...busting up my brains for the words

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Battle of the jug bands report

Well, I must have had a good time at this last Sunday because I just now regained consciousness. I may be exaggerating a bit.
It took me awhile to get in the mood at the Cabooze Bar. That's partly because I've been living the straight and narrow so much lately, and also because I'm kind of demanding of my jug bands. There are a lot of musicians playing this stuff who really seem to have no respect for the genre whatsoever. They see it as nothing more than an excuse to make a lot of racket, enjoy the limelight of the stage and massacre songs in a jug style. The first and second bands up that day were of that ilk. I mean, come on. Neil Diamond songs done jug? Tony Orlando and Dawn jug? A bit later, a band did a David Bowie song a la jug; The Man Who Sold The World. Now, this is a great song. But just because the band banged pots, scratched a washboard and thumped a string bass on it does not a jug song make. No. What we have hear is a failure to communicate. (Yes, I misspelled "here" and decided a corny pun is appropriate at this juncture. So I'm leaving it in.)
How do I explain jug music? I'm not sure I can. But like someone explained pornography; I know it when I see it. Or hear it, in this case.

Given the inherent playfulness of the instrumentation, jug band music was accordingly informal, spontaneous, often humorous, and rhythmically bouncy.

Bouncy. Jug music does not seek subtlety. There's a child-like quality to its rhythm.

These lame versions of camp songs from the 60s and 70s were nothing more than lame versions of camp songs played with a lot of annoying banging. That's not jug. Don't get me wrong. I'm not calling Bowie's song lame, or camp. It's just that this band failed to transform it into jug. No. I'm not calling Bowie lame. I'm calling Tony Orlando and Dawn lame.

Anyways, as the day proceeded, I managed to free up quite a bit. And then Bill Hinckley and Judy Larson's band, The Phleshtones, took the stage. They showed everybody how jug is played. Bill is a masterful jug soloist and he hasn't lost his touch despite a recent brush with health problems.

I finally reached the point of no return. It was getting late. Around 6 pm. I knew that if I had another beer I might not ever come back from wherever I was. Some crazy jugworld. But before I left, I checked in with the judges, as I happen to know one of them. I couldn't believe my ears. He and his associates were impressed with that second band. The one that did all the horrible stuff. The band that I was thankful to see leave the stage got high marks from him.

I didn't know if this was a cruel joke or if maybe I just take this jug aesthetic too seriously.


  • At 10:27 PM, Blogger Moon said…

    Now, I live in rural Kentucky. In fact, I live about 20 minutes from Renfro Valley ( ). We get our share of jug bands here as well. I'm not even going to taunt you with the story of a banjo, a kettle, a bottle of whiskey, and "Highway to Hell".


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