There always has been connective tissue between American roots music and its eclectic electric offspring, the jam band genre. If you look at the Grateful Dead as the progenitors of the jam band scene and understand that Jerry Garcia was a bluegrass banjo player who went electric, you see that a lot of the improvisation common to jam bands has its roots firmly planted in bluegrass.

The term “jamgrass” is commonly employed to denote this music, which includes outfits like Yonder Mountain String Band, Floodwood and Railroad Earth. In a sense, this subgenre does the opposite of what folks like Garcia were originally doing – it takes electric jam music as a basis and returns it to is acoustic-based genesis.

We have to take the time here to point out the distinct difference between a band like Cornmeal from the more pop-oriented contemporary bluegrass and roots folk outfits in the vein of Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers. Cornmeal, in contrast to the Mumford types, is made up of virtuosic musicians who are dedicated to exploratory improvisations. When you see Cornmeal live, you will notice that the band’s commitment to “searching for the sound” means that every set is markedly different. Cornmeal doesn’t employ bluegrass and roots music as style, but rather as a wellspring for flights of improvisational imagination.

Which is why Cornmeal is awesome. See for yourself. Cornmeal performs at 6 p.m. Sunday in Nietzsche’s (248 Allen St.). You only need to shell out $10 for the opportunity. Visit

Stir it up

The Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls has opened a new club just off of its main gaming floor.

Stir is a ritzy joint with an eye on splitting the difference between a Chippewa Street-style dance music environment – one that boasts what the Seneca Niagara folks describe as “a massive 20- by 40-foot high-definition video wall with open views from across the gaming floor” – and a laid-back lounge atmosphere.

Live music figures heavily in Stir’s plans, and the club’s bookings run the gamut from electronic dance music DJs to classic rock cover bands and jazz singers to singer-songwriter types, many of them local. The club also is booking Toronto talent.

Stir presents live music every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening. This weekend’s events feature Kiss 98.5’s DJ Ramkan spinning tunes tonight; Buffalo rockabilly/classic rock ’n’ roll outfit Kickstart Rumble on Friday; and Montreal’s all-female ’70s pop/rock interpreters the Pilots on Saturday.

The live music runs from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., and admission is free. Learn more about the club through

Battle heats up

The Hard Rock Rising Global Battle of the Bands finds its local contingent kicking off a few weeks of battles in the local Hard Rock Café (333 Prospect St. in Niagara Falls) at 7 p.m. tonight. The first contest features a duke-out between Crashfuse, Hollywood Sins, Mulu Lizi and Psychedelic Dragons.

The battle continues each Thursday, leading up to the finals April 3, when the local winner will be determined. The winning band will perform at the Hard Rock Live festival in Rome, Italy, in the summer. Two runner-ups will receive $10,000 in new gear. You can check out the artists and cast your own vote at