Annual Jam Band: The new tracks

Annual Jam Band: The new tracks
Pictured: How jamming began

I wouldn't be doing this music blog right if I didn't share some of my own tunes. OUR tunes.

The Annual Jam Band is a collaborative (and now ten-day-long) project that gathers from the far reaches of the country once a year to informally rock out a few parties, then move on to Rockford for a giant jam/recording session/barbecue/not-at-all-out-of-control bonfire at 7:30 in the morning.

The band sprung from the remnants of our early 2000's Peoria-area blues/alt-rock-band Adjust, and our habit of dropping random drum jams upon desolate quads, fire drills or crashed bachelorette parties and, of course, at Nick's garage in Rockford (brother of my former dorm-mate). The actual JAM began as a tradition in 2004, and has been recording the crew's late-night madness since 2008 (not surprisingly, things started to get interesting).

By the Jam's final Saturday night, now, you'd think we actually still practiced regularly (or while sober-er). We've managed to work in everything from funk to blues, a few odd covers and tons of random weirdness.

This past Jam party was the NINTH-annual, and over time we've witnessed so much beauty come out of random people: the quiet have lead us in song, folks who claim "no rhythm" have taken to drumming and a young man who was just a toddler when it all began picked up a guitar and rocked his first tune. We regularly see mere guitarists stare down a keyboard, a xylophone or an entire drum kit and make something magic without even really knowing how.

We've grown as music lovers, listeners and makers.

Aristotle said, "We are what we repeatedly do," and I'm always either recovering from the Jam or planning for it.

If you wanna dig some tunes, I'll describe a few of my personal favorites from the 2012 Jam below (they usually involve me and, as L. puts it, my "other girlfriend" (aka. the Fender Strat or Epiphone acoustic)). Please forgive this obsession...

[ TO LISTEN: go to this site and check out the embedded player on the lower-left (they can also be downloaded from the "Downloads" section at the upper-left) ] ...

Glittering Willow (Thu): This is one of the weirdest, yet most professional-sounding songs we've ever caught on tape. Our fourth overall jam this year and completely random. I'm on guitar playing really no chords at all (harmonics, open and scratching), Joby's got the wood and xylophone, Jay is rolling out a nice, driving bass beat (with a bit of Knight Rider) and Nick adds timely percussives.

Spiral Nebula Butterfly (Thu/Sat): This C-blues progression has become a go-to of mine (after I finally figured out what was singing in my head). The first track is Joby soloing over it, second is Jay doing the same. Really glad I got this tune laid-down with a couple of my best friends.

Happiness (Fri): Upbeat and jumpin jam. The BAND. Honestly, we should be doing this stuff every weekend.

Space Bloom (Sat): Another chord progression I'd been working on for a bit on the Eppie. Jam Host Extraordinaire Nick shows his chops on the kit.

Jumbo Jet Air Patrol (Sat): Funky FUNK. This favorite sticks in my head. Best name, too (themes change year-to-year -- this time it's all fireworks). Go!

Speedboat (Sat): This is just something we like to do. It's called Play The Blues Super Fast And Make Everybody In The Room Sound Awesome!!

Pure Awesomeness (Sat): Best cover of the Jam. Our group-singalong of Gogol Bordello's "Thru the Roof and Underground." That's Jay and Nichole leading the verse (you can definitely hear my drunk ass yelling the chorus).

Tiger Roaring (Sat): Just another mad blues jam...

Night Flower (Sat): What the eff?? IT'S LIKE 5 A.M.!! That's what!

Party Pop Bag (Sat): Joby is rolling the bass here. Wild!  A Jay rhythm, with me soloing. We've also created a new verb for what Nick is doing over this tune -- it's called "MC 900 Foot Jesus-ing" something. If you don't get the reference, go purchase One Step Ahead of the Spider. No questions!

There are tons of other interesting jams, in the rare case case you actually want to hear all of them (hi mom, L., guys..): like me foraying into the drum kit and keys (Jumping Jacks and Dancing Diamonds), or us rolling two rhythms that Joby wrote (Classic Show (long jam, but bluesy and excellent) and Glorious Half Brick) or just a flat-out drum jam (Thunderbomb), us rocking "Play That Funky Music" (Primary Explosive) or the Rolling Stones' "Beast of Burden" (Proud Peacock), our intense jam with Doug on lead (Wonder Cone) and then there's that old "Fingers" jam we start about every other session with by now (Goldfish Effect and probably two others that I counted).. But I have to end this at some point.

Obviously I'm proud of what we've done. And I always have been.

Honestly: it made six years of college worth all the crazy time and effort just to have found friends that inspire me so much (that includes my girlfriend).

Thanks to the endless stream of stellar co-jammers and people willing to sing, drink, drum or pick up something and throw it at us because Dammit, it's late.

* The AJB is: Joby, Jay, Dan, Nick, Nicole, Sarah, Sarah 2, Angie, Bill, Jill, Gary, Jacob, Keith, Dave, Doug, Julie, Lisa, Kristina, Scott, Laura, Sheri, Kris, Rob, Joe, Lucy dog and... Alert me if I've forgotten the others (there are more) *

We laid it all down on record together. CHEERS.

And rock on, friends.

[ UPDATE: Wow.. just discovered that Rocketeer from Sat is a pretty jumpin jam with some actual singing (we had to recruit some of the girls for this). Every year there are more jams, and this time, at 78, I'm still discovering new things more than two months later... ]


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    Dan Bradley

    Writer. Jammer. Fan. {bandwagonDan over at .. Follow my hockey tweets @HecklerBHawks (The Heckler: Blackhawks on fb.) }

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