Everything but the kitchen sink

Spanning 34 years, the Battleof the Jug Bands has become a folksy Minneapolis staple

Jug band musicians, left to right, Amanda

Maddy Fox

Jug band musicians, left to right, Amanda “Standalone” Nygard, Kris Garwick and Bob Fyfe play a song together at Eagles Club #34 on Friday, Feb. 5. This weekend marks the 34th annual Battle of the Jug Bands, which will be held at the Cabooze on Feb. 13 and 14.

Austen Macalus

Although the Battle of the Jug Bands has been around in one form or another, there is some doubt regarding the origins of the competition. This contributes to tall tales and folk-lore surrounding the show.
“The story I heard, it started as more of a competition between friends in a living room,” Fyfe said. 
However, some performers believed it began as a battle of the sexes, with separate teams of men and women. In any regard, the competition has continued the span of three decades. In its early years it featured six bands, and now it includes over thirty.
Amanda “Standalone” Nygard has played in the battle since she was 17. Nygard, along with Garwick, are half of this year’s coordinating team.
Although this is their first year leading the event, Nygard and Garwick are optimistic about the competition’s growing popularity.
“There are a lot of people who come back year after year,” Nygard said. “There are also a lot of up-and-coming bands.”
Jug music originated during the late 19th century in southern cities, especially Louisville, Ky., and Memphis, Tenn. 
Arising from African-American music traditions and mixing a variety of sounds, the genre hit its peak in the late ’20s.
After diminishing in the following three decades, jug music found footing in hippy culture, making a comeback in the ’60s. Many prominent bands of the era took influence from the genre: The Lovin’ Spoonful and the Grateful Dead both started as jug bands.
Guiding the development of blues, jazz, Americana, folk and even rock ’n’ roll, jug music has an influence beyond itself. However, the performers were quick to point out what makes the genre unique.
Garwick explained it as “street jam music,” thriving off a “solid, driving beat.” 
Fyfe agreed with her assessment. 
“It’s good-time music,” Fyfe said. “You don’t take breaks. It’s just playing together and keeping it simple.”
The music isn’t built on finesse or refinement but maintains a natural looseness, he said.
For Nygard, this is part of what makes the genre so fun to perform. 
“I just like the accessibility of it — anyone can do it. That’s what the cool part about it is,” Nygard said.
Although the show is technically a contest, the environment is tailored to the simple joy of making music. For all the performers, jug music, more than anything else, is about having fun. 
“It’s really driven by people coming together — making music, having fun,” Nygard said.
34th Annual “Minneapolis Battle of the Jug Bands”
Where Saturday, Eagles VFW #34, 2507 E. 25th St., Minneapolis; Sunday, The Cabooze, 917 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis
When 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Cost Free; $5 suggested donation