Curtis Harding/ Night Sun
We caught Curtis at the right time. Cause right after he jammed in The Van, dude got popular, real fast. Deservedly so. Not only is Curtis a real solid hombre to kick it with, say, at a party in Echo Park thrown by the dirt bags from Criminal Hygiene (which is where we firts met him), but he’s also one hell of a talent. His solo track, Cast Away is one of those jams that you can play ten times in a row and not get sick of. That’s good for the number 6 slot on this year’s list, as well as our best wishes for a genuinely rad dude to keep on making jams that we want to keep playing. Here’s to getting you back in The Van in 2015. Cause we’re getting cooler too, you know?
The Black Cadillacs
This session fell on one of our SXSW nightmare days. We were in full scramble mode trying to relocate to a spot where police wouldn’t hassle us. Luckily the Black Cadillacs couldn’t have cared less that we were a bit off schedule. They saw free beer and an empty parking lot with plenty of prime pavement, so they broke out their skate boards and cruised around until it was their time to jam. Then they unleashed a three song set of rock and roll that was truly the definition of heady. Since lots of people ask us what “heady” means, well, now you know where to find the definition, go watch this session.
I promise I didn’t plan to have three rock and roll hall of famers’ offspring back to back on this list. It just happened that way organically. The thing is, each one of them played an amazingly heady set. In addition to that, Amy Helm also told us some amazing stories about growing up around the amazing music that she did and touring the touring lifestyle that she’s been accustomed to for so long. She also got kind of bummed when I told her that AQUAHydrate was P-Diddy water. I believe the quote she gave was “I thought we’re all hippie here.” A pretty heady quote, a pretty heady woman, and a pretty heady session.
I guess I could use the same write up from #11 for this one. Lukas Nelson is another Rock and Roll legacy and another super nice dude. To make matters even headier, we filmed this session at a party that was thrown on his father, Willie Nelson’s ranch. The party was extremely heady, all sorts of good music and good times, and we got to hang out with the majority of the Nelson clan. That included Lukas, his mom, Annie, his brother, Michah, and his cousin, Lilly. They were all super nice, but I’ve got to say, none of them shredded quite like Lukas. Dude ripped and when he hopped out I distincly remember my buddy turning to me and saying “dude is a rock star.” Rock stars are heady.
You shouldn’t need to look past this man’s last name to understand why he’s on the list. This was rock and roll royalty, but so what? If he wasn’t nasty on the guitar it wouldn’t have mattered. Well, maybe it might have, but that isn’t even an issue, because dude was nice with it. In addition, he was just all around nice as far as being a person went. He told us that everyone he talked to about playing Jam in the Van was stoked for him and “hip to it,” and that made us feel all warm and good inside. Then he played a cover of “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac and that made us feel super warm and good inside. Then he walked to the comic book store next to where we had been filming and bought himself some comics, that’s friggin’ heady.
A few years back I remember going to our first Bonnaroo with the Jam Van. I’d been to Bonnaroo many times before, but never gotten to see things from a backstage perspective. That year I got that access, and the first show I used it at, and really discovered it at, was Deap Vally. It was the first night of the festival, people were super geeked up with excitement and the release of anticipation, and the energy in the air was electric, and the band fueled off of that, and the show that emanated from those two ladies really resonated with my memory, it was fantastic. So when we got a chance to film them at Moon Block Party I thought if they have just a fraction of those vibes when they play this session, we’re going to be dealing with something really heady. Well they had a fraction and then some. That some being like the whole damn thing. Once again, fantastic.
For starters, Keller took off his shoes before he played his session in The Van. I don’t know if that’s ever been done before, I don’t think it has, but I do think it’s super duper heady. Second, if you aren’t aware of who Keller Williams is, where he’s been, what he does, and who he’s done it with over the course of his illustrious career, well then I guess you’re just not that into Jam Bands. In all seriousness though, this man has a style all to his own. His fingers fly across his guitar unlike the fingers of any other human on Earth. So while we often get a kick out of trying to cram as many musicians as possible in The Van, sometimes it’s just as impressive to see one man get as big of a sound as possible with just his own two hands, a guitar, and nothing else…
Trampled By Turtles
As mentioned previously in this list, High Sierra Music Festival is like the headiest place on Earth to begin with. So as a result, every session played there has the chance to be on the headiest sessions list. So if you work by that equation it only stands to reason that the band whose session you play on repeat the most from High Sierra Music Festival would have to, just have to make the headiest of the year list. So when I got back from High Sierra, I had Trampled By Turtles’ session on repeat for about a week steady. All apologies to my neighbors, but it’s just that good. So we forgive the band for only playing us one song due to time constraints. The song was so rad that you can just play it on repeat and then it’s like they played us a few… get it?
