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A Jam Band Weekend: Interviews with 2 fans

Jam bands are usually defined by two-set concerts, typically involving long improvisations, and never playing the same set two nights in row (or ever, really). More often than not, the sets include less vocals and more guitar riffs, crazy lighting, as well as guest appearances for cool collaborations and cover songs. The Grateful Dead is attributed with starting the jam band scene, with others like Phish carrying on the tradition.

The fans of these bands are a subculture all their own. If their favorite band is playing three nights in a row, the fans are usually at all three nights. And they love to dance and party. During a weekend in Richmond, VA to see Widespread Panic and Umphrey’s McGee back to back, I was able to chat with a fan at each show.

I met Jonathan in the beer line at Altria Theatre. We originally began chatting because I had said that it was my first Widespread Panic show. Then, he lied to me.

I’m 49 and have been to 94 Panic shows. Okay, that’s a lie -- I’ve been to 53. 94 includes my wife’s count.

My favorite show ever was last year, in Asheville, for Halloween. They opened up with a ton of Pink Floyd for the second set. It was ridiculous.

Every concert that I've ever been to, they play a total different set. It really numbs me every time I've gone. It's been nuts. Every time I've gone, it's crazy. The one thing that I really love about them, is that they come out and they either hit you with some low or they hit you with some high. When they hit you with the high, you know you're in for a ride. When they hit you with the low, you know you're riding down with the fucking roller coaster and you're about to hit it up high.

The next night, at The National, I was in the lobby taking pictures of the coat check line that went up the stairs and around the corner. Matt came up to me and wondered why I was so interested in the people in the lobby. He then began his story about his very special night.

It is my 70th -- seven, zero -- Umphrey's Show. My first show was in 2004 so I'm in year 12 of following them. This year is their 18th anniversary, so I'm six years behind. I don't know the average, but that is 70 shows in 12 years.

I love them because all of the music I used to listen to when I was younger is the influence of their band. Not necessarily Grateful Dead, but more progressive music like King Crimson and The Mahavishnu Orchestra. Because their [Umphrey’s] influences are the same bands that I used to listen to, I can hear that old music come through in their original music. It’s very cool. I know what I like. I'd come here if there were just 10 people here. I don't follow any other bands; this band is the one. I can't pick a favorite show, because I like to party and I don't have a good memory, ha! I just know that I always have fun at these shows. I used to go to festivals, but now I have a 6-year-old daughter, so I can't really do the three day thing anymore.

She's actually going to be going to her first Umphrey's show in July. I'm bringing her to Red Rocks. It'll be my first show at Red Rocks -- it’s on my bucket list. It will have taken me 39 years to get there, and it'll only take her six-- well, she'll be 7 then. It will be cool as shit, because that'll be her first Umphrey's show and I plan on recruiting her to be a designated driver at future shows when she's older. I wanted to start her out right at Red Rocks.

Several years ago, I got VIP tickets to see them at Best Buy Theater right near Times Square. Part of the VIP package was a meet & greet with the band. I don't smoke weed, but that night I got high, and then I got paranoid. I came back to the spot where they were going to do the meet & greet and I got starstruck and left. I didn't want to be that guy all stoned asking them too many questions.  I don't need to be up close & personal with the band I follow. I could have made a fool out of myself. I don't regret it because I like to separate it.

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