Saturday, May 26, High Noon Saloon, 9:30 pm
Even the organizers of the Bonnaroo music festival know that indie-rock hipsters are in and jam-rock hippies are out. Bonnaroo 2006, after all, featured more bands like Death Cab for Cutie and fewer bands like Widespread Panic.
But don't tell the fans of San Francisco's New Monsoon. They call themselves Monsoon-Heads and travel together with their easygoing, all's-well Monsoon friends.
At their Web site, monsoonheads.tribe.net, the hippie holdovers had a hard time picking a moderator. When conflict seemed near, a Monsoon-Head named Hoops nudged these part-time bloggers back to jam reality:
"I think everyone should go outside and play," wrote Hoops. "Screw all this computer stuff."
Bonnaroo and indie-rock popularity notwithstanding, the communal allure of jam rock remains a potent force in pop music. But indie's eclecticism is influencing jam culture. In recent years the String Cheese Incident brought a bluegrass feel to jam. Now bands like New Monsoon are making a kind of jam rock that heavily incorporates Indian and Latin styles.
New Monsoon were formed in 2000 by Bo Carper and Jeff Miller, two Penn State friends who met up again in California. Miller has said he never set out to form a band with a world-music vibe. It just happened that way based on the instrumental interests of the players who joined him and Carper, including tabla virtuoso Rajiv Parikh and didgeridoo player Marty Yiltalo.
On New Monsoon's most recent studio album, 2005's The Sound, the band shows it can transcend jam. "Journeyman" teems with classic-rock guitar hooks. The album's title track speaks to media overexposure. Miller's solution: Turn down the sound.
Miller has another hippie idea that's radical in 2007: He wants to get New Monsoon's music played on mainstream radio. Looking back to a time when the Allman Brothers were Top 40, Miller says, "We want to bring great rock music back to the radio."
That's proof enough that hippies can still be wildly impractical dreamers.