It’s always good to have pride in the place you’re from. As such, I love it when we find musicians from my home state of North Carolina. When they leave us with as breathtaking a set as American Aquarium did at SXSW, it makes it even more wonderful. In fact, they closed down a very successful SXSW for us. They were the 31st of 31 bands that jammed in The Van in Austin in 2014. So here’s to the “First in Flight” State’s finest, next time y’all roll through Asheville, the Cotler family will be there in full force. Just do me a favor, play a little louder than usual, my dad’s a bit hard of hearing nowadays.
Jerry Jeff Walker
We reached out to this country legend on a whim. Didn’t really think it would happen, but hey, if there’s one thing we’ve learned on this journey, it’s that no matter what, it’s always worth a shot. Low and behold Jerry Jeff’s team got back in touch with us and said that he’d love to Jam in the Van. So we invited him and his band to our SXSW party. They rolled up in seperate cars, a bunch of older dudes at a SXSW party, but hey, old just means you’ve been doing it for longer. So they cracked their beers early, asked us where the funny cigarettes were, and they started jamming in the living room to warm up. Jerry Jeff Walker was a warm dude, he had those grandfather sensibiilities, like he was inviting us to sit on his lap and play us a song. Except we’re too big to sit on his lap. So he took a liking to our Jam in the Van mutt, RZA, instead, and RZA sat in The Van at Jerry Jeff’s knee and Jerry Jeff played him and us three songs, including “Mr. Bojangles,” and we won’t soon forget any of them. He’s kind of a legend, you know?
The Mother Hips
Everything that takes place at High Sierra Music Festival has a chance to be the headiest thing ever. That’s just the nature of the place. So when you get the pleasure of filming one of the headiest bands around at one of the headiest places around, you just hold on to your hat and hope the world doesn’t explode. This was one of those feel great moments in time, where you just look around at the sun shining, people dancing, and having a good time and you just realize how humbling happiness can be. To top it off, we got the Hips boys to drink Lagunitas, and that’s tricky considering they’re sponsored by Sierra Nevada, but hey, heady is as heady does.
About a year ago we saw a video of these kids playing Blue Collar Jane and our immediate response was “holy crap, we have to get them in The Van before they get too big for it.” Then by a strike of fortune we found out that they are on the Photo Finish Records imprint, and we’re pals with folks over there, so we figured we had a good shot. When The Strypes boys made their US invasion at SXSW we were lucky enough to be one of the outlets they performed for. The fact that we once again got kicked out of our parking space in front of the Photo Finish showcase and had to scramble to find a new location, made it all the more incredible that we made this happen. We ended up calling up the same old southern gentlemen that had almost booted us out of their lot earlier in the week outside of the Lagunitas’ Showcase and asked them if they had another lot for us to invade. They did. So we met The Strypes at the base of a parking structure in downtown austin and recorded this fantastic session. The only bummer on the day was that our B-Roll camera’s memory card fried, so we lost a lot of the fun footage, except for the stuff we got from our doggie-cam. So we have a lot of footage of The Strypes petting my dog, oh, and also this awesome session…
In the 90′s we (the dudes who started Jam in the Van) were at that age when you first start listening to music. In fact, one of my first CDs ever was Blues Traveler’s “Four.” So laying on a bean bag chair and smoking a california cigarette with John Popper was pretty friggin awesome for us. The fact that he played “Run Around” for us, well, that was the heady icing on the heady cake.
Our return to SXSW was indeed a glorious one. As expected, it was also incredibly hectic and packed full of sessions. A few of our SXSW sessions definitely stood out. Such was the case when we met up with J. Roddy Walston outside of the Lagunitas Showcase. We had lost our parking space at the venue and had to scramble to find a lot behind the show, and during J. Roddy’s session the owners of the lot showed up and told us we had to get lost, but we pleaded with them and gave them some sixers of IPA and by some heady will of the Head Gods they changed their minds and let us finish the session and the day. So tha along with the fact that J. Roddy and the Business are the fughin business made this session a must have on our headiest of 2014 list!
Tea Leaf Green
We love it when bands come back and play The Van multiple times. We hadn’t seen Tea Leaf Green since SXSW 2011, so we were happy to have them again at Bottle Rock this year. These veterans of the head scene did not disappoint, in fact, dare we say they did it better the second time around?