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What a difference a jam makes!

Posted by bj on Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Went to Mannion's Jam in Somerville NJ for the first time last night.  Boy did it push me out of my comfort zone! I only knew about a third of the tunes and the tempo was a lot faster than the other jams I go to. So even  the tunes I knew I stumbled some.

This is probably a good thing in small doses. And I did have a great time, since they're a great bunch and very welcoming. Even better, I don't think I was terrible, though I was still far from good. And I did learn a couple new tunes and bits and pieces of a few others.

Some odds and ends of observations--

Mannion's jam room, which is much smaller (though not small!) and with a much lower ceiling than the jam room we use in P'Burg, is better acoustically. I may have to think about that for the future of the Phillipsburg/Easton jam, though I hate the thought of shopping venues again. It was much easier for me to hear what others were doing, and the cohesion of the group was much better (though honestly I'm not sure if that's from the better acoustics or because these folks have been playing together for so long. Maybe a bit of both, actually.)

The choice of tunes at Mannion's has a different overall "flavor", with less West Virginia tunes and more stuff that is either Southern Appalachian or OT crossovers from the Irish Trad. They do make a nod to the local region by including a few tunes from Samuel Bayard's book that were collected from Sarah Armstrong, which I like. They play quite a few tunes I hadn't heard elsewhere (though I haven't been to a whole lotta elsewheres yet.) They also tend to choose much "notier" tunes.

Though I'm not much of a drinker, the one beer I had seemed to help me at least try to relax into that hypertempo they keep to. This is not a healthy direction to head though. I think I need to keep telling myself that beer will NOT improve my playing! Though it may improve my perception of my playing . . .

I'm finally playing out "enough", or at least almost enough. It is definitely making a difference in my playing. And since most of the guys (I was the only woman player out of over a dozen) expressed hope that I'd be coming back, and a few are coming up to the P'Burg jam, I guess there is just the slightest possibility I don't sound as awful as I think I do.

That "scrunch pop" technique I learned from Shane Cook is BODACIOUS on Cluck Old Hen!


5 comments on “What a difference a jam makes!”

chippyvan Says:
Wednesday, May 6, 2009 @10:59:25 AM

You don't sound awful at all. I thought you did very well, especially since we didn't really slow down at all or cut you any breaks, sorry. I tend to start tunes too fast for my own good and then speed them up. It is something I need to work on.
It is a funny thing about the repertoire that develops at a jam. Some of the tunes sort of came with the jam when I started going and have carried on ever since. Some are favorites of the various tune leaders or at least the tunes that we can remember how they go.
Most folks don't seem to be to particular about what tune they play and are willing to play along with any of them. We do like to encourage folks to name tunes they like or lead them if they can, but it seems like we have limited success on that front.

ChickenMan Says:
Saturday, May 9, 2009 @9:26:06 AM

A single beer throughout the evening is not going to hurt your playing.
A single beer, can help you to relax - a key to playing outside your comfort zone.
BUT, of course, beer does NOT make you a better player and WILL get in the way if used to excess...obviously you know that.
Keep challenging yourself - that is the expressway to improvement.

bj Says:
Saturday, May 9, 2009 @10:23:06 AM

Thanks for the encouragement, Rick! It really was fun, I just wish Somerville was closer to home.

LOL! Challenging myself? I've been doing a whole LOT of that lately! And I'm going to another jam tonight! I have a feeling this will be a slower one though.

DougD Says:
Sunday, May 10, 2009 @2:27:12 AM

Good you're getting out some, bj!
BTW this jam has a nice website, with tune lists and hints, suggested recordings and some photos. Looks like fun!
I found this some time ago through a website for what I think is another of Rick's projects.

bj Says:
Sunday, May 10, 2009 @7:33:01 AM

Yeah, Doug, I'm getting out a lot these days! Rick did a good job on their jam's website. I wish I could devote a bit more time to the Easton P'burg jam page. BTW, Rick is an awesome fiddler, even if he does go too fast. ;-)

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