Finding Your Identity: The Qualities That Breed Success

Words & Photos By Greg Molitor (ReMIND Photography)

I once overheard a friend say that the jamband scene is a ten-year game, and I tend to agree. It’s my belief that a band has ten years to make it or break it in the jamband business with that time being a group’s opportunity to establish its fan base to its highest point. The length in time may seem like a large window at first, but when factors such as competition and scarcity of discretionary funds for concert-goers are considered, the challenge becomes a bit more foreboding. How, indeed, does a band go about tackling such a task within this finite timeframe when there are hundreds of talented and capable acts taking a similar approach to music? For the groups that truly aspire to climb as high as possible, there must be sense of identity that is translated to the fan base...

So, why is it that fans decide to follow certain bands and not others that play similar styles of music? Technical ability is certainly an important factor, but there are plenty incredibly talented bands that simply do not translate to as large of an audience as they would like. During my seven years of attending festivals and seeing a countless number of jam shows, I’ve come to realize that what a band provides to its audience is much more than a collection of notes played onstage night after night. Fans turnout in droves not only to see the music, but to vicariously see themselves onstage as well. We long to find a connection, to lose our egos and absorb the qualities of the bands who we witness perform. From this, it’s no surprise that the acts we see are the ones who we can identify with the most.

Great bands understand that although we as individuals each take a unique path, there is a common thread that connects us...passion. No matter into what, we all wish to pour out our hearts, desiring nothing more than to perceive ourselves as caring and just in cause. There are swings in life, however, and no individual is above wavering as we tend to question ourselves during the most trying of times. Enter...the power of rock and roll. Bands with a strong, passionate message that is communicated with confidence allows us to reaffirm belief in ourselves during their shows. This confidence transferred from band to audience during a live performance reminds us of our ability to execute, breakthrough, and communicate our own message whatever it may be.

Just for fun, the next time you go to a jam music festival, count how many Grateful Dead logos you see. It’s by no mistake that The Grateful Dead is by far the most identifiable band in our scene as it practically created the scene as we know it to be. All of the intangibles of success are located within the element of Dead music...powerful messages, passion that translates on an enormous scale, confidence in both musical output and imagery...the Grateful Dead believed their ideals to be truth. The band also faced a tremendous amount of pressure trying to deal with growing expectations throughout the years, but like the most successful of bands find a way to do, The Dead accepted the changing times and kept evolving into a continuously growing organism of love and passion.

On an artistic level, Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter remain untouched still today as the greatest American musical visionaries. Always keeping their work together in-context, the duo’s work remained logical no matter how abstract Garcia’s musical and Hunter’s lyrical ideas became. As a lyricist, Hunter brought millions together by showing an unparalleled understanding of the American individual, past, present and future, and through his voice, Garcia provided the confident energy that gave wings to Hunter’s work. Jerry Garcia proved there’s little use for truth if you don’t have the courage to sing it to the entire world, and together, the duo created the blueprint for a collective speaking as an individual voice.

I pose these following questions not only to bands who might be in-limbo with regards to identity, but to the general population as well...

First, do you have something profound and unique say? If so, is the message you wish to communicate for a few people, or are your ideas something you’d like to share with the entire world? And finally, how far are you willing to go, how much are you willing to risk to make sure this message is heard, understood, and accepted by your intended audience? Only you know the answer, and in the end, you will know if you did enough to be satisfied with the result. Robert Hunter once penned the line, “Without love in the dream it will never come true”, and I tend to agree.


  1. Great outlook, and powerful words. Thanks for sharing this with everyone. Making 'identity' for yourself following the same advice you give. Much appreciate. Love!

  2. WOW Greg! I am truly impressed by this; I need to keep up with your work more!

  3. Thanks for the kind words, everyone :-)


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