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Las Vegas Jam Band Society celebrates a decade of musical manifest destiny

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Jam on it: A shot from the LVJBS’ early days, taken before the farewell show for original home Legends Lounge.
Courtesy of Erik Kabik

When 20-odd Deadheads gathered in a bar called Legends Lounge on January 4, 2000, who'd have guessed they'd forge an institution going strong 10 years later? We caught up with longtime president Greg Serensits to figure out how — and why — the Las Vegas Jam Band Society continues to thrive in a city rife with dissolution.

Most people think Jam Band Society and images of spacey hippies come to mind, but you guys get tons of shit done ... close to 200 shows, to be specific.

(Laughs) We were incorporated by the IRS as a nonprofit on Halloween 2003, and we just fell in line with everything that required. We meet the first Tuesday of every month: We do officer reports and production reports, then go through the bands that have contacted me to decide if we want to do a show with them. The goal has always been to bring one band a month to Vegas, and we've succeeded.

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From the Calendar
JGB with Moksha
January 23, 8 p.m., $20-$25
moe.
February 27, 8 p.m., $30
Both show at the Hard Rock Cafe
3771 S. Las Vegas Blvd.
The Details
The Las Vegas Jam Band Society meets the first Tuesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. at the E-String Grill, 2031 W. Sunset Road; non-members are welcome to attend.
Beyond the Weekly
Las Vegas Jam Band Society

There's a jam-band fan stereotype — lazy stoners — but our society is made up mostly of business professionals: bankers, lawyers, salespeople ... A lot of people have donated their time and their talents—none of us gets paid a penny for this. We do it, as our motto goes, for the music.

How does membership work?

It costs $10 a month, but if you pay before March 1 it's $100 for the year. That gets you into four free LVJBS shows a year. Plus, venues like the House of Blues and the Joint give us free tickets for most of their big jammy shows — like Umphrey's McGee, The Black Crowes, Ratdog and Wilco last year — in exchange for us promoting the events, and we usually have enough for anyone who wants to go to those. We tell our members, you're just investing in your musical future.

The LVJBS' annual outdoor festival in Indian Springs, the Area 51 Soundtest, ran from 2001 through 2004. Why did you stop doing those?

We lost money on each one. We took a really big hit on the third one — we had Particle, moe. for two nights, we rented a circus tent .... and we ended up losing around $20,000. We had $20,000 in the bank, we put the Soundtest on, and then, essentially, we were back at $0. Then the next year, we built the account back up, we did Soundtest 4 and we lost about $6,000. So the next year we decided, let's not do that again. And at the time, Vegoose had been announced, so that became our Soundtest, only bigger and better than any we could ever run — and we didn't have to pay for it or produce it!

[Side note on that third Soundtest] Some friends of mine were waiting for us at breakfast when I came out of the meeting where I learned we'd lost $20,000. I'm eating with them, looking sorta somber, and they're like, "What's up?" And I say, "We just learned we lost $20,000 on this." And my buddy says, "Wow, I knew you guys were nonprofit, but this is extremely nonprofit." It really lifted that black cloud from over my head.

Now that Vegoose is gone, any temptation to bring back the Soundtest?

We have discussed it, and a lot of people have been hankering for one, but it's just so much work, and to end up losing money on it ... But we have not ruled it out. I have a feeling we're gonna do a Soundtest again at some point. I'd love to see how it would do in Vegas, somewhere a little more convenient. If the right place popped up and it all sort of fell into place, we'd probably take on the adventure.

What is it about jam-oriented music that keeps you coming back?

It makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when a band takes that musical chance — doing something different than they've done, and it's working beautifully, and they're looking at each other, like, "Yeah!" And the crowd's looking back at the them, like, "Yeah!" And they're looking back at us that way. That crowd/band thing that happens when it's all magical, there's nothing that can touch that. It's the greatest feeling in the world, as far as I'm concerned.

The JGB [Jerry Garcia Band] seems a fitting choice for your 10-year party.

One of the things that brought the LVJBS together was the Grateful Dead — we all went to Legends and listened to Grateful Dead tapes. So to have Melvin Seals, who played with Jerry, and that Grateful Dead sound seemed like a cool way to celebrate our anniversary. And then a week or two after I confirmed the JGB show, the agents for moe. accepted our offer for their show. So now that's part of our 10-year anniversary year. We'll ride this thing for all it's worth.

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Spencer Patterson

Spencer Patterson is Las Vegas Weekly's Managing Editor, having previously served as Arts & Entertainment Editor, Music Editor and a ...

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