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Why no jam sessions?

PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 4:56 pm
by david
Last week I had to attend a meeting in a town about an hour away from home. A friend in that town told me I had to come by the local music store (a little hole in the wall place down a side street).

Turns out that every Saturday, for years now, the store owner allows anyone to come with their instruments for a jam session. It was mostly bluegrass and country, but there were three rooms crammed full of folks with guitars, banjos, mandolins, fiddles, upright basses, dobros, and anything else they could come up with.

It was an incredible scene as people moved around between rooms and jammed together. There were extremely good players and rank beginners. I saw several old timers taking beginners off to a corner to work on technique or a particular passage.

QUESTION: How come this sort of thing doesn't go on with blues music? I mean, it does lend itself to improvisation and jamming.

A great time was had by all, and what a wonderful learning opportunity.

PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 5:11 pm
by allanlummox


If you advertise a Blues Jam, 11 guys with amps and electric guitars will show up and start trying to see who can "jam" loudest. One will be dressed as Stevie Ray.

It's possible to impose order on this sort of situation - by providing a structired backup band - but there won't be a lot of "quiet corners".

PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 5:18 pm
by songdog
allanlummox wrote: One will be dressed as Stevie Ray.


We have a local place that does a once a month acoustic blues jam that's pretty cool (beginners encouraged to attend).... leave the amps at home and no SRV imitators allowed. If you want to be 'loud' bring yer reso :P

PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 5:46 pm
by dcblues
There's an acoustic blues jam just about every Saturday afternoon in northeast Washington, DC:

PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 6:18 pm
by jeffl
I don't know if there has ever been as much blues played as there has been mountain music,in whatever form. There's still a huge tradition of families gettin' together to play bluesgrass and old-timey stuff up in the hills of Pennsylvania,West Virginia,Tennessee,Kentucky,etc. There's even designated tour routes that you can take as a tourist through those states, in order to sit in on, or listen at, jams that have been hosted by the same establishments (feed mills,music halls,hardware stores,drug stores,etc.) for decades. In my neck of the woods (Southeast Minnesota and Western Wisconsin) I know of a number of jams that occur primarily in peoples' houses,with great musicians. The only way a person would find out about those mostly acoustic jams (and BTW,they're mostly folk,bluegrass,and old-time,including Western Swing) is if you started hangin' out at the coffee houses, concerts,festivals and small clubs where all those players congregate. Most northerners just don't get the blues,and they only play it occasionally. Blues in clubs doesn't draw crowds up here (you'd be better off not billing yourself as a blues act until festival time) nearly as well as other American forms of music, and I think people often jam the music that pays their bills, if they're giggin' musicians.

PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 2:31 am
by stratman_27
Bingo Jeffl, that pretty much the way it is here in Kentucky unless your in a metropolitan area. Lexington, Louisville, etc. We bill our band as a classic rock act and still have problems finding local places to play. All these folks up here want for the most part is country and bluegrass. While I have nothing against either I prefer blues and older rock and roll. There are a couple small places here that want rock music and not country but they are both pretty small. Basically if we want gigs we need to either play the two holes in the wall, festivals (travel), local private parties or travel to Cincinnati (60 miles +). Me and my bass player did some busking last summer around town here and folks were asking for country and bluegrass and the ever popular Lynrd Skynrd. What is it with rednecks and Skynrd.

Its tough being a bluesman but it keeps the blues alive.

PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 5:06 am
by rustyslide
I would love it if there was an acoustic jam around here. I love playing electric blues, but I've found a significant amount of Vaughnabees around.

PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 5:36 am
by Erikjr21
I live in a small town were the only music store is a guy selling guitars. so there is no jams especially blues. but in the summer you might find a guy or two on the beach with a guitar.

PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 8:37 am
by stumblin
We have a monthly acoustic blues event here at The Red Deer in Sheffield. Everyone is welcome to come and play us a couple of numbers. Some songs turn into big jams, others are solo efforts. Some months the session is crowded, other months there are only three of us. This is the only dedicated acoustic blues session in town, and probably the only one for many miles around. Come along if you're anywhere nearby, if nothing else it's a good excuse for a couple of pints.
First Thursday every month, next session will be on 1st February.

PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 1:51 pm
by jeffl
Come to think of it, we have a blues club in LaCrosse,Wi.(about 60 miles from here,on the Mississippi River) that hosts an electric blues jam on Tuesday nites,but I've never gone, primarily 'cuz of the distance and it's a night I work. My experience with club jams is that they generally become open mics, insteada jams, and there isn't much room for freedom of expression,but I bet if you go every week,for a long time, it probably works out jus' fine (unless you play better than some musician with a good reputation who has an ego problem and regards you as a threat).

PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 2:15 pm
by allanlummox
Well this is giving me perspective.

