I really appreciate the tips I have received from readers recommending musical happenings even if it takes me a while to make the trip. It took me 6 months to follow Greg Murdoch’s bluegrass tip but I’m really glad I did.
A couple of weeks ago I visited a gem of a jam hosted by the Waterloo-Wellington Bluegrass Music Association. This event (in its third year) has a unique layered structure that attracts very proficient, experienced musicians while providing space for emerging players.
In the first room I found with Pete (fellow jam seeker), the music I heard made me hide my guitar under a table. The group playing (a combination of instruments including guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, bass) seemed to be communicating using telepathy – the tempo, changes and breaks all happened seamlessly without anyone speaking – and they played fast! At the end of the song we learned that this was only one of several rooms where bluegrass jams were happening simultaneously. We declined their invitation to sit in and made our way to the “slow jam”, a room where various levels of musicians were working together to build their skills and work on songs. Here you can add some basic chords, lead a song or take an instrumental break based on your experience and comfort. There are songbooks to facilitate everyone’s participation. I was introduced to some bluegrass etiquette as to how to lead a song, allow for instrumental breaks and (ideally) all end together!
Activity tends to slow down with the summer months but Nancy Tellier said that there are usually 45- 50 musicians at the jam from September – June. Check the facebook page as some musicians will continue getting together over the summer.
This jam is welcoming, inclusive and motivating – a great place to hear some top notch bluegrass as well as expand your bluegrass repertoire.
[Waterloo-Wellington Bluegrass Jam, Galt Legion, 4 Veteran’s Way, Cambridge, Tuesdays 7-11 pm, September-June; slow jam from 7-8:30, no cover]