JAM IN THE 'DAM: RESPECT!

 
I feel like as a whole the jam scene does not get the respect it deserves as a true musical genre. That was one of the biggest reasons I chose to do this - represent the art that has shaped my life and give back to the scene by showing the scene.

-Lawrence Shapiro :: Producer

 
Photo of Jake Cinninger (Umphrey's McGee) : Jam in the 'Dam 2005 by Sam Friedman

2. The Trials of Players and the Missing Fifth Wall: All About People

"The location made it so special," said Steve Molitz of Particle. "You could take those same bands and put on the same show in a different place, and it wouldn't have had the same magic to it. That was the x-factor. You couldn't put your finger on it, but you knew that everybody was just a little left-of-center. It was just really cool to be overseas in a museum and to get tapped on the shoulder, and someone says, 'Hey man, great show at Bonnaroo.' And you start talking, 'Oh, hey thank you. Hey where you from?' Next thing you know, you and that guy are in some coffee shop down the street three hours later and talking politics or something else."


The Disco Biscuits & Umphrey's McGee
Jam in the 'Dam 2006
During the interviews with both the band members and the fans, it was clear that the minimal amount of distance that exists between the two diminished under the elation of being in Amsterdam. The bands were comfortable with explaining certain music-making processes but were quick to joke around, almost to remind the viewer that this was a celebration.

"I appreciated that the bands had great performances and gave us plenty to work with on that end," said Shapiro. "They were all on. And I really appreciated how open the bands were and trusting with doing interviews. You actually get their personalities instead of them giving out stock answers."

The stigma of indulgence hanging over the city and the scene did not impede this gathering. Show goers seemed lucid and aware of the bond shared by the many Americans who descended upon Amsterdam for a few days and of how well they were received by the Dutch.


Umphrey's McGee
Jam in the 'Dam 2006
"We shot interviews at the end of the shows each night," said Shapiro. "We used some footage from after the last night, and everyone is just glowing. There was a magic in the air about this event. Everything went well. No one got hurt. There was no guy screaming about how his bowl got taken away and security had to kick him out. Everyone was so happy, which is the best thing you can ask for. I owe a big thanks to the fans. You're in a mindset to watch a show, and then you come outside and there's a camera in your face. They really helped make this movie."

The musicians gave testament to the professionalism of the filming crew, in that they barely noticed the cameras.

"You just have to look at it like it's not there," said Ryan Stasik. "Just play your show, no pressure. Don't think, 'Oh, I'm being filmed. I better not fuck up here.' They're just capturing what's going on. Honestly, aside from the interviews, I didn't even know they were there until I saw the final product. I thought it was great. I thought Larry did a really good job."

"Honestly, the only thing I can say is the film crew and director were so professional and talented," said Molitz. "I think they succeeded in doing their job because I hardly noticed they were making a movie. Their job is to be a fly on the wall, and a fly would have been more obtrusive than they were. They were real organized and totally produced above and beyond what was required. I think the DVD reflects that."


Sam Altman :: Jam in the 'Dam 2005
Regardless of the filmmaker's skills and the talents of those being filmed, the chance possibility of capturing a singular moment cannot be replicated. The festival came at a time of major transition for three of the four featured groups. Umphrey's McGee had recently dealt with the death of Brian Schultz, a close friend of the band since their days at Notre Dame University. He was killed by a drunk driver right after their 2005 New Year's performance. Drummer Sam Altman from the Disco Biscuits had announced he would be leaving the band to pursue medicine. At the time of the festival, the band had not made any permanent decisions on a replacement. The Biscuits were able to perform at the festival because it coincided with a break during Altman's studies.

"Isn't this like a game show, where you don't have to answer the question?" said Marc Brownstein with a large smile on his face when asked about the departure of Altman.

"He wants to go to medical school, and so there's no animosity or anything," explains Brownstein. "It's not like a tumultuous break up, and so we're not rushing through it and getting him off to school. We're here because we can play shows right now as the original Disco Biscuits. We're kinda taking it step by step."

"While I have times like this and while I'm on breaks from school, if these guys were to ask me to play with them, whatever their plans will be, if they ask me to, I would," says Altman.

"Wait! You're going to med school?" says Aron Magner with a sarcastic half smile of disbelief. They all laugh.

Despite such a shake-up, the warmth and camaraderie among the Biscuits is extremely evident.


Charlie Hitchcock
Jam in the 'Dam 2005
By the time of the festival, Altman's departure and the tragedy felt by Umphrey's were known by many fans and people around the bands, but one change had yet to materialize. A few months after the festival, Particle announced that guitarist Charlie Hitchcock would be leaving the band. Around the time of his departure, there had been some ambiguity as to whether he left or was fired. During the interviews with Particle, Hitchcock seems somewhat detached and aloof while the other members are laughing and reveling in the atmosphere of the festival. It almost appears that he has something to say but is not talking.

"I would say what you are reading there is the beginning of what would happen," said Shapiro in response to observing Hitchcock's demeanor during the interviews. "Particle hadn't really gone down that path yet. It was only discovered later, when we were editing, that we found out this change was happening. What you were vibing from the film is what came to a head three or four months later. It was really only on that feeling level at that particular moment. If Charlie never left the band, then you might think he was just in a quiet mood. It's only now in hindsight that it looks like a predecessor. I wouldn't want to focus on that because they were all so giving, and they were also exhausted."

Regardless of exhaustion and transition, the massive joy felt by the fans and the musicians is unmistakable, especially in the several shots used of the bands and fans interacting. A few times during the film, European fans who had never seen some of their favorite bands before get to meet the musicians. From one reporter's view, those moments of jubilation serve as the perfect microcosm for the many services this festival provided for everyone involved.


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