Portland has some fine Pro acoustic Blues players; and I'm sure there are many good amatuers in the woodwork.

Didn't hear any during my brief stint hosting an open mic here though.

If there were a dedicated, advertised acoustic Blues the heck do you keep out the riff raff?

The singer songwriters? The folkies? The very earnest fellow with a SMALL amp?

I've hosted Open Mics and electric, band based Blues Jams.

BUt this is the first I've heard of regular, acoustic Blues open events.

I'd have questioned the interest in any one area to support one.

Maby I should start poling local musicians here ... see if there'd be interest.

PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 3:10 pm
by jeffl
In my limited experience,the best way to keep the riff-raff out,is to do it in homes,which means nobody makes any money off of it. I had a regular Wednesday nite acoustic jam that met successfully for close to 15 years; the first 5 years,we rented a nice log park lodge, for $10/nite, and paid for it outa our $1.00/nite "cover fee", and the money we made doing several gigs a year at parties,picnics,Historical society,etc. But, the riff raff found us after a while, and we had to go underground at peoples' houses so people couldn't find us. That kept drunks and stoners from crashin' us, and kept the numbers down to a workable amount. We made a rule: no amps period! We also made another rule: no guests either,cuz guests tended to be disruptive, often by getting overzealous, and sometimes jus' not bein' good enough. If you had somebody who was a real player, you could call the host and get a "pass",but he had to be a player. BTW, I also know of another great concept: a guy I used to jam with hosts an acoustic session for just two hours, on Tuesday nites, where they only jam originals that have been contributed by the members. So, a guy'll bring a new tune, and teach it to the rest, and they might help him finish off the tune, or morph it altogether,etc. I like that concept. It keeps people writin'.

PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 3:46 pm
by songdog
The local acoustic blues jam we have here is at a non-profit school so amplification is not an option because classes are going on at the same time. Of course alcohol is not an option either. It's just an opportunity to have a loosely organized jam that's scheduled regularly.

I don't know how much interest a bar would have in an acoustic night. But as Bubba said, organizing one in somebody's house is a good idea too.

It can be hard finding the right people though. I tried to organize some jams with members of a local blues harmonica class I attended. Everyone was interested but many with the wrong goals. One offered: "Yeah I'll bring my friend along he'll cook us up some good barbeque." And another: "We can do it at my house, I have a pool so everyone can go swimming if they want to." Crap.... I wasn't looking for a Luau, I just wanted to get together and play :?

PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 4:09 pm
by bosco
how the heck do you keep out the riff raff?

You would think that the higher the talent quotient went up, the lesser players would not want to get up for fear of being shown up but that usually is not the case. The very definition of "Open Mic" says it all.

To highjack the thread slightly, the same issues present themselves when you try to draw the line at blues, on top of the acoustic vs electric scenario.

Locally, they have a BLUES "jam" on Thursdays at a comedy club with a house band. Occasionally, I have fun getting up and singing and playing A COUPLE SONGS. The problem as I see it, is there is no jam etiquette followed. Some guys show up early, stake out a spot for their amp and stay on stage all night. Horn players from classic rock bands without a fundamental knowledge of blues show and just start honking over vocals and throughout other's solos. It doesn't take long before you get audio goulash and everyone's playing is compromised.

I went two weeks ago and declined to participate despite the best efforts of some to get me up there. The house band already had two guitars and one of the aforementioned guitar campers was up there. Two sax players, two other harpers and several singers were present. At times there were 8 people on stage and both of the other harpers attempted to play with saxes warbling in the background. One harper was a real talent, and both of the sax players were good, but in the end it didn't matter.

If you're going to participate in such affairs, you have to realize that it is what it is. The tighter my band gets, the harder it is for me to participate in a loosely organized jam. If you're willing to compromise your playing, then by all means get up there. Some nights I'm just not willing to to that.


PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 4:14 pm
by jeffl
"I wasn't lookin' for a luau; I just wanted". Songdog, all jams will degenerate into gab circles after they've been functioning for a while,especially if they're at a house. Guys become friends, and wanna share experiences, and ask each other about stuff,etc. Also,there are people who are driven to play for a while, and then it loses its appeal for some, and the social thing becomes more important. My tactic when the gab sessions got too long, was to jus' move aside a little and start kickin' down a tune (not all that easy when you're a harper to lead a tune); usually after a while, one or two guys would drift over and jump in, and pretty soon, you had it back up and runnin' again. I've heard that same complaint from guys who attend other regular jams too. The group I jammed with always had excellent wine,snacks,smoke (legal and illegal), and it was hard to totally de-emphasize the value of such a wonderful element of getting together. After many years, alotta the players got much better and began to form gigging acts of their own, so they drifted away( occasionally by scheduling rehearsals on our jam nite); it died after that phase.