What: Jam Room Music Festival

Where: Hampton and Main

When: Saturday, Sept. 29, noon (Last band plays at 8:45 p.m.)

Price: Free

More: jamroommusicfestival.com

Nothing But Jams

This year, the Jam Room recording studio — for which the annual Jam Room Music Festival was initially mustered as an early 25th anniversary party — turns 30. And through those years, it’s proven an important part of not just Columbia’s musical legacy, but also the Southeast at large — particularly when it comes to metal and punk, with the studio having served acts from Antischism and In/Humanity to Kylesa and Black Tusk.

These days, the multifaceted Jam Room also boasts the hip-hop focused Boom Room studio and a dedicated mastering studio. With its eponymous 12-band block party set to hit Main Street on Saturday, Free Times tasked our regular music writers with picking a personal favorite from the many albums cut at the Jam Room.

As for me, my favorite just happens to be the Red Album, by the formidable Philadelphia-via-Savannah metal band Baroness, which will headline this year’s festival. So I reached out to singer/guitarist John Baizley to talk about the record and his memories of the Jam Room. — Jordan Lawrence

Danielle Howle and the Tantrums’ Do a Two Sable (1998)

Twenty years hasn’t dulled the sharpness of this album or its diverse sounds, which touch on country, folk and rock without genre constrictions or concerns. The band included scene veterans John Furr, Bryan Williams and Troy Tague of Blightobody, and it was produced at the Jam Room by David Leonard (The Outfield, John Mellencamp, Indigo Girls). The track listing includes several now familiar Howle classics such as “Host For the Notes,” “If You Wanna Leave” and “Big Front Porch,” along with “She Has a Past,” which received significant radio airplay. — Kevin Oliver

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American Gun’s Dark Southern Hearts (2006)

I still to this day believe this album is a would-be alt-country classic if it had ever landed in the right hands or if the Columbia band could have sweated it out long enough on the road for more people to hear it. The songs range from rough-and-tumble rockers to barroom tearjerkers, each delivered with a kind of songwriterly care and considered arrangement that won the band favorable comparisons to Uncle Tupelo and Lucero. But, at the end of the day, what made the album great was the gracefully indelible emotional hooks that the band hit time and time again, whether in the most contemplative of ballads (“Little Sister,” “Drowning Ship”) or shout-along moments of rock catharsis (“Tears,” “Sound of Blue”). — Kyle Petersen


Kylesa’s Static Tensions (2009)

Kylesa rose to prominence in the wake of breakthroughs by fellow Georgia-based bands Mastodon and Baroness, but never quite fit the reductive “sludge metal” tag that joined those acts. To wit, 2009’s Static Tensions found the band pushing further against the constraints of genre limitations than it had to date. Bolstered by a five-piece lineup that boasted two drummers and three singers, Static Tensions gave Kylesa plenty of room to stretch its dynamics, from charged hardcore punk into deep psych-rock haze. In hindsight, it proved a transitional album, too, as the band would delve further into psychedelic textures and dynamics, building upon the burly sludge of its earlier efforts before ultimately going on “indefinite hiatus” in 2016. — Bryan C. Reed

Thank God’s Ice/Age (2010)

I don’t know what Ice/Age, which Thank God recorded at the Jam Room in 2009, says about the Rosewood studio’s importance to Columbia. I suppose it says something about the Jam Room’s commitment to and reputation for vividly capturing heavy music that teases at the outer limits of genre boundaries. I suppose it also says something about the studio’s position as a place where local bands with distinct vision can go to put to acetate — or, more likely these days, to a hard drive — the best tangible approximation of the ideas rolling around in their heads. All I know for sure is that it’s my favorite of the Jam Room’s thousands of recordings. (And even then, maybe not: From Safety to Where’s “Mapping” seven-inch is right up there.) For me, that’s enough. — Patrick Wall

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Megan Jean and the KFB’s The Devil Herself (2013)

The Devil Herself marks the start of the washboard-and-horror-movie kitsch phase of Megan Jean and the KFB’s career, meaning that they unloaded a truckload of auxiliary percussion, kazoos, electric banjo and other novelties over a series of vamps (“Cemetery Man”), ghoulish zombie concerts (“Dead Show”) and apocalyptic nightmares (“Last Days”). They’ve evolved through three or four different musical phases since this one and become incredible players and songwriters, but damned if The Devil Herself isn’t a hell of a lot of fun. Megan Jean throws herself fully into each performance, purring, howling, hitting some fright-show friendly low notes and basically singing her ass off throughout. — Vincent Harris

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She Returns from War’s Oh, What a Love (2015)

Oh, What a Love was recorded at the Jam Room over four days with producer Don Dixon and engineer Zac Thomas. Thomas recalls, “Don had such an easygoing demeanor, it allowed him to coax the most beautiful takes out of the band.” What’s central to these songs by Charleston-based songwriter Hunter Park — in their brash hoopla and bruises — is the quest for identity. Take “The Connector,” a two-dollar-pistol narrative with early Springsteen rhapsodic worldbuilding about place and friendship. Or the earnest “Clean Switch,” which waltzes between self-effacing and clear-eyed condemnation. Across this remarkable album, the message is this: The life we have isn’t perfect — but it’s all we got. — Ethan Fogus

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King Vulture’s King Vulture (2017)

Each song on this Columbia band’s striking debut stands vivaciously alone, at times sounding like a variant of Warpaint while dosed in the gasoline of pedal effects, saxophone and Kate Pyritz’s vocals, which at times trail into Kelli Mayo (Skating Polly) territory. “Right” is catchy, smile-inducing, and calls for listeners to feel good about going back to their roots — “I dreamed of spring / And I fell into green,” Pyritz opines. “We were right / Right to live young / Right to live in dirt.” Nearing the album’s close, “Hymn” relishes in the delicacy of a Regina Spektor ballad. Struck in the vein with a melancholic tempo and lined with the soaring violin, it’s an unquestionable highlight. — Tricia Callahan

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