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Observing Jam Band

Absolute Gruv is a fantastic jam band that formed in Orono, Minnesota. It is a four person band and they have many characteristics of typical jam band, but also have some of their own ideas. They performed a concert at the U, and this is a observation of this musical tradition. Absolute Gruv performed an excellent set that featured original songs, well done covers, extended improv solos, and a well groomed, talented full sound.

Someone who missed this concert, missed it for the worse. Absolute Grüv performed an excellent set that was quite well received by the crowd that had gathered. Its jam-band style and excellent energy provided a superb show for the audience. The show included original songs, including a few off their new album, as well as a variety of covers, usually well-known songs. Absolute Grüv's live show at Sammy's was filled with energy and talent and put together with a good crowd and a good atmosphere provided an excellent concert.
Absolute Grüv is a group formed in the summer of 2003. It is based in Orono, Minneapolis. The band is made up of four friends, a drummer, a keyboardist, a guitarist, and a bassist. The key player sings the vocals and the guitarist takes the backup vocals. Their names are Clay Whitney, Sam Hankey, Ian Wilson, and Nick James, respectively. This wasn't the original line-up of the band nor was this the original name. Until December of that year they called themselves the Foxtrot Lula. They have gone several through several changes including a losing a guitarist and replacing a bassist. They even had a “crazy? percussion phase when they added an extra drummer, Lane Gehle, and auxiliary percussionist, Kenny Fritze. Throughout all the line-up changes, the band has been touring. Since of their origin in Minneapolis, they have had access to a lot of different clubs and venues including The Quest Club, Famous Dave's Blues Club in Minneapolis, The Poodle Club, The Narrows, Jack's on Mille Lacs, Froggy's, Weigels Ein Prosit, Hollywood Bar, The Loretto Sports Grill, The Breakaway Bar and Grill, The Retro Roast and Fountain, The Anoka County Fair, Zorbaz, Corn Days, and The Cabooze. (Official Website). This band once known as Foxtrot Lula has distinctive styles coming from distinctive influences.
They blend a variety of styles into a mixture of original and well-known musical sound. Their style is unique, a medley of classic rock, jam band, blues and jazz. Though each of the members have their own influences, especially those who play the same instrument, the band as a whole has some key influences. I asked the drummer after the concert what the bands major influences were and he was quick to respond the Allman Brothers. (Clay Whitney). When you first listen to the band it is obvious to hear to a major influence by those guitar playing brothers. The band picks up on the smooth blues, and you can expressly hear the similarities during the solos. Other prominent influences include The Band, The Meters, The Big Wu, Tea Leaf Green, Moe., The Grateful Dead, The Black Crowes, and several others. (Official Website). All of these influences create a band that put on a great show.
The concert under review was a show at Sigma Alpha Mu Fraternity on the campus of University of Minnesota. The frat, more commonly referred to as Sammy's, hosted this concert on Friday, September 12th. The show was scheduled to start at 8:30 pm, and started just after this time. Jacob Melczer, the social chair of the fraternity, was responsible for this show and received a permit from the city to play until 10 pm. (Jacob Melczer). In reality, the show lasted past 10:30 pm, still feeling life and energy until then. No police showed up at the event to enforce this permit. The show was open to the public and was advertised beforehand. Forms of advertising were fliers posted about campus, a facebook event, chalk on the sidewalks, and also word of mouth as the brothers told friends and more friends. There was no cover charge or admission for this concert. The band was paid by the fraternity. There was no special occasion for the show, other than a good time to be had by all on a beautiful Friday night.
On the twelfth, the weather was great. It was cool enough to be comfortable, but not the cold we are experiencing now. The sky was clear, with very little wind, and there was no chance of rain. The weather was a factor because the concert was outside. The band set up on the side porch of the fraternity facing out to the yard. The drummer was on one side, followed by the bassist, guitarist, and keyboardist on the other end. The stage was littered with speakers, some of them at least four feet in height, as well as countless cords and wires for the PA. The show was accentuated with flashing lights on the stage and on the ground. This lights change from bright, vibrant colors to more bright, vibrant colors. Some of the lights were flashing and others stayed constant. The lights were a good feature that broke up what would have been monotonous dull light.
It was easy to tell who was the performers and who was the audience. As previously mentioned, the band was staged on the porch, which is a few feet off the ground, where the audience had gathered. The grass was comfortable enough to stand on for the entire show. The audience, in regard to demographic composition, was majority white although there were people of other races present. This is characteristic of this classic rock and jam band style simply because these genres were founded in the United States and became popular in the predominately white middle class. Since the concert was performed on a university, logically, as it appeared, almost all of the crowd was college aged. The only exception was a few people who looked a bit older, but who very well could have been college students as well. Most of the audience was male, but there were no scarcity of women. From looking around during the show, one would venture a guess to say there were about 100 people throughout the entire event. And since there were no cover fees and no restrictions, theoretically anybody could have gone and any number of people could have shown up.
