3. Nuts and Bolts
"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. We wanted to represent through the DVD these bands and the festival as a professional endeavor." -Lawrence Shapiro
Shapiro decided to film the first Jam in the 'Dam in a similar fashion to how Armand Sadlier came to the revelation to put on the festival in the first place.
The Melkweg :: Jam in the 'Dam 2006
"I've always been tight with Particle, and I was documenting their first tour across Europe," explains Shapiro. "The last stop on their circuit was the Melkweg in Amsterdam, and I filmed them there and it went great. When we got back, someone sent me an email about Jam in the Dam, and I was thinking to myself, 'I was just there filming one of those bands.'"
Sadlier discovered the Melkweg while on a trip with David Sanborn's band. Sanborn's road manager told Sadlier to come to a show of theirs at the Melkweg, and the venue made an impression. Early into the film, Sadlier himself recounts how two months after first experiencing the Melkweg, he wanted to put on a festival around Umphrey's McGee "that wasn't just a concert in a field."
"We talked about it, and he thought it was great idea too," said Shapiro. "He never really thought about filming it, thought it was too crazy to have something like that filmed out in Europe. We ended up having to fly our cinematographer and our unit production manager out to England while we're off in Amsterdam. They loaded up all this camera equipment and got onto a ferry. The ferry went to the Netherlands, and a truck drove another two hours down to us on foreign roads with like a million dollars worth of equipment in the truck (laughs). If you asked me to take my Explorer from L.A. to San Diego with a bunch of equipment, I wouldn't even think twice. That's no problem. But what's this road mean? Liegenschplachenflugen?"
Once the gear was set, Shapiro and crew had the task of filming in an environment where people are there for reasons other than making a movie. The Melkweg is a small venue. Not only would the film crew have to avoid distracting the bands, they would also have to make strides to not interfere with the many fans who traveled far to see the bands perform.
Jam in the 'Dam 2006
"Our whole objective is always to be a fly on the wall, not to interfere," said Shapiro. "We try to have the bands not notice us because I feel it does affect the performance. Jam in the Dam proved a little difficult to find the middle-ground because it was such a small venue and we had a crane camera in there. The fans noticed that, I mean it was a big camera looming overhead. To try and meet the fans half-way, we only filmed the shows that happened in one of the two rooms. That way you could have a camera-free experience also. As for the musicians, we mostly talked with them during the soundchecks. We asked them what the realm of comfort would be with respect to the location of the cameras and didn't infringe on their safety zones. When the shooting was happening, my main thing was to call out shots to the cameramen once it was clear things were safe. It's like if you were surfing and the show is the wave. You have to follow the song."
As a self-proclaimed fan, Shapiro wanted to leave it up to the viewers as to whether they would simply watch the concert footage or the entire movie.
"This is all great and the bands are saying great jokes, but is it still going to be funny when I've seen it twenty times because I own it?" asks Shapiro. "Maybe I just want the music. And maybe today I just want Umphrey's set, and I don't feel like seeing Particle. But tomorrow I will, who knows? It can be in the background too, while you do dishes or at a party. But if you're playing it at a party, and it breaks into an interview..."
Brendan Bayliss (UM) with the Disco Biscuits
Jam in the 'Dam 2005
Shapiro's crew took over nine months to edit all the shots and master the concert recordings in order to polish everything as much as possible.
"With other concert films, I noticed shots or cuts that made you wonder why they were left in like that," said Shapiro. "We spent months and months making sure everything fit and was cohesive. I think a big part of that goes to Mark Wolkon, our editor, and Mark Johnson, our audio engineer. The sound was multi-tracked out and mixed into 5.1 and stereo. It was sent to some of the best mastering houses. The point is that some of the best in the business worked on this audio. Other than that, every edit was labored and thought over at least three times."
