Most Important Shows of The Decade

JamBase's Most Important Shows Of The Decade

Everything changed over the last decade. Never mind the political, social and economic upheaval, musically everything changed. Ten years ago we didn't own iPods or Smart Phones; we rocked a Discman and in some cases an old yellow Walkman. We didn't download tracks or stream shows; we bought albums and traded live Maxell tapes. Then technology set us free and the record industry collapsed. After peaking in 2000, CD sales have plummeted by more than 50-percent, dropping further into oblivion every year. Meanwhile, digital sales continue to rise and free music (both pirated and authorized) is everywhere, flooding hard drives like never before. Surely this trend will continue for the foreseeable future.

The old model is dead. It's a new game and the rules are still being defined. One thing, however, is for sure, the music industry needed a colossal change and it's getting it. The days of boy bands selling 2 million units in a week are gone. And for that, you can thank the digital download. Online music is on the way to making radio irrelevant and no one seems sure if MTV even plays music anymore. It's not that people listen to or want less music. The way we get it has simply evolved. We no longer need anyone to spoon-feed us lowest common denominator crap. Now we've got a billion ways to get turned on to the latest thing, and with advancements in how music is made there's more to choose from than at any other time in history.

But one thing didn't change in the past ten years. We still go see live music. As album sales fell through the floor, live music revenue has grown by 150-percent. Here at JamBase, we've always known the live experience is where it's at, and now that all bands (not just the ones this site was founded upon) are forced to survive on touring dollars, the rest of the music world is catching on. That's one change we're happy to embrace.

At the beginning of the decade, JamBase was just starting to really take form. Surviving the dot-com bubble burst, we were a small team working out of an even smaller house in Mill Valley, California. Soon we sprouted legs, and as our vision and team evolved, we moved into a real office South of Market in downtown San Francisco, where we've been since 2003. Now JamBase has the most complete tour date information anywhere in the world, providing concert listings for AOL, Billboard, Spin, Rhapsody and many more, and our content has evolved into a leading source for live music editorial. Part of our mission has always been to use technology to help you get to the show and we know today's music fan is often on the move, that's why we created our lauded iPhone App that puts all our concert info straight into your pocket.

Even a cursory look at the articles on this website over the past decade indicates great change. From the way we look to what we cover, change has perhaps been the only constant at JamBase. Clearly, we report on more than just jam bands now (we like to think we cover the live music scene as a whole, with no genre being off limits), but if we go back to our roots and look at the band that started it all for JamBase (which grew out of Andy Gadiel's Phish Page), we're reminded that change is an essential part of life. It's often hard, but almost always exciting, and if you aren't changing and evolving, you're probably dying.

In the past decade Phish quit (2000), came back (2002), quit again (2004), and finally got it right and resurfaced with purpose in 2009. For the most part, this was a messy decade for Trey, Mike, Page and Fish. With personal struggles taking center stage and the music falling off, when the band finished their final set at Coventry in 2004, in many ways, things couldn't have been worse. The muddy fields were a metaphor for the state of the band and the sloppy performances an indication of just how bad it had gotten. But they overcame their challenges, and that's certainly part of why we love them. Who amongst us hasn't made poor decisions and paid the price? And if there's one thing Americans love it's a comeback story. During the '90s this band dominated. The pressures of fame brought stress unlike anything they'd experienced, and in the 2000s they fell hard. But as we close the book on this decade, Phish is back on top in a major way. No band's comeback has made a bigger impact on our world this decade than Phish, and we couldn't be happier to have chronicled every step of their triumphant return.

But there's more to Phish than just sick jams and transcendent rock shows. The ups and downs experienced by the band in many ways mirrored America's path this decade. Coming out of the '90s, everything appeared peachy. Mainstream music desperately needed help, but economically and politically, America was mostly doing great. September 11, 2001 thrust change upon us in ways we may never fully understand. Our collective psyche shattered, we've been at war ever since. Our economy has collapsed, and we're facing a rising environmental crisis. Like Phish, America had a rough decade, but hopefully we can grab the strands of hope we're starting to see and rise to the occasion like our favorite bands seem to do.

While it's not likely that Phish's trajectory had any tangible affect on our nation, it definitely affected the music scene. Phish's hiatus (especially the first one) opened the door for a plethora of talent to flourish. With no one band filling the void, a wide array of acts like The String Cheese Incident, Umphrey's McGee, STS9, The Disco Biscuits, Keller Williams, and many others were able to rapidly gain new fans and separate themselves from the pack as the premier new crop of jam bands.

Michael Jackson
The changing scene and lack of a clear improvisational concert king also allowed a host of bands hovering on the borders of jam to emerge more prominently in the live music space. With the help of festivals like Bonnaroo, websites like JamBase and open-minded fans like you, artists such as My Morning Jacket, Jack White, Drive-By Truckers, The Hold Steady, Arcade Fire, and The Mars Volta all experienced incredible breakthroughs.

But, that didn't mean the pillars of the jam scene crumbled in the 2000s. The granddaddy of 'em all, The Grateful Dead found ways to reform, reinvent and move on after Jerry Garcia's death in 1995. moe. proved to be one of the most consistent acts of the decade, Gov't Mule survived the death of Allen Woody, and Widespread Panic managed to find new life with Jimmy Herring after Michael Houser passed away in 2002.

Though we lost some legends, including Johnny Cash, James Brown, George Harrison, Vic Chesnutt and Michael Jackson, we did get a bunch of reunions and even a few rebirths this past decade. Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Cream, The Police, Van Halen, The Pixies, Dinosaur Jr., Polvo, Meat Puppets, Smashing Pumpkins, Gang of Four, Rage Against the Machine, Leonard Cohen and The Stooges all returned to the stage, and all were in consideration (some more than others) for this feature.

In fact, there were pages upon pages of possibilities pored over while creating this list. Trying to determine 10 shows that stood out in a decade packed with powerful performances proved daunting, and we're sure we left off something critical, which is why we'd love to see you set the record straight by sharing your own list in the Comments Section. But this is our list. After serious internal debate, discussions with artists and industry insiders, and careful consideration of your comments and emails, these are JamBase's Most Important Shows of The Decade, presented to you in chronological order. It all starts with a special night in Florida that many fans spent the next decade reminiscing about or wishing they'd attended. (Kayceman)

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