Why no jam sessions?

Problems, how to get them, favorite songs to play, groupies, funky bar owners, etc. NO names of clubs, please.

Postby jeffl » Sat Jan 20, 2007 4:21 pm

After reading Bosco's post (which came up while I was typing mine), it becomes clear that jams in clubs are much harder to control, especially when it comes to the level of the players. The jam I went to for so many years had about 3-4 players with real reps and experience, and we all tended to try to play up to their levels. Our format was that we stood in basically a big circle, and when it came to takin' breaks or leads, the host would generally eyeball the next guy in the circle, or say sumpin' like, "Bubba,you got one..?", and if you were hangin' on by your teeth on an unfamiliar tune you could just shake your head and somebody else would take it. One good result of that is that players who were not comfortable takin' leads could still get their turns and could fight their way through it and become better. There was alotta mutual support for the weaker players, and it helped them.
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Postby david » Sun Jan 21, 2007 4:24 pm

A few observations:
* Open mics are basically designed for individuals or organized groups to "perform" for others. In the jam session I attended there were, for all intensive porposes :D , no spectators. Each of the three rooms of that small store (which appeared to mostly sell used instruments) had a circle of folks with instruments--sometimes two deep. The only "leadership" was informal and very loose. The basic jamming rule of not playing riffs between songs was pretty much adhered to, mainly out of politeness and respect for the collective thing that was happening.

It was very much a "start something everybody sort of knows and go around the circle till everyone who wants to has had a chance to take a lead" jam--no show boating. It was a great opportunity for those who wanted to advance their lead skills and for those that were just learning to make chords and play backup. There was also constant shifting around between rooms, which resulted in ever new combinations. The jam lasted from about 10 in the morning till four in the afternoon, and people evidently come and go all day long. It was a very comfortable atmosphere with the more experienced musicians stepping forward and the less experienced hanging in the background--always with the invitation to step forward when they wanted to give it a try.

The place was so full that I had a hard time making it through the front room to the door to leave. (Also, I never did figure out who among the crowd actually worked at the store! Most everyone there knew each other since this jam has been happening every Saturday for many years now.)

* Second point: By being at a music store it was open to all, but had no option of booze/drugs (lots of coffee going around, though). In a private home you would need an invitation. This was a just walk in affair. Someone asked me if I had brought an instrument and I explained that it was my first time and I was getting a feel for how good you need to be to participate. He said, "You're already there" and tried to hand me his guitar. In another room a guy tried hard to get me to take over the upright bass (these seemed to be store property, one per room). When I told him I had never played bass he told me this was a good chance to learn. I can't see that happening at an open mic in a bar.

The following week while I was waiting for my daughter to finish her guitar and fiddle lessons at a music store in Paducah I was telling the owner about the jam in Cadiz (over an hour away). He was excited about the idea. He immediately recognized that all those that attended on a regular basis were also going to buy all their strings, music, pics, straps and most everything else, from him. Talk about free advertising and building customer loyalty!

The trick would be controlling the event, which would best happen, in my opinion, by letting it start very small and grow organically by word of mouth. People who liked what was happening would come back and those that wanted to thrash-and-shred on large amps would stay away.

One of the main problems I would see with the Paducah store starting such a jam is that they cater to everything from country musicians, Chuch bands, heavy metal teenagers, to high school bands. What kind of music would be played at the jams?

* I'm also wondering if blues hasn't been too heavily influenced by rock and roll to lend itself to that kind of participatory/no spectator jam. Even rock and roll used to be a forum for all to jam together--whether you knew the songs or not. That seems to have changed into a "watch me perform" sort of thing.

The style of blues I have tended to play is the solo guitar. One of the things I've most wanted is to be able to play with others. In this part of Kentucky that pretty much excludes blues. (sigh)
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Postby stumblin » Sun Jan 21, 2007 4:59 pm

In actual fact, we do get the occasional lad with a small guitar amp, that's okay by us - it can be quite a noisy venue, and we regularly use Marshall Micro-Stacks for amplifying the harps. Just as long as it's not electrified guitars all the time and it's understood that we're not all in competition with each other.
Really though, the basic idea was to kind of take the music back to it's pre-electric roots, and I think we're doing that pretty well without compromising too much.
As for riff-raff, there was a little bit of minor unpleasantness a while back. The landlord barred the perps from coming back into his pub, which pretty much sorted that out.
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Postby texas blues » Sun Jan 21, 2007 10:00 pm

I really don't have a use for jam sessions. Every one that I have been to has turned out to be another "big dick show". I would rather play for people that really want to listen rather than stroke a bunch of other musicians egos. It's all cool and the gang for those that have good commoraderie in a forum where there is mutual respect for other players as some of you out there have found. I simply have not and don't see its relevence in regards to my own musical ambitions.
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Postby maxx england » Mon Jan 22, 2007 1:19 pm

Stumblin - what's the Red Deer parking like? I don't want to turn up and get clamped/towed away.
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Postby oleman » Tue Jan 23, 2007 6:59 am

I really miss our open mic nite that was held in a small bar. We had the most diverse group of musicians that I had ever seen. Barbershop quartets, Pueblo drum circles and singers, Mariachis, Pros, Amatures and everything in between, playing all types of music from jazz to country. It got to be so popular that it spilled out into the parking lot. The neighbors complained and the cops shut it down, even in the bar as they said the traffic around the bar had gotten out of hand. They were right too because all the locals in the village showed up to drink and join in the fun. Too much of a good thing.
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Postby stumblin » Tue Jan 23, 2007 7:55 am

maxx england wrote:Stumblin - what's the Red Deer parking like? I don't want to turn up and get clamped/towed away.

It's on a quiet little street, there is some kerbside parking out front, and there's a municipal car park under two minute's walk away.
Let me know if you're coming, and I'll email you directions.
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Postby jeffl » Tue Jan 23, 2007 1:22 pm

oleman wrote:I really miss our open mic nite that was held in a small bar. We had the most diverse group of musicians that I had ever seen. Barbershop quartets, Pueblo drum circles and singers, Mariachis, Pros, Amatures and everything in between, playing all types of music from jazz to country. It got to be so popular that it spilled out into the parking lot. The neighbors complained and the cops shut it down, even in the bar as they said the traffic around the bar had gotten out of hand. They were right too because all the locals in the village showed up to drink and join in the fun. Too much of a good thing.
Hey,at least you can say you were part of a great happening. Those events are in the "You really had to be there" category. Most musicians would wonder how the hell you ever made it work,with all that diversity,but it sounds like you guys caught a good wave and rode it 'til it hit the beach.
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