Because it was not at a formal venue, there were no set house rules. Not saying it was okay to wreak havoc, because that would have not been okay. Fortunately, there was no problems in the crowd or with any of the crowd's antics. The only thing that could be considered not peaceful was the loud chanting, screaming, and shouting of “Encore! Encore!? that was heard after the band finished the regular set. The audience overall was well-behaved and treated the band with respect. The crowd never got angry and basically kept to themselves. Each group of people stood together, talked, danced, and grooved as a group. Of course there was a few brave wanderers who strayed from group to group. After the initial few songs, the people who were really feeling the music moved toward the stage and crowded up close, each individual grooving to how they saw fit. The people who were simply enjoying the music, moved behind the groovers, and the ones who were just hanging out stayed in the back. The band members looked at each other frequently and seemed to really know how they wanted their songs to go. Their interactions with each other were positive as was their interactions with the audience. This was shown especially during solos where the soloist feed off the energy of the audience and in between songs when the band talked about themselves and to the audience. There were no evident rituals, that one was aware of, other than the standard shouting and then playing of the encore. The encore and the actual set was well performed and went smoothly.
Most of the set list seemed to be planned out ahead of time. The show was broken up by requests from the audience. They included “Chameleon,? “Watermelon Man,? and to play anything off their new album Just Past North. (Danny Raznick). Although these requests were greatly appreciated, the audience still liked all the tunes. Since the set list was not known to the audience, they were able to enjoy each song separately without prior knowledge. The musicians performed without sheet music as is standard for most rock concerts. The performances was fairly continuous except for small breaks to adjust sound level, untangle cords, or be served a beer. As a rock concert put on for the people, there was no particular story, narrative theme, or dramatic development. It was however, a great concert.
The concert itself went by quickly, and that can only mean one thing; it was a good concert. From the first tune, Absolute Grüv grabbed the audience. Musicians in the audience instantly recognized the skill of the band and were captured by it. Even people who did not understand how it was good musically, were brought in by what they heard and felt. The band gives off an energy and has a presence that instantly reminds classic-rock lovers what music is all about. A listener gets the sense that the members of the band are really enjoying what they do and he knows that the musicians are in the moment, in the music, feeling the true sense of improvising as it happens. As the show progressed, the audience split themselves, like previously mentioned. They were divided into who loves the music around them and who are not quite on the same page as the jammers but are satisfied nonetheless. The band plays originals and famous covers during the set. Covers include “Have a Cigar? by Pink Floyd. When this was started there was an instant approval shouting from the audience. This cover was an excellent tune, Absolute Grüv really imitated this great band, and the only difference were the style of the solos. The solos were still good, but they differed from the originals because David Gilmour was not up there rocking the solo, it was a new talented musician of a different background and generation. The music, the melody, and the groove was true to the spot. The show never slacked and was brought up a notch after a request from their new album. They opted to play an original tune titled “Bottle of Jack.? The audience really got into this chart. It was a fresh, new sound and the tune was awesome. There was a featured bass solo, and during the solo, he jumped up onto the edge of the porch and really rocked his solo to the audience. The audience responded with huge cheers and extreme grooving by the people closest to him. It was solos like these that made Absolute such a great show. The keyboardist is a phenomenal player and his solos made the crowd go wild. The guitarist captured the audience with his raw skill and he moved the crowd with his solo tangents that got people moving. The drummer is a constant pleasure. His time is perfect and he plays like a member of the band, not like a metronome like some drummers appear to be. One of the best received tunes was a cover on which the drummer sang while hammering out the beat. The audience really enjoyed it and let him know.
The regular set ended with smattering applause from who was left in the crowd. Danny Raznick, among others, were up close with the band shouting for more. They spread the word and the band played another couple of songs. The encore was an excellent way to finish an excellent concert. Their impact on the audience left the listeners in a good mood, ready to listen to Absolute Grüv again. Rock lovers were reminded of decades earlier, thinking of Allman Brothers, The Band, and other classic-rock bands. Their was also a resemblance to Widespread Panic, a jam band that follower of the genre can often view as the parent of Absolute. The band stuck around after the concert and talked with the audience and people at the house.
Throughout the entire concert, the sense of identity increased. In the beginning, it was a simple connection between people that they had happened to show up at the same concert, and that was the only sense of identity that could be felt. As the show progressed, it was apparent that the sense of identity increased as well. People looked around at each other, and had expressions that told each other how much they were enjoying the music. Everyone had the same look of appreciation which strengthened the overall bond and identity that the audience felt together. It was another amusing aspect of the concert that improved the show because of the connections felt by the audience towards other members of the audience.
All in all, Absolute Grüv's performance at Sammy's was everything you'd expect from an extremely talented young band. The show was great, filled with original tunes and good covers. The audience really felt solos in “Bottle of Jack,? “Chameleon,? and others. All the songs were a success and the audience was able to enjoy each one. It was evident to the listeners that Grüv is a well-rehearsed band with a ton of experience and a load of talent. The performers were able to control the flow of the set, and the audience responded in an agreeably fashion. As the reader may have figured out, anyone who was not able to attend this concert, was someone who missed out on a fantastic show.

Works Cited

Official website of Absolute Grüv.

Interview with Clay Whitney; Drummer of Absolute Grüv

Interview with Jacob Melczer; Social Chair of Sammy's, a Friend, a concert Attendee

Interview with Danny Raznick; a Friend, a concert Attendee