The jam band world connects with Hampton Roads primarily through the freaky triangle created by Hampton Coliseum, the Grateful Dead and Phish, but a homegrown improvisational rock scene is also taking root here.
The Dharma Initiative has been mixing dub reggae and electronic sounds for years. Family Tree provides guitar-fueled fun inspired by classic rock. Then, there's the explorations of Professor Marvel, an experimental jam band that got its start in Poquoson.
The group, which creates colorful sonic landscapes with guitars and electronic keyboards, has released a pair of albums recorded live in the studio. "Entering the Atmosphere" arrived last year, following up on 2011's "Out on Stead Ranch."
Think instrumental Pink Floyd with a dash of funk and modern keyboard textures are you're starting to get the picture.
The band's been gigging locally for about three years and has started branching out to play regional festivals such as Pink Moon in West Virginia.
Professor Marvel leader Mikey Famiglietti told me this week that the group developed from a group of childhood friends who attended Poquoson High School.
"Back in school, we were more into punk-rock scene," said Famiglietti, a 26-year-old guitarist and keyboardist. "Then, I guess, we were into metal. But we’ve all changed so much. Everyone has different influences. Now, we're listening to everything from Avett Brothers, J. Cole, to a lot of EDM [electronic dance music]. We’re all over the place. We like Umphrey's McGee, Sound Tribe Sector 9. We used to like NOFX and Propaghandi, all those old-school punk bands. But we've been going in a dance direction lately."
Professor Marvel plays the Hampton Taphouse for the first time Friday, Nov. 29, but its already rocked venues including the Jewish Mother, the County Grill in York County and Hoss's Deli in Newport News, where the group helped launch a tradition of presenting left-field music during the bar's Thursday craft beer nights.
"We definitely have gotten bigger around here," Famiglietti said. "We've been playing a lot more festivals. I don’t see many albums selling, but we're getting streamed more. No one makes money on records anymore. We’re at the point where we give them away. It’s more about exposure for us. You're not going to make any money if no one knows who you are."
Famiglietti said a forthcoming album from Professor Marvel will feature vocals. It's a move he hopes will win the band more followers. "Exposure is our big thing right now," he said. "We can’t do anything until we have a following. So we're promoting and playing as many places as we can."