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Columns > John Zinkand - Improvise

Published: 2005/02/03
by John Zinkand

Jam Vessels

In the midst of winter, thoughts often drift to the warmer days and all the groovy music and fun festivals the spring and summer seasons bring. I yearn for a beautiful sunny day on the festival grounds with my favorite band jamming away as I sip a cool Sierra Nevada brew. Don’t get me wrong, the average show at a local club or theater is nothing to scoff at and I do love going out to see live music in any and all venues, but the festival is the ideal place for a jamband fan. The whole vibe, the great weather, the congregation of like minded folks, the plethora of our favorite bands in one place…in the jam world, it just doesn’t get much better than an ass kickin’ festival to help one get their groove on. Since their meager inception, however, the concept of festivals has grown into heretofore unthinkable dimensions and epic proportions.

From the massive one band, multi-day Phish festivals to the current heavy weight champion of the festival world Bonnaroo, festivals just ain’t the little parties they used to be. As has been stated before, it seems like every body and their brother’s mother’s cousin’s uncle are organizing and holding festivals of all shapes, sizes, and color all over the nation and beyond. The Jam in the Dam, for example, shows that the concept of the jamband festival is starting to become an international phenomenon. Line-ups are already being announced for festivals all over the country coming this spring and summer to a pleasant venue near you. And, in fact, some people have even figured out ways to have festivals in the middle of winter.
When I first heard of Jam Cruise, my jaw dropped. What a truly unique and excellent idea for a festival! Throwing some of the best jambands around on a cruise ship and setting sail across the Caribbean was a stroke of true genius. While winter envelops most of the country, what better place for a festival? It’s a great break from the cold for everyone and generates a bit of that summer festival magic in the heart of winter. I only wish I could have attended one of these awesome trips, but until that day I can easily imagine how fun it would be. Not only are there lots of great bands, but the close quarters of a cruise ship would make the intimacy and interaction with the bands something truly special.

The concept of a moving festival got me thinking about other possibilities. Having just viewed the documentary Festival Express recently, a train ride sprung to mind. But instead of having just the musicians ride by train from town to town to play a day long show at each stop, have the actual festival on the train. I know the quarters would be cramped and train cars wouldn’t serve as the best venues in the world, but it’s still a cool concept. Maybe have it be more of a bluegrass festival so less amplification would be needed and the overcrowding wouldn’t be such a factor. Have a bunch of bluegrass musicians and fans on a train that starts its journey in the Pacific Northwest and winds its way to somewhere like the Ozarks where there is ultimately one last big show in a natural mountain setting as icing on the cake.
Then I started thinking even more outside of the box. I know these ideas will never become reality, but wouldn’t it be cool if they did? One of these concepts would be the Jam Sub. Just like the Jam Train (much more so, actually), space would be at a premium. And all ticket holders would have to be evaluated for claustrophobia before being allowed admittance. But for the few who wanted to experience it, how sick would that be? Surely, some band would have to cover Phish’s "Theme From the Bottom." Of course this festival would not appeal to everyone as the whole natural fun in the sun vibe is definitely absent in this concept. But to a few underwater enthusiasts who also happen to love the jam, this would be ideal. It would be a very unique experience to jam away to live tunes while submerged hundreds of feet below the sea. And where else could you rock out to your favorite band while peering out the window to witness schools of exotic fish, colorful coral, or even a shark or a whale? Scuba diving or taking a short cruise in the research mini-sub with Karl Denson or Keller Williams would be blast!
Last week I read the news about Europe’s new mega-passenger plane, the Airbus A380, and started thinking about that as a potential festival carrier. The plane is massive and it has bars, gaming, beds, etc. Maybe they could convert sections of the interior into performance spaces for the inaugural Jam Flight. Soaring high at a flying festival is quite a concept. Gather some great bands together and some wealthy jam fans and then set off through the skies of the world. The plane would land at exotic locations so fans and bands alike could experience some culture in between their mid-flight jams. Perhaps the Jam Flight would ultimately land somewhere exotic and beautiful like New Zealand for one final blowout concert before flying back home.
And the concept of a flying festival got me thinking in even more far out terms. What about a festival in orbit? I could see the first Space Jam taking place in twenty to thirty years. As soon as we have the money and resources to create a much larger and more secure space station, perhaps some folks could rent it out to hold the first festival in space. The thought of tripping out to a dark, twisted, spacey jam from one of the best jambands around while floating around at zero gravity and peering out into the unending void of starlit space is almost too mind blowing to comprehend. All that Tang and dehydrated food would be a serious bummer, but one worth overcoming for the truly out of this world experience. Unfortunately, the ticket price would impede all but the disgustingly rich jam fans from partaking in the experience. The Space Jam DVD would certainly rake in millions and maybe even offset the cost to the organizers. Eh, probably not.

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