The 8 best jam-band shows in Denver this March

American Babies at the 1Up Colfax 3/4/14 In 2007, Philly-based Brothers Past frontman Tom Hamilton went back to his roots and started American Babies, a band that focuses on songcraft and takes influences from everyone from Lou Reed to the Grateful Dead. The Babies' live shows are high-energy, with surprise covers that have included the entire second half of Abbey Road, and you'll often see the musicians rotating to different instruments, sometimes even bringing talented friends on the stage with them for a spell. There is no entrance fee, so definitely go down and check out the 1Up when American Babies are playing: It's clean, spacious, good sound and it's fast becoming a local favorite.

McTuff at Park House 3/7/14 One of the bands on our "Jam Bands to Watch in 2014" list, this Seattle power-jazz trio creates a huge sound, a big part of it having to do with the frenzied playing of Joe Doria on the Hammond B-3. All instrumental, McTuff relies heavily on improvisational solos and all-systems-go demonstrations of instrumental prowess, making for a nonstop night of aggressive yet smooth music. Guitarist Andy Coe adds a raw rock feel to the sound with fuzzed-out distortion while acclaimed drum teacher Tarik Abouzied holds everything down and leads the band into different grooves.

ekoostik hookah with Rastasaurus at The Donkey OT 3/7/14 Forming around 1991, longtime jam band ekoostik hookah has seen it all and played with them all, even creating its own festival, Hookahville, the true sign of having a passionate fan base (they'll come camp for you for days). Fusing together funk, bluegrass, blues and rock with some psychedelic effects, ekoostik hookah continue to delight their happy fans years later. Psych-reggae act Rastasaurus open the night, taking well-crafted originals and covers to wild dimensions then bringing you safely back to ground over and over.

Galactic at the Fillmore 3/8/14 A night of New Orleans funk and jazz is always fun at the Fillmore since you tend to have room to dance there, and touring favorite Galactic hosts the night on Mar. 8th with Robert Randolph and the Family Band opening. Hip hop elements give a modern and fresh twist to Galactic's fusion sound, with drummer Stanton Moore employing phrase samplers to add even more intricate rhythms for saxophonist Ben Ellman to blare and skronk over.

Mike Gordon at the Boulder Theater 3/14/14 Just off the release of his critically acclaimed new album Overstep, Phish bassist Mike Gordon hits Colorado again with his band at the Boulder Theater. We just spoke with Gordon the other day, and he said that this time around they were going for a "more is more" approach, and had some tricks up his sleeve he couldn't wait to show the fans. The album is filled with catchy, quirky pop tunes that have some very complicated rhythms going on in the background, so expect a night of clever melodies, and get ready to jump together when they play "Jumping." The New Orleans Suspects at Cervantes' 3/14/14 New Orleans super group The New Orleans Suspects are no strangers to this area, and on March 14, they will be bringing their years of experience back through for a night of brassy funky Crescent City style sounds. As they throw the ball back and forth letting each talented musician show off their virtuosity with solo after improvisational solo, you can almost smell the powdered sugar wafting from Café du Monde. Leftover Salmon's Vince Herman will open the night with his raucous rock band Great American Taxi. Sounding at times like The Band, the songs blend honky tonk piano and rock and roll guitar with a little bluegrass and roots music. It will make a show that would be fun even without the great Vince Herman's effervescent front-man stage presence.

Twiddle at Cervantes' Otherside 3/14-15 Twiddle hit Colorado March 14 with their Trees Are Naked winter tour. Based in Vermont, this quartet blend funk, jazz and rock together while maintaining an overlaying reggae vibe. The complex compositions and intricate lyrics mean you have to really pay attention to the music to catch the depth of it.

Mixing Middle Eastern melodies with slinky cool dance-friendly grooves and steadily touring opener The Mantras have been consistently playing to larger audiences. With elements of funk, metal, electro and jazz improvisation, the various textures of sound keep their shows interesting and give you all kinds of different tempos to test new dance moves out on.

Conspirator at the Ogden 3/14/14 Formed in 2004 by Aron Magner and Marc Brownstein of the Disco Biscuits, Conspirator allows the two musicians to really explore and let out any electronic notions they have. Now a popular band in its own right, Conspirator plays shows that are heavy and melodic and there's always dancing. The occasional dub step beats mix with the bouncy textured electro to create a sound that pioneered a genre.

War with Cheech and Chong at 1st Bank Center 3/22/14 Funk legends WAR take the stage at 1STBANK Center. They're one of the best R&B/funk legends the country has. Spending years together touring, the diverse and multi-racial band still plays loose improvisational jams that give every player a chance to show his solo skills. Joining War are satirical stoner comedians Cheech and Chong, weaving their comedy bits through the thick funk jams and renditions of WAR's many hit songs. Expect many legal weed references.

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Leslie Simon