Yamn | Fox Theater | Boulder, CO | 10/27/11
The term “trance-fusion” comes along with certain assumptions and associations depending on whose saying it. Perhaps the term was coined by Frank Zappa’s collection of guitar solos compiled just before his death in 1993. Generally the sub-genre refers to a collective of live improvisational bands that incorporate an electronic music element as key to their sound. Bands like “The New Deal”, “Lotus”, and “Sound Tribe Sector Nine” began playing this amalgamation of sound around the Millennium, and now it out of the resurgence in popularity of house music and the birth of dub-step, it seems like what was once a deviance is now the standard. Perhaps the newbie generations of live-music followers seek out a more aggressively “dancey” edge to their jam-bands. The largest draw of crowds seems to be for shows like “Pretty Lights”, “Deadmaus”, or “Glitch Mob”, rather than my generation’s (groan, I’ve been outdated at 24 years old) more jamgrass oriented popularity.
Some of these “trance-fusion” acts are more successful or original than the others. One of the hottest of these sorts of bands to surface in the last five years is certainly Summit County’s own Yamn. Yes, another food-named jam-band. But these guys are anything but cliché or predictable. Having met in the Denver area but truly gaining popularity in the Colorado mountain area, the four members outgrew their hometown status perhaps quicker than they imagined. The quartet of Brian Hamilton (guitar), Adam Ebensberger (drums), David Duart (bass), and Ryan Ebarb (keys) certainly use a midi-interface, but have a generally more authentic sound than the lot of the “trance-fusion” bands. No Mac-Books onstage to walk these guys through their most popular hits. Yamn is serious, live, and different every time.
I have had the pleasure of seeing these fellas perform over a handful of times. I even had the chance to meet them at the Electric Avenue festival in Five-points neighborhood of Denver. All super laid-back Colorado vibe guys. This last time at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, a near sold-out crowd braves the sudden drops in temperature and large winter storm the day before to see some Colorado grown electro-funk. And naturally in the Halloween spirit of theme shows, Yamn obliged with a relatively unexplored idea in live performance: re-creating a film’s pop-music soundtrack. The flick pick? Cameron Crowe’s 2000 cult-classic Almost Famous.
If you are unfamiliar with the film or the soundtrack… get out more often. The film’s tour-de-France of the popular rock music scene in the 1970s through an “almost” true story is filled to the brim with iconic and legendary rock and pop hits. What is Yamn’s association with the music or the film? Hard to say. Does this really matter? Not to me. They are obviously fans of a well-put together soundtrack and felt it would match the vibe of the Halloween party weekend beginning.
Rather than going through a time-line song by song, some of my favorites performed that night were “One Way Out” (Elmore James), “America” (Paul Simon), “That’s The Way” (Led Zeppelin), and “Tiny Dancer” (Elton John). It’s more about HOW they performed these classics. In a totally Yamned out way. Super high-energy electronic fusion jams transition each of these radio hits. Every time I go to one of their shows, it’s like rediscovering their sound again. These guys are a tight unit who know how to jam with each other inside out. Never getting repetitive or “whompy” they are embracing a true fusion sound and deserve as much ado in the genre as some of the more popular acts in the touring circuit (“Lotus”, “Thievery Cooperation”, “Ghostland Observatory”). To me, they are producing more interesting music and taking larger risks than the supposedly bigger acts out there. They certainly perform each show “without a net” and are destined to grow in popularity as time rolls along. That night at the Fox they performed over three hours of high-energy music in two sets. Though they played the Almost Famous soundtrack inside out, sometimes it was easy to forget and to loose yourself in their trademark improvisational style.
Want to be ahead of the up-and-coming curve in the scene? Go ahead and support these hard-working musicians. With shows always costing less than fifteen bucks a ticket and shows peaking at long lengths and high times, it seems like the quartet keeps coming at their audiences with exciting new concepts and never the same show twice.