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Chilly Busking, Good Folk Jam, and No to a Bad One

Posted by fiddlepogo on Monday, December 10, 2007

We had rain Thursday, and as often happens, it was cold and windy the next two days... but mostly sunny Saturday. I felt like I really needed to go busking at the Farmer's Market. I was dressed as warmly as I could and still fiddle- I even had a glove on my right hand! Obviously I couldn't do anything for my poor left hand, but I discovered I could still fiddle pretty well by sticking to tried and true tunes. I didn't want to use my good bow with the glove for fear I might drop it, so I stuck to the fiberglass one. The first hour was pretty miserable, and I didn't make much. I walked around to warm up, and then got into a conversation with some buskers that were just leaving a spot in the middle of the market- after they left I took over, and I did much better. I even got a bag of pistachios! And several people took flyers.

When I got to the folk jam that afternoon (with a strong country flavor) I was exhausted from playing in the cold, but thankfully I wasn't the host. It went well, and we sounded pretty good for a jam I thought. Afterwards I talked with a couple of enthusiastic members of the audience.

OTJ says I seem to be more tolerant than average, but even I have my limits. I had been asked to come to another jam for their Christmas jam on the same day.  The previous host had moved. It was a country-western jam featuring old commercial country hits- I used to take my Stratocaster for songs in bad fiddling keys, and when it went well, it was fun, I had gone about 6 times or so in the last year. BUT:

 1. electric instruments were allowed, but they provided no PA, which meant:

 2. if you wanted to sing and be heard, you had to bring some form of vocal amplification and mic in addition to a guitar amp- a lot more stuff to bring and set up!

3. There were a couple of jamkillers. One guy is a new wannabe lead player who:

 A. uses too much tremelo B. can't follow the changes C. plays too loud, usually.  Another guy is better, but picks obscure songs no one else knows, doesn't lead it with authority, and then the first guys SLAUGHTERS the song, and there is no way the more experienced players can help get it back on track, because we don't know the song. And then they've changed the scheduling, so it conflicts with other jams, and it dawned on me that it was hopeless, and I wasn't going to miss a good jam for a bad one, so I said I won't be coming back... and I'm not the only one, either. Pity- I enjoyed pretending to be a "Nashville Cat" ;^D It highlighted to me that:

1. A strong jam host is a good thing!

 2. There is no jamkiller like a jamkiller with an electric guitar! In an acoustic jam, the worst players often have the cheapest guitars, and the players with better guitars and better technique often naturally overpower them somewhat. You can't do that in an electric jam without becoming the Bad Guy! I think I understand now why the local Blues Society is kind of unwelcoming to newcomers... they really want to screen you before they unleash you on the whole venue!

2 comments on “Chilly Busking, Good Folk Jam, and No to a Bad One”

OTJunky Says:
Monday, December 10, 2007 @4:10:40 PM

Some good insights here - thanks.

And I liked the paragraph structure. ;^D


Tuesday, December 11, 2007 @2:36:43 AM

Hey Michael, I admire how much you pursue playing. I've never busked, but would like to sometimes. I'm more of the private-woodshedder type, but am in awe of people who have the will  and the guts to get out there and do it publicly. I can't think of a better thing to do with a fiddle.

 I am also terribly impatient about jams, (I think because my playing always seems to rise or fall so dramatically depending on how comfortable I feel with what everyone else is doing.) There seem to be some musicians in this world who can play well even when everything may seem to be crashing down around them. Not me. If others crash I end up crashing too. I am in awe of people who can keep playing and smiling in the midst of some of the uncomfortable musical situtations you'll sometimes find yourself in.  You've inspired me. Next summer I'm going to find a place to do some busking, and force myself to do it.

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