If the first generation of jam bands was led by the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band, and the second was led by Phish and The String Cheese Incident, then bands like Twiddle are at the fore of the latest generation. After a decade spent honing their chops, the band is rising at a rapid pace, nearing affirmed, lasting success and earning their place in this lineage.

As a Vermont-based quartet, the comparisons to Phish are inevitable, and Twiddle embraces them, seeing Phish not only as musical models but clearly as career models.

Just like Phish did in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Twiddle is touring ferociously, working the jam-band-friendly markets such as the Northeast, Colorado and Oregon, and consciously aiming for bigger rooms on each visit. In Portland, they sold out Port City Music Hall earlier this year and followed it by playing the much bigger State Theatre just months later — and if they didn’t sell it out, then it was better to have empty space than to leave any prospective fans wanting.

Like many jam bands, ascendant or otherwise, they wisely group shows around holidays to boost the notion that their concerts are events. So they played the State Theatre on the evening before Thanksgiving. If it seems unwise to the outside observer to play a concert on one of the biggest travel days of the year, then it’s worth noting that many fans traveled from the outside Maine just to come see them.

It’s clear to see why they’ve inspired such devotion. Twiddle is a thoroughly likable and phenomenally gifted quartet that hops right into an often-complex blend of jazz, rock, reggae and funk and stays locked in for the whole duration. Fronted by Mihali Savoulidis, a Santana-like guitarist with a diverse sonic range, the band listens to each other closely and easily conjures up danceable rhythms and melodies during their improvisational excursions.

To new listeners, it is difficult to discern if their jams are going from a point A to a point B. They seem to move in cycles rather than straight lines, trying out different textures for a few minutes at a time before moving on to the next one. They employ fairly standard tricks of jam bands, such as dramatically shifting from frantic play (tension) to gloriously sustained notes (release), and briefly feinting away from their own momentum taking it to the next level of intensity. They’re very liberal in their use of such tools, giving their performance the feel of a DJ set more than a concert.

The songs themselves are Twiddle’s Achilles’ heel. Phish was criticized for their lyrics, but their compositions have always have been tight, imaginative and effective across a wide range of musical genres. Twiddle’s melodies aren’t potent enough to differentiate one upbeat, reggae-tinged song from the next, and it often seems like the verses are just something to pass the time until they can uncork another 10-minute improvisational session. The lack of memorable songs, despite incredible jams, made the show seem like all flight and no launchpads, but this band is heading for great heights.

Robert Ker is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.


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