Local jam band favorites the Heights Funk Collective will play ElectroLuv 2018.Photo courtesy of Hank Lamb/ElectroLuv 2018
“We live in the best time in the history of this planet for music,” Hank Lamb enthuses. “Because everything you’ve ever heard is in play now. And it’s being played as well as ever, if not better, and by more people than ever before. Music has really taken off.”
That musical enthusiasm is especially on a high level for Lamb’s preferred genre of music – jam bands. They’re the focus of his weekly Sunday night 9 p.m. to midnight KPFT radio show “ElectroLuv.”
He started the show (which can be heard on the station’s HD2 signal and online) in 2014, the same year he organized the first ElectroLuv live music festival. This year’s two-night event will begin on the evenings of October 5 & 6 and crawl into the wee hours of their respective next mornings at the Last Concert Café.
The lineup will feature both local and regional jam-friendly acts including Pierce Elevated, MOJO, Hellina Bucket, Jes, Cut by Water, Potroast, the Heights Funk Collective, and Premium Blend. There will also be drum circles and a set of Grateful Dead covers.
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Local musician Jes will have his hands full over the two days. In addition to emceeing the event onstage with Lamb, he’ll be performing solo, improvisationally with a group of friends, and as part of the Dead set.
“I love the jam aspect. I like being the acoustic singer/songwriter, but also be part of the larger scene and play with other people. I’m always big on bringing more people in,” he offers. “It’s not about proficiency. It’s about having fun on stage and being positive.”
The jam genre has its roots with the freewheeling, improvisational, and marathon ‘60s/’70s shows by bands like the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band, then came into fruition in the mid ‘80s with acts including Phish, Widespread Panic, and Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Unit. That scene later spawned Gov’t Mule, Leftover Salmon, and the String Cheese Incident.
And while all of those acts are candidates for play on the ElectroLuv show, Lamb is also focusing on newer acts from the many different branches of jam that have developed over recent years like jamtronica (with its more electronic sounds), jazz, funk, and even disco offshoots in acts like Lettuce, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, and Sound Tribe Sector 9. Lamb says this focus is not a coincidence.
“For the longest time, KPFT has been the old hippie station,” he says. “I go to a lot of music festivals like Waterloo in Austin and Lockn’ in Virginia, and I like to see what the new hippies are doing, younger people who could become members of the station. And that’s why I started the program and the festival.”
In fact, outdoor festivals are something of a lifeline for the jam music fans, who might attend almost as much for the sense of community, meeting like-minded souls, and the attendant arts and crafts as for the music itself. Though Lamb admits not everyone out there is on the same wavelength for the same reasons.
“There is the kind of Bro Culture in the scene that just wants to get out there and party because they’ve heard the name of the band from someone they know. But there was a huge Houston contingent at the Waterloo Festival in Austin. Same for Lockn’ in Virginia,” Lamb says.
“We’re trying to build a jam scene here. But all the major jam bands have been passing us by. Houston has a long history of trouble with cops at shows because people want to smoke weed. People are a little looser at jam shows than maybe others. And a lot of them are also socially conscious and ecologically minded. They’ll leave an outdoor area cleaner after they leave than how they found it.”
Local jam band scene stalwarts Potroast will play ElectroLuv 2018.
Photo courtesy of Hank Lamb/ElectroLuv 2018
Lamb, who has also hosted KPFT’s “The Prison Show” for six years, has a long history with the station as both a listener and a participant. He remembers in the early ‘70s when it broadcast from the upper floor of the building on Prairie and Louisiana in downtown Houston that now houses Birra Poretti’s.
Back then he remembers there was a restaurant called the Bowery in the space, and the multitude of hippies coming in and out of the KPFT Studios were forced to use the back stairs so as not to be seen in the eatery. Though Lamb says they eventually relaxed the informal “No Hippies” rule.
After moving to California for years, Lamb returned to Houston and the station. Some of the proceeds from the ElectroLuv event will benefit the member-and-donation-supported station, and he’ll keep some back to hire “even bigger bands” for next year’s planned event.
Support and listenership for the ElectroLuv program has been steadily growing, according to Lamb. And traffic to the show’s Facebook page (where he’ll often post audio and additional band info) has gone from a few hundred to 14,000 hits last month. He adds that he hears from listeners as far away as Nashville and San Francisco.
Jes adds that Lamb is a one-man proselytizer for jam music. “Hank is really shining a light on some of the local jam bands that people wouldn’t otherwise know about,” he says. “It’s been a great, positive atmosphere, and Last Concert is bringing in some national bands, and there are other similar shows on KPFT. We’re not at the stage where Houston can get a Phish or Dead & Company show, but we will be soon. The local scene is blowing up.”
ElectroLuv 2018 starts at 7 p.m., Oct. 5, and 7 p.m. Oct. 6, at the Last Concert Café, 1403 Nance. Call 936-239-0040 or visit https://electroluv2018.bpt.me. $20-$35
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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.