WHY Go To A JAM or OPEN MIC? I will tell you WHY…
Open Mics and Jams are similar with a bit of overlap and sometimes as the night progress they can merge into the same path, but for this article I’ll give a brief description of the two.
Typically an OPEN MIC setting does not carry a ‘House Band’, and can include one, two and sometimes three musicians on stage at a time, usually acoustic instruments (sometimes electric), playing a short set lasting 15-20 minutes of originals or cover tunes, followed by the next performer that could be doing slam-poetry or stand up comedy! This is the meaning of O P E N mic…anything can be attempted! There is usually a ‘Host’ with whom you can sign up or just nod to let them know you’d like to join in…and that’s how the entire evening flows. I have witnessed Open Mics where only a handful of musicians showed up… and it turned into a magical night where no language other than musical notes were spoken with percussion beats woven into the music and vocals slipped in and out of the melodies…and that’s the magic of improv! Ahhhhhhh
Most JAM SESSIONS have a ‘House Band’ which is compiled of several seasoned musicians of which one is the ‘Host’ conducting the flow for the evening. He/She will provide a sign up sheet and usually makes a mental note of who comes in with an instrument, and makes it a habit to know his ‘local’ musicians that make up his Jam Community. The House Band usually plays a 30 minute set of cover tunes, keeping it simple and then begins to invite signed up musicians to the stage to replace the Bass, Drums, Harmonica, Rhythm or Lead guitar positions (Horns are always a welcome sight)…sometimes the entire House Band is replaced but only if the players are familiar and the Host knows they are seasoned enough to fill any spot. In most cases, a well known song is played or it’s kept to a simple improvisation, with few guidelines, in something like a 12 bar blues in C which keeps all levels in que and on track. Sometimes there is a singer and sometimes it’s instrumental, and you never know what song is played next until someone makes a suggestion or just starts playing while shouting out keys and stops of a song. On occasion you may get an entire local band up to play some originals or a famous musician that happens to be in town. Man I have seen, played and got lost in the music of jams around the world and LOVED every moment of that grace in music and talented musicians.
There are 2 choices...you can be a Participant or you can be an On Looker.
What’s in it for the Participant?
Believe me when I say there are many seasoned musicians out there, travelling or stable, who don’t have the time or energy to gig or are possibly retired but would happily play a short set for free in order to avoid losing their chops or getting rusty. Some just want to better themselves by playing with experienced musicians or perhaps experiment with a new song! Some Jamtrotters want to show off their talent because they are scouting for future band members or potential promoters. I simply enjoy JamTrotting in a new country, city or village because it’s a great way to meet like-minded artists, and it tends to be a creative and inventive environment….and that’s how The Traveling Harmonica got started…just sayin!
What’s in it for the On Lookers?
LIVE MUSIC is just that…it’s A L I V E!!! You get to watch the creative process of music in action. You get to feel the improvisation and talent of unknown strangers, that have never met, jamming together to songs they may have never heard. Never judge a book by it’s cover at a jam….a person can look one way and BLOW your mind with talent in a whole other creative way. The F E E L is organic, sometimes interactive with the audience, filled with surprises and rarely disappointing to an unknowing crowd. It’s a relaxed atmosphere, where you can meet the actual players and ask about their music and lives and get to know someone you may not generally meet or even a local celebrity! Or you might have a friend that you’d like to support and encourage and that’s what friends do! No DJ with electronics can beat the creativity that circles a night of real L I V E expression!
Although Jams and Open Mics are not nearly as developed overseas as in the big cities in the USA where you can choose from several venues offering open jams every night of the week, the talent is everywhere, in every country, and every town big or small…. and I never walk away from an open jam without my spirit feeling that Ah Ha moment of being ‘In The Pocket’ of musical bliss.
Well, that’s my story and I am sticking to it! HA!
BIG OL’ HUGS, mS hARMONICA