Reviews

Concert Review: The Jelly Jam Rock Out in Washington, DC

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After 18 years of recording, the supergroup trio known as The Jelly Jam finally toured this summer for the first time ever in support of their new album, Profit. The tour was very small—only 8 shows confined to the northeast United States—and it wasn’t well publicized. The tour culminated with the final show on August 6th at The Hamilton Live, a small venue in Washington, DC. In fact, this show almost slipped by my radar, which would have been a tragedy since it was a rare opportunity to see these three world-class musicians perform a very tight set in an intimate environment.

The Jelly Jam is a side project of three veterans from the world of progressive music: Rod Morgenstein (Dixie Dregs/Winger) on drums, John Myung (Dream Theater) on bass, and Ty Tabor (King’s X) on guitar and vocals. The band plays a blend of hard rock combined with progressive rock elements, like complex time signatures and spacey psychedelic passages. The songs tend to be concise three- to five-minute tunes dominated by monster guitar riffs, energetic drumming, and prominent use of vocal effects. The power trio instrumentation results in a sound that is similar to those King’s X songs on which Tabor sings lead vocals, and fans of that band are likely to enjoy The Jelly Jam.

The origins of the band can be traced back to a late-90s side project named Platypus (side note: Platypus is arguably the best name for a Dream Theater side project to-date). Platypus released two albums with former Dream Theater keyboardist Derek Sherinian onboard. After Sherinian’s departure, the remaining members chose a new moniker, and thus The Jelly Jam was born.

Myung_300By the time The Jelly Jam arrived in DC on the last night of the tour, they had clearly worked out all the kinks. For three musicians who are busy with their respective careers with little time to prepare a side project tour, I was impressed that I didn’t hear a bum note all night. Despite the tight performance exuding from the stage, the show was not well attended—bad news for the band, but great news for the fans. The audience could walk right up to the stage, which was only elevated knee-height above the standing area, and watch the band from just a few feet away. Even having seen some small King’s X shows back in the early 2000s, I don’t think I’ve ever been that close to Tabor during a performance. And this certainly made my third row seat at the last Dream Theater concert seem like the cheap seats when I stood in front of Myung. The audience was thin enough that you could just move around the stage or head to the bar and meander back to the front row. For a mere $25, I got a VIP experience and a phenomenal show.

The stage show was simple. No giant LCD displays. No psychedelic videos or lighting. No crazy stage antics. The focus was on the music. All you got was three talented musicians rocking out hard. And as it turns out, that’s all you really need. The guys busted out many of their most memorable songs from the first two albums interspersed with the newer material. There was plenty of monster riffing on songs like “Not Today,” “Allison,” and of course the hard rocking “Nature’s Girl.” Ambient textures on songs like “Heaven” and “Reliving” added contrast to the set.

Tabor_300The progressive elements of this band conveyed well in the live setting. The understated complexity of each member’s performance came through. Highlights included an extended drum fill in 7/8 time on “No Remedy” and a protracted psychedelic guitar solo with volume swells over heavily syncopated drumming at the end of “I am the King.” For the encore, they played the opening tracks from their two most recent releases: “Care” from Profit and “Who’s Comin Now” from 2011’s Shall We Descend.

After the show, the guys came out to meet the fans and sign autographs. Tabor indicated that they plan to do another tour in the future, possibly targeting the US west coast next. Let’s hope they can find the time and label support to follow through. For any fans of the individual musicians, their respective bands, and especially fans of King’s X, I highly recommend catching a show if you can.

Setlist:

  1. Nature – Intro only
  2. I Can’t Help You
  3. Memphis
  4. No Remedy
  5. Reliving
  6. Not Today
  7. Allison
  8. Empty
  9. Heaven
  10. Man
  11. I Am the King
  12. Same Way Down
  13. Halos in Hell
  14. Feeling
  15. Nature’s Girl

Encore:

  1. Care
  2. Who’s Comin Now

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