Without music, concerts wouldn't exist and funk would just be the smell emanating from an old sock filled with corn. Lend an ear to this GrouponLive deal to SteelJam at Musikfest Café, a part of ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks in Bethlehem. For $30, you get one two-day pass for general admission on Friday, November 9, and Saturday, November 10 (up to a $60 value). Doors open nightly at 6 p.m. Performances start at 6:30 p.m. Friday and at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The bands at SteelJam come from all over the country and make use of genres as diverse as electronica, roots rock, funk, and soul, but they all share a certain cast of mind when it comes to performing. Each band gives its music, like a fine wine, space and time for its complexity to develop fully, allowing for dazzling improvisation and extended jams that keep audiences guessing and dancing at the same time. Friday night kicks off with electronic indie-rock duo Revolution, I Love You, whose hypnotic future-scapes develop a deep state of technologically induced relaxation usually known only to robots who have eaten too much Thanksgiving turkey. The Stepkids surround three-part falsetto harmonies and striking visual backdrops with a blend of early ‘70s soul and gospel drenched in third-eye psychedelia. Fans swivel and sway late into the night to the two-pronged DJ attack of BoomBox—whose organic dance music mixes programming and live instrumentation—and the mad scientists of Conspirator, half of whom are also members of The Disco Biscuits.
Saturday’s lineup starts with Todd Sheaffer, who steps out from leading popular prog-bluegrass groups Railroad Earth and From Good Homes to share his acoustic songcraft and improvisational skills. Next, the cello-percussion duo of XVSK summons the power of 100 drum circles in a freewheeling set designed to evoke tribal rhythms with the help of modern loops. As the fest reaches its final hours, jam-band royalty Jimmy Herring, known as Widespread Panic’s lead guitarist and for his tours with the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead, scraps the vocals and sends his six-string on an ad-libbed tour de force with the Jimmy Herring Band. Five-time Grammy winner Victor Wooten of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones—voted one of the Top Ten Bassists of All Time by the readers of Rolling Stone—closes the festival with fresh visions of funky jazz fusion. Featuring four bassists, two drummers, horns, and whatever instruments they find by the side of the road on the way to the gig, The Victor Wooten Band creates a heavy undertow led by Wooten’s rip-tide solos.
Though this merchant sometimes offers a discounted price online, this Groupon is still the best deal available.