Jam Bands

Ten of Colorado's Best Jam Bands of 2018

SCI at Red Rocks.
SCI at Red Rocks. Courtesy of String Cheese Incident.
The following ten Colorado-based bands take their music beyond the expected boundaries of jamming and stretch the minds of their listeners — or, as Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead (the granddaddy of all jam bands) might say, these groups know how to take a song "for a walk in the woods" before returning to terra firma. Some of these artists stand unapologetically on the well-trodden path of classic-rock-inspired guitar noodling, while others just know how to explore and celebrate a groove while freaking freely in their chosen genres — and maybe even conveying a political or philosophical message. Yes, jam and bluegrass collide with funk, reggae, electronica, Latin and more, so let the lines be fluid.

The String Cheese Incident
Perhaps one of Colorado's best-known purveyors of feel-good festival rock (and the founders and owners of SCI Fidelity Records), the Cheese kicked off in the Crested Butte area around 1993 before relocating to the Front Range a few years later. Having played countless shows at venues and events including Red Rocks and Bonnaroo, the band compellingly blends elements of bluegrass with rock, electronica, psychedelia and assorted other influences to crowd-pleasing ends.

The Motet

Led by talented funk-inspired drummer Dave Watts, the Motet launched in Boulder in 1998. The group has earned a devoted fan base through steady touring, energetic performances and occasional theme-based shows. The seven-piece ensemble, which now calls Denver home, marks its twentieth year in 2018. With Watts on drums, Joey Porter on keys, Garrett Sayers on bass, Ryan Jalbert on guitar, Lyle Divinsky on vocals, Drew Sayers on sax and Parris Fleming on trumpet, the talented funk-and-soul outfit continues to shine.

Flash Mountain Flood

Finding its footing in Boulder, Flash Mountain Flood honed its chops through weekly residencies at the late Owsley's Golden Road (on University Hill) and performed regularly at Quixote's in Denver before bumping up to venues including the Fox Theatre. The five-piece classic-rock-inspired outfit borrows its vibe from artists such as the Allman Brothers, the Grateful Dead and Traffic, just to name a few. With new but pleasantly familiar-sounding original material and a steady work ethic, the group moves to the bubbling flow of its influences.


The three-piece SunSquabi brings jam music into the present with a tight blend of electronica and funk-infused rhythms. The band’s shows have been described as "electronic hydro funk" experiences. The act boasts the skills of Kevin Donohue (guitars/keys/production), Josh Fairman (bassist/synth) and Chris Anderson (drums), who lay down groovy pockets for the sake of building well-developed lines and climaxes. “It’s kinda like breathing," says Donohue. "We can communicate directly with each other both verbally and non-verbally, on stage and off.”

The rising Denver band MLIMA refers to its mix of funk, jam and rock as "mountain groove." Taking its cues from influences as far apart as Sound Tribe Sector 9, Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk and Led Zeppelin, MLIMA (pronounced-Mmm-Lee-Ma), which keeps a steady performance schedule around the Front Range, includes the soulful lead vocals of Jessica Jones along with a talented crew of jammers. MLIMA, the Swahili word for mountain, has played the ARISE Music Festival and has opened for acts such as Shpongle and the Disco Biscuits at Red Rocks among other impressive gigs. The group is poised to take it the next level at any moment.
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Nick Hutchinson writes about music for Westword and enjoys playing his guitar when not on deadline.
Contact: Nick Hutchinson