As independent publishers, we know what’s involved in putting together a magazine for the good of a community. When we came across Appalachian Jamwich, we knew we had encountered like minded souls who share the goal of making things better for artists, musicians, and the world at large.
Elise Olmstead, creative director and managing editor of Appalachian Jamwich, thinks of the magazine as a “grown up coloring book.” This is ironic—while it’s about as vivid and fun as one, it hardly encourages staying within the lines.
Appalachian Jamwich focuses on jam band culture in its title’s highlighted area. To learn more about the project, I spoke with Olmstead; her husband, Eric Olmstead, who is the editor in chief and prefers to be called Taco; and publisher Daniel King.
This past winter, the Olmsteads were en route to Asheville, North Carolina for Warren Hayne’s Christmas Jam, an annual music festival to support Habitat for Humanity. “I started talking about how we needed to do something for the scene, about how much we love the jam music scene, about how we needed to bridge that life with our professional life” said Taco, “and I’m just talking off the top of my head, so I’m like, hey, let’s start a magazine.”
A month later, that’s exactly what they did. Whoa, man.
Despite their sheer lack of publishing experience, the three quickly managed to garner a team committed to the promotion of improvisational music and its surrounding scene. Diving in headfirst, they were worried that their most basic positions wouldn’t fill, but “within two weeks, we had probably a dozen photographers. And it was the same with writers,” said Taco.
Initially, the team was amazed at the infectiousness of their impulsive idea, but they were able to explain the phenomenon with ease. “People still dream,” said Taco. “It’s just that I don’t think people get the opportunity to live out their dreams.”
It’s those opportunities that every element of Appalachian Jamwich seeks to spread. It’s staffed by passionate amateurs, a term that one shouldn’t necessarily imply a lack of talent. And it covers those who really need the promotion.
“My God! We’ve opened so many doors,” said Taco, with an air of earnest excitement rather than boastfulness. He went on to discuss the dozen or so musicians who, since being being covered in the magazine, have decided to devote their lives to what they really love.
“That’s so rare nowadays,” he said, detailing an unignorable platitude. “Today, it’s so hard to make what you love your job. So often, you can say, I have a house, I have a car, but you’re miserable for three hours a week, minimum. That’s why we all have a love of the artists. They’re the risk takers. In some ways, we live vicariously through them.”
It’s not just musicians in whom Appalachian Jamwich is interested. As King explained, last month, Elise hosted an illustration contest. The winning drawing was the month’s print magazine’s cover.
The three listed one visual artist’s story as particularly interesting. Rachel Brown illustrates the faces of each band she goes to see—and she goes to a lot of shows. “She’d been hiding out in her basement in Frederick,” said Taco, “but she immediately started getting all these questions…it was suddenly viable for her to make a living off this.”
Brown’s illustrations often portray traditional jam bands, but the magazine concerns itself with a pretty wide range of scenes and sounds. They cover a lot of literal ground (as far east as Baltimore, north as New York, as far south as Asheville and Charlotte), and possess a pretty loose definition of what a “jam band” is. Young bluesy rock band the McLovins are featured, but so are Manifest’s electronic rave-style shows and bluegrass talent Larry Keil. And Telesma, too. We can’t forget Telesma.
Interestingly, the variety has served to unify. Bands that would otherwise never know of one another have collaborated because of Appalachian Jamwich, and clusters of jam lovers have melded.
“It’s funny,” said Elise, “we’ll be handing out magazines to younger people, say, 18 to 30, and they’ll ask, hey, do you get any interest from the older crowd? And then we’ll hand them out to older people, you know, Deadheads and stuff, and they’ll ask the same thing about the younger crowd.” The magazine serves as a common ground.
The only real criteria for coverage is a surprise factor. “That’s why jam bands are so great,” said Taco. “They keep you on your toes. I mean, one of the best feelings in the world is to come home and have your friends jump out at you for a surprise party, right?” I guess at Appalachian Jamwich, it’s everyone’s birthday. All the time.
Appalachian Jamwich Mad Tea Party Jam – Danny King, Jim Dewey (lighting engineer for The Werks), Eric Olmstead, (in the back) Rodney Moore (blog writer for the website), Chris Houser (guitarist of The Werks), (underneath him) CharlieThelemann (helped with food vending), George Jones (graphic design), Dino Dimitrouleas (bassis of The Werkst), Donald Roof (The Werks band manager), Echo (writer)
Click here to visit Appalachian Jamwich online!