In the summer of 1998 I spent five weeks in California making a music video I rarely show and studying for an astronomy test I didn’t pass. Part of some pre-college, post-adolescent study program, I bunked in the UCLA dorms with a fellow 16 year old I can only describe as your typical, level two, suburban prep-school Phishhead(lets just say his name was written on both a pair of patchworks and a Time Square theater). At the time I was about a year deep into my jamband addition and beginning to venture outside the Pharmer’s Almanac to hear new music. Eager to learn about the magical world which existed outside mainstream radio, I let my roommate DJ most of the time and, before we went to bed, he’d often play a live CD by this little band from Colorado, the Samples. Though they don’t always get credit for it, the Samples mark the point in jamband lineage where organic pop veered in its own direction, opening up the door for countless bands, from Dave Matthews Band to Rusted Root, Dispatch to Guster. Something about the group’s sound immediately touched my soul and I soaked up every second of their then new CD, Transmissions from the Sea of Tranquility. For a short while I made a conscious effort to see them when they came to town, but, sometime around my sophomore year of college, I lost touch with the Samples and sound they helped spawn.
But Monday, while I was skiing in Colorado, I randomly saw a sign-hanging in SnowmassVillage for a free outdoor show headlined by that little band I learned about one summer almost ten years ago. I dragged one of my high-school buddies back to town that night and, for a few minutes at least, remembered why the Samples are so special. In retrospect their sound is somewhat dated---a snapshot of a generation raised with H.O.R.D.E. tour and hacky-sacks---but, to borrow a recent description I heard of the band Explosions in the Sky, they still offer a “sad, hopeful music” and, for me, represent a time when the word jam could, and should, have replaced pop. I didn’t recognize many of the group’s songs that night or, quite frankly, many of the musicians onstage, but that same sad, hopeful music still made me feel special. I hope they made you feel equally special this sweet Thursday.