sound spans many genres, including soul, bluegrass, rock and country and is strings-driven with each member sharing a bit of the spotlight. Playing a longer set, much to everyone’s listening pleasure, Honest Monday picked up the tempo on some tracks and slowed it down to match the lazy vibe of the day on others. My favorite part was sitting at the edge of the campsite, looking away from the stage & out at nature, listening to their singing voices echo across the fields and trees in the most heavenly way.
Capping off the outdoor scene this year at Jam for Jam were the Moloko Shivers, another Craig Baumann helmed project. With a new album releasing in July, these guys “have been rockin’ outta’ basements all year,” said Baumann. This good old fashioned wholesome quartet holds a heavier alternative jam fusion rock style. Their focus and sincerity shows on stage and the hard pitched fast paced in your face presentation blends together quite seamlessly.The lovely attitude of the bassist comes out in his happy as a hippie at Jam for Jam demeanor. Craig’s goofy facial expressions and passion with the mic along with the drummer and guitarist’s musical connection on stage bring together a crucial light of concentration and bond between the members.
Moving into a blues jam, a settling reserved segment, then thrashing into a full on rock and roll send off with elevated vocals sets these guys apart. This perfected mix of jam rock blues made for an ideal shift to the indoor evening dance parties. At certain points, Baumann stepped back from the microphone and let the instrumentals take over; this flawless tactic shows true character and their unblemished approach fits right into the scope of their set. Nearly halfway through their sundown set a jazzy, almost electro side of them showed through with certain instruments tightened to highlight different portions of the song. The vocals were in patterns of three to four word sets at this point and a skip-hop high spirited joyful aura powered through.
The modest, genuine, original soul of this group went pretty far with the crowd as the majority of the fest-goers were near the stage for this last outdoor hoo-rah. They show definite awareness of each other’s perfectly planned timing techniques. When Craig would leave the mic the format didn’t change, they always held a smooth flowing, highly accurate tone. The song ‘Chicken Jones’ captured a jazzier rock feel with pure sounding audio and driven acoustics. A strict drum solo occurs, and then uncannily bleeds back into a full on jam signaling the diverse unpredictable nature of this group.
The guitarist focusef in on his solo-esque; the drummer silenced his cymbals using his fingers as the bassist and guitarist plucked out a musical conversation of abstract harmonies. The set slowed to a level beatification as Baumann slips on a cowboy hat and humbly thanks everyone for attending and joining in on their set.
The rest of the night carried to the two stages set up with in the Concord House. Starting off the night Alpha Transit stole the attention of mostly everyone in the room. They provided a fusion between electric and funk, a sound that was the perfect start to the evening. The fun continued when Roster McCabe turned up the heat with their reggae influenced electric sound. These days it seems as though most progressive musicians have a blend between two or more major genre categories. If you have not heard of Roster McCabe, please check them out.
To steal the night, Antioquia dominated the stage. From Oakland, California, with the exception of Craig Miller who holds a Milwaukee hometown spot and is lead percussionist in the band. Antioquia engaged the attention of the crowd like one does not see often. The full band took position of the dance floor with their drums and set up a type of performance that brings people in closer. A rock n roll sound with rhythmic drums influenced from Colombia, they have a power to protest the current political crisis.
To cap off the entire music festival, Cosmic Railroad headlined on Saturday night. If you’re into “jam bands”, Cosmic Railroad schooled you. They show up with a strong presence because they are masters of their music.
Go to Jam for Jam 2013. Why? Because it’s the perfect size, the music experience is memorable, and it supports an amazing cause. For more information on the organization, visit jamforjam.org.