by Meredith Breedwell Rabe
The older I get the more Saturday nights have become a night of pj’s and merlot. But there’s one particular local band that will make me trade in my cozy pj’s for my dazzling party pants any day. And that band is JammSammich.
This Saturday night I found myself in my finest pair of party pants (black leggings) and going to dinner with one of my favorite local bands. I am used to dancing under the stars at the Riverfront when I enjoy JammSammich, so Saturday night’s gig at Goodfella’s in Pekin was a welcome change.
As I sat down to dinner with four of the six guys, I was delighted to find that they had been together about fifteen years, a rarity with local bands, and I immediately felt like I was infiltrating a fraternity of sorts.
In the late nineties, four of the guys that I am referring to as the “founding fathers” started a band to give local Peorians a grooving dance soundtrack to accompany their weekends. Their primary set was influenced by that of funk, soul, and R & B. Their sets complete with funky polyester and Afro's were on any stage that would allow them to perform. They were perfecting their sound, adding a horn, and getting creative with spacing and small stages, essisentially laying the ground work for how they play today. They’d play gigs Thursday –Sunday opening for bigger bands which they later poached their own loyal following.
As time went past, their popularity grew, and it went from fun and funky to actually being financially profitable with sponsorships and filling larger venues, and Jamm discovered that there is a business side to doing what they love. Music tastes shifted, thanks Nirvana, and the band began covering more current music. Now, when a song comes out and is a huge hit, JamSammich can easily mix it into their set. They can play most anything from 80's rock, to the now infamous Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines, and most genres in between. I feel not just relying on their funk de ’soul roots, but continuing to expand their catalog with new music, and the ability to put on an engaging live show, is really the secret to their broad appeal.
The boys talked about how well the brotherhood, which plays over a 100 shows a year, works as a team, reading each others minds and being able to pick up nonverbal cues. Knowing what the other person across the stage is capable of and anticipating their next move. “It’s a synchronized dance between band members” said Brian Carroll, who plays guitar and contributes lead vocals.“It’s as much of a friendship as it is a band” added drummer Doug Rendleman, “I feel like this is the best incarnation of the band, the longest running, we’ve seen,“ he continued. They were glowing as they talked about each other and their bassist, Scott Wignall, who didn’t grace us with his presence for dinner, that he was in fact their band’s “Soul mate of bass playing”. There was a lot of love and very little ego with those guys.
But JammSammich doesn’t just play bars or festivals or keep their talents in Peoria. They’ve played the Vegas strip and in recent years a free show for nearly 5,000 fans at a tailgate party at LamBOO, sorry I’m a Bear’s fan, Lambeau Field for a Packers vs Bears Monday night football game. Saturday night’s Goodfella's gig was a great representation of what they bring to the stage, wherever they may play. An evening filled with good jams, fun crowd interaction, and a dance floor filled with people of all ages having a rockin’ good time. It doesn’t matter where they play a bar, the Peoria River front, or a private party- everyone has a BLAST. And in the words of horn and vocalist, Bill Truelove, “We just want to make people happy”.