The Rise of Papadosio & Jimkata
I began my evening at a diner in Upstate, NY. The hustle and bustle of the dinner rush was in full effect. The regulars, perched in their usual spots; spoke of the local happenings as I made the final arrangements for the evening. My mind wandered on to the topic of local "jambands" and the crusade to gain a national audience. What is it that elevates music to the next level? What is it that allows some bands the desired access to a national scene? Lastly, does the end result of national attention compensate for the amount of effort, drive and actual work that goes into promoting a band on this level?
My initial inclination is to consider; variation, technical ability, energy... But what is to be said for management, promotion, time and place? Take a band like Jimkata (New York) for instance, or Papadosio (Ohio). Are these bands on the rise to the next level within the progression of "jamband" stardom or are they merely milling along the plateau of local mediocrity. Too often I have seen bands, playing their weekly gigs to undersold venues full of overwhelming/inconsiderate chatter. I hoped tonight's experience would help to uncover the answers to some of the question that I had and offer some insight on this matter.
I timed my trip so that I would be making the hour drive down to Ithaca, along the lake as the sun set. There is something majestic about watching the sun set over the rolling farmland and vineyards of this beautiful part of the American country. As I drove along the lake, bats danced in the sky, feasting on an array of nighttime offerings.
I arrived at Castaway's to a near empty parking lot. The few vehicles that were occupying the lot were fashioned into odd spots and packed with what appeared to be local heads. From my parked vehicle, I could hear the competing stereo blarings of Umphrey's McGee and Widespread Panic. There was indeed no shortage of bumper stickers. I stepped inside of the empty venue and was greeted at the door by Russ, the manager of Jimkata. Management is an intracle part of the local scene and I was pleased to not only have a positive experience in communicating prior to the show, but I was pleased to see how involved Russ was with the happenings of the event.
The venue was empty, as most are at 9:30. As a result, Sonic Spin played to an empty house. I wondered how it must feel to make a trip out to a venue, excited to play, to get set up, dialed in and play for no one. What does that do to a band's drive?
I stepped outside to enjoy some fresh air and parking lot tunes while I waited for my friend and guest for the evening, Roger. Roger is a percussionist out of the Rochester area in between projects at the moment. As I waited I noticed some extremely sloppy activity. A car parked adjacent to me me in the lot, opened it's doors to beer cans and bottles (some empty, some full) pouring out onto the dirt lot. As the young crowd filed into the venue, a young lady stayed behind to use the parking lot as her toilet. In front on several on-lookers, this intoxicated little mess struggled to stay off of the ground. The reason I bring this up is to further reiterate this young, amateur crowd (in regards to partying/respect).
Papadosio took the stage around ten o'clock sharp. Much like the initial act, they were playing to a near empty house. However, I was sucked in almost immediately. Their sound was smooth and seamless, at times somewhat digital. The light show really stood out as well, at times causing me to get lost in the music. As the music progressed I picked up on the tightness of their sound. Their danceable chops caused the crowd to move with the groove. From their first song on, it was a throwdown of wailing resolving to ambient jams. The vocals and lyrics were typical of most "jambands", where as the key/synth work stood out to as being a fiery feature of this quartet. the crowd started to strengthen in number.
Towards the middle of the set, the exploration really took hold. The band took it to space as the tension built. The peaks/climax's were well structured and executed launching the crowd into a frenzy. The music continued to progress through some glitchy sounding grooves/effects, with some dirty sounding almost dubstep style bass and back to the heavy directional space which they executed so well. Towards the end of the set the music headed for a more upbeat and simply put, happy type of sound. You could tell that the band was feeling it, smiling as they crafted their jams.
Popadosio impressed me. They were, as most "jambands" are, better live than on recording; as they create an environment... a scene. Their transitions were seamless, their playing tight, the music danceable and the beat consistent and driving. Papadosio is one of those bands that you should turn out for. To dance, to space out, to feel the the music and enjoy what it is that this rising band has to offer... Good times.
At the set break, Roger and I stepped outside onto the back deck overlooking the canal to catch some fresh air and conversation. We discussed virtuosos such as David Grisman and Bela Fleck. We also conversed about the festival environment and the changes in the scene since the heyday of the Grateful Dead. The topic then shifting to Phish's capitalizing on the opportunity that Jerry's death offered a new band. This took me back to my earlier thoughts of promotion and being in the right place, timing wise. The house music faded as the live music once again became the focus of the scene...
I glanced over; Russ was still manning the door with another gentleman. You could tell he was excited that the band that he managed was going to be taking the stage to flex their musical muscles. By this time, Castaways was comfortably crowded with a steady mix of wookies, college kids and pool sharks, almost all below the age of twenty three. The first thing Roger I noticed about the band was how young they were. Initially I jumped to conclusions about what that might mean for their show/playing. Thoughts of undeveloped jams, inexperienced playing, and youthful energy that amounts to nothing came to mind. Not from Jimkata, as they had yet to have been given a chance for an honest critique; but of other bands I had seen in the past.
The music started off harder, with simple yet consistent percussion. The peaks were heavy, resolving to danceable moments that had the crowd eating out of their hands... ingesting their crunchy tunes. Their vocals were very "jamband"-esque, yet above average, as well as tolerable. The light work continued in a dazzling array of colors and strobing. The guitar work stood out to me, wailing as the gentleman doubled on the key/synth. Roger and I discussed the drum work. We wondered about the utilization of the electronic drum pads on parts that could have been handled on the kit. Consistent, though unimaginative; we wondered if this strategy was a part of trying to create an almost electronic sound.
Jimkata definitely had a youthful, poppy sound at times. They weaved in and out of that pop comfort into the realm of a spacey, almost Bisco style. The sound, though loose in it's vibe; was tight musically. There were a couple of points in the show where an almost dubstep style bass line crept in. Again, consistent.
The crowd eventually spread out and typical of many local shows; began talking... Loudly. As not to discredit Jimkata's playing, let me make clear that with a young band, comes a young crowd. Beyond a medium sized group assembled on the dance floor; there was loud talking, and almost two thirds of the venue was engulfed in conversation. It was at this point that I pondered about the solutions to problems such as these. Will this be one of those "diseases" that continues to plague musicians of this level?
Is the sound somewhat repetitive? Yes. But that's whats being packaged and sold. That is the desired product. With the market as saturated with bands as it is, and bands competing for recognition; I look for bands that offer something different. Were they different than other bands of this caliber? No. However, the were talented, marketable, and most of all enjoyable. I would recommend seeing them, For the overall musicianship, but especially for the cheap ticket price.
To go back to what I was talking about in regards to what elevates a band; to me, more than anything else, it's about finding a sound that's different from what else is going on. Then crafting that sound and marketing it. I feel that more so than the music, more so than the skill; making it to that next level has almost everything to do with timing. Is Jimkata's and Papadosio's timing in line with success? We'll see, Time will tell. For now they will continue play shows and festivals; looking for that "break".