I’m halfway through my month-long challenge of listening only to bands that have female members, and I can’t believe how quickly it’s gone! When I started, I asked my readers and Facebook followers to recommend bands for me to check out – and I haven’t even had the time to listen to all of them yet! I am amazed at all of the fantastic music I was missing out on before this challenge began!
It’s a little disheartening actually that it took this crazy challenge to get me to listen to some rockin’ ladies. I will say, though, that I’ve never been been one to seek out new bands and new music. I’m a bit lazy and predictable, listening to the same shit over and over until someone introduces me to something new.
But now, I get to introduce other people to new music! First up, jam bands. I listen to a variety of music genres, and I hate trying to categorize music. There is so much cross-over between different genres and no clear-cut definition anyhow. Jam bands are a blend of rock, folk, bluegrass, jazz, and blues and are known for long songs with instrumental “jam sessions” where the musicians really get to showcase their skills and play off of one another. A few of the most well-known jam bands are the Grateful Dead, Umphrey’s McGee, String Cheese Incident, and Yonder Mountain String Band (which as you will see, now has a female member!).
While I enjoy a plethora of music genres, jam bands have my heart especially when it comes to concerts. Maybe it’s the free spirit in me that is only set free while dancing in a crowd of hippies. Maybe it’s the transformative jam sessions that force us to forget about the day-to-day and just be in the music. Maybe it’s the happiness current that pulses through the audience. Maybe it’s my third eye. If you’ve ever been to a jam band show, you know what I mean. There is nothing like it.
It was very important to me in this challenge that I find more jam bands that have female musicians in them. Unfortunately, this is a harder task than one would think! Jam bands are like a boys’ club haven. A few people on the jam band forums mentioned St. Vincent – which is awesome because Annie Clark can rock! – but her music is not the jam band variety, it’s straight-up rock.
Maybe it’s the free spirit in me that is only set free while dancing in a crowd of hippies. Maybe it’s the transformative jam sessions that force us to forget about the day-to-day and just be in the music. Maybe it’s the happiness current that pulses through the audience. Maybe it’s my third eye.
Ultimately, I found 9 national acts with female musicians that you absolutely should be listening to if you are part of the jam band scene – or if you think you might want to be!
- STS9 – Luckily for us, Alana Rocklin now plays bass in STS9. And it is everything. If you’re looking for instrumental music without any messy lyrics getting in the way of your jam – this is your band. But since they’ve basically been around forever, most people are well aware of this funky electronic music.
2. Tedeschi Trucks Band – Joined by the powerhouse Sharon Jones in this video! In 2011, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks decided to multiply their individual talents by combining forces into one epic band. Tedeschi had 5 Grammy nominations on her own before the formation of Tedeschi Trucks band, and Trucks is ranked as 16th on Rolling Stones’ list of 100 greatest guitar players of all time. How could this not be a winning combination?
3. Elephant Revival – Bonus points go to this band for having not just 1, but 2 female musicians! Definitely a rarity when it comes to jam bands. According to their Facebook page, Bonnie Paine does vocals, washboard, djembe, musical-saw, and stomp-box (seriously, how amazing is that??). Meanwhile, Bridget Law is one the fiddle, vocals, octave violin. Nothing beats a fiddle and a washboard when it comes to bluegrassy, folksy music like this!
4. Jennifer Hartswick – If Elephant Revival gets bonus points for having 2 badass ladies, then Jennifer Hartswick gets points for singing AND playing trumpet! She toured with Trey Anastasio and has played with many other great musicians. Her soulful voice is punctuated by the staccato of jazz-inspired trumpeting.
5. Sara Watkins – This musician’s incredible fiddle playing and sweet, soaring vocals have launched her into a promising solo career. A founding member of Nickel Creek, and an ongoing member of a handful of other bands and ventures, Watkins is creating a plethora of new songs for her fans. She is also joining forces with Sarah Jarosz (see #6 on this list) and Aiofe O’Donovan to tour as a trio – I’m with Her.
6. Sarah Jarosz – The ability to play multiple instruments, sing, and write songs creates a strong foundation for a solo artist. And Jarosz has it all. She plays mandolin, octave mandolin, guitar, and banjo and has been nominated for various awards including 3 Grammy nominations. As noted above, she is also involved in a new creative venture – I’m with Her – with Sara Watkins and Aiofe O’Donovan. Check them out on tour!
7. Rubblebucket – A mix of rock, jazz, funk and weirdness, this band is so badass that singer Kalmia Traver continued touring while undergoing chemo treatments for ovarian cancer in 2013. Traver’s intoxicating vocals in combination with a strong horn section with a touch of electronica keeps fans dancing and coming back for more.
8. Anna & Elizabeth – This mesmerizing duo plays traditional bluegrass at its finest. With their roots in Appalachia, their music pays homage to the sounds of the old-time musicians that came before. This band also stands out because of their visual art – called crankies, these cloth and paper scrolls depict scenes from their songs as they play. A super interesting addition to their beautiful harmonies.
9. And of course, Allie Kral is now a member of Yonder Mountain String Band! A fantastic addition to one of the ultimate jam bands. Fans were understandably concerned when founding member Jeff Austin left the band in 2014, but the remaining members of Yonder Mountain really stepped up their game. The new sound leans more towards traditional bluegrass with Allie Kral on the fiddle and vocals.
The fact of the matter is that while these bands are all phenomenal, there simply aren’t enough women musicians in high-profile bands. If we want to see more women on the national stage, we need to support them at the local level first. Who are your favorite jam bands locally or nationally? I would love to add some more to my playlist!