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Notes from the Field

Welcoming Jam

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This is a repost of a thread starter that was fairly blog like. The update is that I will be revisiting the location this fall, and I will know ahead of time about the jam and show up again, this time for three weeks running. I sent emails, and seem to be remembered, so this should be fun. So... about a year ago...


So here I am in a strange city, for one week, for work. Of course I brought my mandolin, at least to play in the hotel room in the evening.


I checked the website and found a regular OT jam, every Tuesday at this bar on the other side of the city. So I screwed up my courage and went. I have been doing this mandolin stuff for years. No, years and years. And I still have to screw up my courage to go to a new jam. Its part of the fun, part of the excitemement. Its like asking someone out on a date, it may get easier but its never easy. So while I was making up my mind, I got out my mandolin, warmed up the major and pentatonic scales I use to break loose my over keyboarded fingers. I brushed up on Spotted Pony, Seneca Square Dance, Sandy Boys, Paterollers, and a great many tunes whose names I never remember but are a part of my normal warm up.

The rental car GPS got me to within sight of the neon lights of the bar, which I have to admit looked a bit scary. I am not a bar person, really, and here I was in this strange city neighborhood, small brick streets, buildings close together, dark, rainy, contemplating going into a strange bar with a mandolin.

From the street I don't see any musicians in there.

Should I go in without my mandolin, and kind of scope out the situation? Should I go in boldly, mandolin case in front of me? And take the chance that this in reality is the meeting of some motorcycle gang, or there is no jam tonight and only the regulars know it, or worse yet, only one other person shows up, a bongo and dumbek player who also didn't get the memo that the jam has been moved?

Then again, I didn't want to leave my mandolin in the car, in this dark, claustrophobic neighborhood.

All my concern for naught - the jam was wonderful. As wonderful as it gets. 20 to 25 folks playing, a third fiddles, a third guitar, a third banjo, one button box accordion, and me on the mandolin. I knew about 2/3 of the tunes, and the other third I could figure out by the 98458729873rd repetition. I managed to lead off on Spotted Pony, and Kitchen Girl.

We played and laughed and drank and played well into the night. I finally had to go after making several new friends.

I came away with the feeling I often have in such situations, a happy feeling that I have new friends in this place far from home, that my mandolin and I know how to do it, and a half sad regret that I can't be a regular at this jam.

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Tags: jam, old time
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  1. Jim Nollman's Avatar
    I thought i was the only one played Kitchen Girl on mandolin. I have a very special regard for playing a group of repetitive mixolydian tunes that steam forward at a mile a minute. Sandy Boys, Cluck Old Hen. Those two sound so much like a boogie by John Lee Hooker. Kitchen Girl seems to be the most complex melody of this well-defined mixolydian genre. You may think this is heresy, but try playing the A part as if it was the riff of a 12 bar delta blues, start in D, repeat in G, back to D, then in A.