By Michel Miller 09/06/2012
Spawned sometime in the late ’60s in the fertile medium of drug-fueled psychedelia and rock festival culture, jam music continues to court people looking for a specific type of music experience. Improvisation is the heart of the jam, prolonged guitar solos and complex rhythms are the soul. And none of it is easy. A good measure of technical prowess is required to perform it, as well as a multigenre and multicultural repertoire. Enter Mark Masson. A Clapton-esque technician with a lighthearted spirit, Masson’s performances as frontman for Shaky Feelin’ are wow-worthy sonic excursions that usually get even the most self-conscious types to let go and let groove. “We’re not a 45-minute band,” says Masson. “We like to improvise a lot and explore.” The band also includes Rob Jeffries on bass, Paul Menchaca on the drum kit and Cameron Probe on drums/percussion.
Jam: It’s not just for toast
If there’s one element that’s crucial to the Shaky Feelin’ experience — both for the audience and the band — it’s dancing. Originally a trio called The Situation, when the band added a second drummer it gave another dimension to the sound — one that usually makes it difficult for the audience to remain motionless — so a new name seemed fitting. Masson decided on Shaky Feelin’ because that’s what he wants people to embrace. “We want people to get out and cut the rug, and don’t worry.” Masson advises that alcohol is a great, umm, “enhancer.” Indeed, people often feel embarrassed if they’re not moving at a Shaky Feelin’ show, and those who simply can’t let go are often involuntarily swept into a frenzy of swaying and flailing body parts by the sheer energy of the crowd. Fortunately, unlike the mosh pit, dancers at a Shaky Feelin’ show are unlikely to leave injured.
Shake it till you make it
Kings of the jam band circuit, Phish, are known to invite fans to camp out when they have multiple shows at a single venue. But when the band goes off stage before midnight, what are keyed-up fans supposed to do with all that grooved-out energy? Burn it off with Shaky Feelin’. “We grab our generator, put our stage together and rock the campgrounds, performing in front of thousands of people until the wee hours of the morning,” says Shaky Feelin’ manager Mike McGrath. It’s a great way to increase exposure and play in front of people who will undoubtedly be receptive. Last year they played campgrounds in Telluride, Deer Creek, Indiana, Alpine Valley and Wisconsin. And while the jam scene is reminiscent of the 1960s, don’t call Shaky Feelin’ hippies. Says Masson (tongue gently in cheek): “Just because we have a Persian rug on stage or bring in tie-dye doesn’t make us a hippie band.”
Currently finishing up a tour of the West and Midwest in support of the new record The Real Picture, with Masson in the driver’s seat of their white Chevy van, the band is far from road weary; to the contrary, they seem invigorated by touring (and 5-Hour Energy). “No one likes a band that stays in its home town all the time,” says Masson. “It’s quite the experience, but it’s felt like zero work.” One of Masson’s personal goals was to play guitar in Austin, Texas, which he accomplished last month, and he couldn’t be more stoked. When he spoke to VCReporter, the band was on its way to Boulder, Colo., which he says “is really our scene.” The weirdest stop so far? Wichita, Kan. “Wow, small town, rough crowds,” he laughed. What makes a crowd rough in the eyes of a jam band? “People are shy, they don’t really dance. When you have people just sitting there with a weird-looking face it can kill your confidence.” But despite a fondness for plaid short-sleeve shirts, Shaky Feelin’ has every reason to be confident. Says ardent fan and occasional sit-in percussionist Rene Ponce, “They never play a song the same twice. It’s impossible to sit or stand still when they are playing. And most important, they’re all the nicest people you’ll ever meet!”
The road goes on forever
Shaky Feelin’ will celebrate the release of The Real Picture on Friday, Sept. 7, at Good Bar in Ventura.