4. The City by the Sea
"Amsterdam is featured as much as Umphrey's playing style," said Shapiro. "It would have been a real waste not to take advantage of that, so we spent the first day before the event just filming the scenery. One of my favorite things was filming Keller's interview on a boat. It was a beautiful sunny day, which was lucky since the weather is unpredictable in Amsterdam. We were talking about the experience of traveling overseas to play, and right when he's in the middle of answering that question, a fan is walking over a bridge. He yells to him, 'Keller! What's up?!' I mean, being on a canal in the middle of a foreign city, and here's this fan. It's a crazy synchronicity. It felt like Amsterdam gave back a little."
The city and the scene share a strange bond under the surface, in that both are immediately known for their hedonistic aspects but not given enough credit for their artistic and cultural characteristics. Museums like the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh are known worldwide for the rare artifacts housed within. Historical sites like the Anne Frank house serve as a reminder that the Dutch helped those persecuted during the Holocaust at great risk. As the jam scene has a connection to the sixties and seventies, Amsterdam was an epicenter of youth rebellion against old landowner right-wing control during that time. The Provos, so named as they always provoked the establishment, held sit-ins in Vondelpark, marches in Dam Square, and were some of the first people to push for marijuana legalization in the city. Unlike in the United States, such rebellion in Amsterdam actually produced a change in government policy. Also like those in the scene, the Dutch are very friendly and sympathetic to the lost tourist.
The focus is more on the festival, yet interspersed within the film are superb shots of the architecture, canals, and street culture of the city. Major areas of the city, like the student-populated Liedseplein and Dam Square, are shown. A brief section is devoted to the use of bicycles as the main transportation by nearly all of the citizens, to the point where bike paths are built into the layout of the city. If one were there, one would be taking in the culture by day and enjoying the festival at night. In a sense, the film presents what the whole experience might be for a person.
"You've got these musicians creating their art in a land where Van Gogh and Rembrandt made their magic all those years ago," said Shapiro. "It's awe-inspiring art. You wouldn't do the city justice unless you explain the factors that give it its excellence. We do have a short vignette about the Red Light District, explaining the vibe and what the deal was for a few seconds. We also added a coffee shop bonus feature in Disc One, talking about the etiquette and the variety. But all of that stuff is implied. Too much focus on that cheapens the whole thing. The story is going to a foreign world with an art form that is new to the place."
"I feel like if people took the time to really get around Amsterdam and to hang with the locals, they would realize there really is a much deeper culture here than just the publicized sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll," said Molitz. "That is all the Americans hear about. The same can be said about the music in the jam scene. There are some seriously profound, moving performances given by these bands all across the genres."
Particle :: Jam in the 'Dam 2005
When all was said and done, it seemed a great relationship was established between the city and the scene.
"One thing you can't deny is that nobody could possibly misinterpret the fans' commitment to the scene and to the music they love," said Molitz. "Jam in the 'Dam was such a reminder of that and so refreshing for me as one of the musicians dedicating my life to this - to know people are out there who are so passionate about the feeling that music gives them that they would travel overseas to hear these bands play."
Having just wrapped up its second year, Jam in the 'Dam is swiftly on the way to reaching the acclaim bestowed upon festivals such as Jam Cruise and even Bonnaroo as far as the near guarantee that an attendee will leave with a glow. The film serves as an intense microcosm of how hard people work within the scene to craft their art to the utmost quality. From the tiny nuances and effects to the sound engineering and even the starting menu where the screen soars into the Melkweg when a scene is selected, the film is an excellent representation of the many features to be found in the scene. Jam in the 'Dam 2005 can thoroughly explain the scene to a newcomer and also re-inspire those who have lost touch.
"I'm getting letters and messages from forty and fifty year-olds who are Deadheads and mostly removed from the scene now with their wife and kids, and they tell me, 'I caught your flick and now I'm totally re-energized by this new scene that I never would have known about,'" said Shapiro.
Chances are mainstream news outlets will not ever see through the surface to communicate the intense art created by the bands within the scene. It is up to those within to capture the scene on film in a method that exudes the same level of professionalism put into the musicianship and the organizing of such events. If films made about the jam scene must adhere to the standards set by Jam in the 'Dam 2005, we may just see the scene earn its due respect.
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