The term "jam band" is used to categorize a type of music that favors improvisation and musicianship over concise riffs, hooks, and traditional songwriting structure. The term also helps define the fiercely dedicated fans of the music as accurately as it does the bands. Much as with the Grateful Dead -- the progenitors of the jam band scene -- the survival of the scene depends upon a symbiotic relationship with fans. Jam bands nurture a close relationship with their fans, fostered through constant touring and the mutual belief that each performance is a unique, shared event.
JAMerica tells the story of the roots, evolution, values, and passion of the jam band scene in the words of those who know it best. Modeling itself on such books as Edie: American Girl by George Plimpton and Jean Stein (an oral history of the life of Edie Sedgewick ) and Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, the book is an oral history of the jam band scene, integrating stories from such bands as the Grateful Dead, Phish, Widespread Panic, Dave Matthews Band, moe., Leftover Salmon, String Cheese Incident, Umphrey's McGee, and dozens more. Interviews focus on the history of individual bands and how they communally shaped the larger jam band community, along with songwriting, relationships with fans, business models, and the importance (including the joys and war stories) of touring, including early gigs and venues (e.g. the Wetlands in New York City and the landmark H.O.R.D.E. Festival) that supported the emergence of the jam band scene.
This oral history of jam bands is told through the words of the musicians and others connected to the jam band scene, which is well known for its improvisational style, passionate audiences, and extended live shows. Though the scene has its roots in midcentury jazz, the hippie bands of the '60s, and the psychedelic music of the 1970s, this book focuses on the music created from the late '80s to the present day. While it could use some more background on groundbreaking bands like the Allman Brothers and Cream, the book features members of well-known jam bands like Phish, Blues Traveler, and Widespread Panic. It creates a detailed picture of how jam bands rose from small clubs in Manhattan and small towns like Burlington, Vt., to create a cultural movement that includes the H.O.R.D.E. tours of the 1990s and today's Bonnaroo. Though very few in the book want to be pigeonholed by the term "jam band," the musicians interviewed explore topics like what it means to be a jam band, the influence of the Grateful Dead, the power of live music and a dedicated fan base, and the free taping of live shows. Conners (Growing Up Dead) has, by synthesizing these different ideas into a harmonious collection of quotations, musings, memories, and even e-mails from fans, created a literary work that captures on paper the collaborative, spontaneous, and uplifting nature of the jam band music.