Jam (ugh): Bending the Rule a little

Rule of Thump
at Orbit
January 17

I'm a big believer in the philosophy of trying to learn something new every day, and sitting at a table last Saturday night at Orbit, I learned two things: 1) "Watch out for those fake id's" is not a great pick-up line for an attractive bouncer, as it will most likely be met with "I've heard that N+1 times tonight (where N= Number of Times Previous). You guys need a better line," and 2) Try as I might, I can't seem to really get into jam music.

Maybe it's because I lack a big beard, or dreds, or an earthy odor, but something in my deep-seated nature is utterly opposed to extended instrumental wanking. Though I try to keep an open mind about these things, I always feel I let those who love the genre down when I pan some group for playing what sometimes is a stellar recreation of the tried and true jam sound.

To deal with my sense of guilt, this week I've kept my one or two snide comments about the genre to myself in a way– they are contained in brackets, so feel free to ignore them if you are so inclined.

Composed of a part-time singer/guitarist, a bassist, a drummer, and a percussionist, something in the group's general appearance suggested jam music would be the flavor of the evening long before they had ever plugged in their instruments. In terms of what I've come to expect from a local jam band, Rule of Thump did not disappoint– all the members are accomplished musicians, especially the drummer, and the play pretty tightly together [Rule of Thump are probably the best jam-band I've seen in Charlottesville, but then consider my personal best-to-worst scale of musical worth– indie-pop -> rock -> classical -> folk –> bluegrass –> everything else including polka music –> jam].

A reggae song or two were thrown into the set to switch things up a bit from the mostly instrumental 4/4 time– a much-needed change, I felt, though still the reggae songs were noticeably more Dead than Marley. The group has a major habit of getting on a one-chord progression from the beginning of a song and riding it for all it's worth, sometimes ending with barely a change-up [which left me little to do but twiddle my toes, draw a picture of the band performing, and write down things like, "five-minute '70s porn song"].

Only two of the songs the group performed during the set I watched had vocals, and they were more interspersed throughout the piece, separated by long deserts of soloing [Jam is good for bar business– I know I drank more due to boredom than I would have, say, if Prince had been playing].

I think jam music is a kind of social backdrop, like keg stands at frat parties– it's nice to have going in the background as you go about your attempts at making the hook-up. Do people really go solo, like I often do, to jam shows, and do they just (soberly) get into the music? If the answer is no, maybe I just need more friends.

Rule of Thump