I Haven’t Seen a Jam Like That Since I Toured the Smucker’s

I never thought I’d fill my 10 GB iPod. Now, nearly 2,000 songs later, I’ve chewed the Apple’s storage to the core. After coming to UVM, I quickly added a number of new CDs to my collection thanks to my Phishhead roommate and the sound junkies from my dorm.

The campus network allows iTunes users to view other libraries and even listen to tracks, but not download them (yeah right). With available piracy software that is clever and, most importantly, free, it is extremely convenient to take a file-sharing bender and multiply the number of songs in your repertoire.

Today, music is like politics. In an auditory election, singing candidates run campaigns and Americans punch their votes into text message ballots. Exit polls would probably tell us that the most important factors determining support are glossy, smooth hair and perky breasts — Ruben’s downfall. Then a teeny-bopping geek can land a record deal, star in her own reality show, and appear in television programs and commercials simply because of who her sister is.

You’ve got your hard-working artists, vocals wet with Magic Hat, playing every night because they love music: the jam bands. These are groups who bring jazz improvisational style to the rock and roll scene, combining two incredible concepts into a mind-blowing performance. They often play set after set and only scratch the surface of their talent.

Here on campus, the scene can be overwhelming or nonexistent, depending on with whom you spend your time. One minute you’re listening to the warped second side of a Grateful Dead vinyl and the next you’re drowning in whiny vocals from Ryan Cabrera’s new single. Thanks in part to corporations like Clear Channel, it is lip-synching artists like Britney and Ashlee that are being given the most media hype. On the storefront racks at Borders one is likely to see William Hung’s 2-Disc Christmas DVD or Justin’s latest solo project featuring guest “stars.”

The industry has gone mad. I remember one summer when I attended a Dead show at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. From the lawn, I had a great view of the band and of several large screens projecting colorful swirling patterns to accompany the melting guitar work of Bob Weir. During the intermission, the screens played advertisements for Ford and Viagra. Even Orwell couldn’t have predicted this. I’ve just listened to a 20-minute drum solo and they think I give a damn about APR financing and impotence.

It’s one thing to charge $10 for bottled water, but it’s another matter to subject our dilated pupils to cheap marketing ploys – we have to draw the line somewhere. Better yet, don’t support the hacks. Grab some gravy fries at Nectar’s and sit down for a show. But don’t leave when the band walks off stage the first time, it’s just an intermission. That’s right, you’re at a real concert now.