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Published: 2005/11/01
by Brian Gearing

Home Grown Music Network 10th Anniversary, Lincoln Theatre, Raleigh, NC- 10/1

Anyone who was around for the birth of the modern jam scene ten years ago knows how much it’s changed. Aside from a few well-established headliners, most of today’s big names have only come ashore in the wake of the megafest, and many of the scene’s most promising pre-Bonnaroo acts have drifted out into the sea of nostalgia. Local scenes, once a haphazard bunch of formerly sessile Deadheads, have grown into permanent fixtures in college towns and cities throughout the country, each boasting its own up-and-comers. While not always artistically respected, jambands and the musical ties that bind them have become a model for anti-corporate, grassroots business marketing.

No business is a better example of the jamband scene’s grassroots spirit than the Home Grown Music Network. While most of the Lincoln Theatre’s patrons paid little mind to the company’s ten-year milestone, the acts they came to hear showed them a snapshot of the community’s first ten post-Dead years, and the two stages were pages in the scrapbook, bouncing back and forth from past to present to future. No line-up could have been more suited to celebrate Home Grown’s big day.

Wilmington, NC’s Creekside played the part of the eager young lad, reminiscent of the bands with whom Home Grown first got its start. Like most young bands, this quintet is still struggling to find itselfa ska opener mixed with Pink Floyd’s “Time,” which faded into digitized funk rockbut the chemistry is there.

Local favorite sons Barefoot Manner opened with the high-energy newgrass of “Thing” before dipping into acoustic prog and slipping off into a cheery 80s jam groove. Bassist Walter Hensey’s low-end glue held the acoustic jigsaw together through the band’s chameleonic genre shifting, laying a hearty foundation for a sometimes shaky but diverse hybrid of bluegrass, reggae, rock and funk that paid tribute with a brief taste of the Dead’s “China Cat Sunflower” on “Hard to Believe” as well as a take on the Cure’s “Fascination Street.”

Up-and-comers weren’t the only ones paying tribute, however: scenester senior Moon Boot Lover’s Peter Prince pulled double duty, first inside the Lincoln, then with a makeshift sidewalk set. The veteran’s vocals are as soulful as anyone on the scene, past or future, and “My Friends” fittingly recalled giants like Al Green, Van Morrison and James Brown. Meanwhile on the mainstage, Purple Schoolbus greeted a loyal crowd and thanked Home Grown founder Lee Crumpton, the man largely responsible for the band’s success back when “jam” and “urban” were antithetical.

Seepeoples brought things back to the present, however, reminding those inside the Lincoln just how far this scene has stretched its reach. While the transcontinental quartet most likely spent their high school and college years listening to Radiohead and Oasis, they incorporate the jam spirit on musical excursions that layer echoing vocal harmonies with gritty guitar and post-modern keyboards, pointing the way to the future of both Home Grown and the scene as a whole.

While some inside looked ahead, those on the street focused on the here and now embodiment of Keller Williams, who mixed straight acoustic performances of the Dead’s “Shakedown Street” and his own “Porta Potty” with multi-instrumental loops through “Safety Dance” and a free form rap narrative of the jam scene’s early days (with many of the evening’s performers playing a prominent role in the tale). Williams thrilled what was most likely one of the smallest crowds he’s faced in a while, but they made their adoration clear as they roared along through the a propos closer, “Celebrate Your Youth.”

Although Keller’s set was the highlight, and quite possibly the end, of the evening for many, the party continued on inside as Baltimore’s The Bridge and Richmond’s DJ Williams Projekt welcomed numerous guests to the stage in a superjam that lasted into the wee hours. Williams played the first of several interlocking sets that eventually blurred together into a single groove. Moving the crowd with picks from his Projekt’s debut, Projekt Management, Williams worked through the funk of “4th Street,” and a soulful “Woman” that took em to church before Gordon Jones’ sexy sax solo welcomed the evening’s other Williams onto the stage.

Keller played the band through several measures of the Beatles’ “Baby You Can Drive My Car,” chiming in with his own vocal scat and mouth horn and eventually inviting beatboxer Kenny Liner of The Bridge to drop jaws with his own vocal magic. The Projekt’s closer brought Nirvana’s “Teen Spirit” back to math class for a brief funk lesson and finally left the stage to The Bridge’s roots rock. More guests elbowed in, and by the time the shuffling call and response of “Hey Pocky Way” shuffled off into the crowd, there were thirteen musicians on the stage.

As the diverse group, culled from different eras and areas but all weaned on the same Homegrown spirit, finally ended the night with a nod to New Orleans on Meter’s “Fire on the Bayou,” it became clear that although the packed crowd at the Lincoln didn’t quite equal the massive draws that have come to define the jamband scene, this grassroots milestone felt as important as anything happening in Tennessee. While the intimate history on stage might never make it into a museum, and will possibly fade from the halls of the memories of the Raleigh crowd, it felt as significant as any other musical event for the moment, and the moment is what the Home Grown Music Network has always been all about.

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