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Jam Nights: Worth Going or Just a Waste Of Time?

By January 3, 2019 October 2nd, 2019 No Comments

As we say goodbye to 2018 and begin a brand new year, we also start to write down new resolutions of what we’d like to achieve. As per every year, I always promise myself to go out more to jam nights and get more gigs: ”yeah man, this year is my year!” or “I own this 2019!”..unfortunately I’ve said the exact same thing for 2018, ’17, ’16 etc. and it’s always hard to know if the gigs I get are actually coming from the jams I’ve been to.

For the past 10 years I’ve been checking out many of the jam sessions that the London scene had to offer and I’ve witnessed some impressive moments of music making, as well as many “not so interesting” ones. There has been times where I had such great nights I couldn’t wait until next week’s jams and other times where I wished I stayed home and spent the night watching some Netflix series instead.

These ups and downs kept me away from being consistent and being a regular even to the jams I liked became way too hard to maintain. As if that wasn’t enough, having friends that never went to jam sessions, but at the same time were playing stadiums, arenas and humongous festivals, made the situation even worst. Therefore I guess, is not a bad idea to question myself about if it is REALLY worth going out to a jam or not.

I don’t think I have the perfect answer to that question and I’m sure things vary depending on the type of person you are. However in the last 10 years I’ve learnt the hard way a few lessons that I now use as a guide before going out to jam nights:

-LEAVE YOUR EGO AT THE DOOR-

If you’re going to a jam night and your main goal is to play that lick you worked on for the past 3 months, so that you can impress your fellow musicians.. you are 100% up for the biggest disappointment of your life. There is no competition in music, therefore going in with an attitude, pretending to be the ”sh*t” won’t help even a tiny bit. I still remember my usual routine when out jamming. Arriving at the venue, not saying a word to anyone, sitting in the corner, waiting impatiently for hours until my turn to play 1 or 2 songs and then come off stage always upset, because I didn’t play well or I didn’t play the songs I wanted to play.

That’s probably not a good attitude to have, especially because I was all focused on myself. I personally think that once the Ego is out of the way and there are no expectations, that is when good things start to happen and you really start to HAVE FUN..and that’s what jams are for.

-NETWORKING-

Another reason why people go to jams, is because they want to meet new musicians, wishing that these new relationships could then lead to future work. Sometimes it is actually better not to give a damn about playing and instead concentrate and be present with the people in the room. I think my favourite nights out, were when I didn’t play but instead spent the evening having a beer and chatting to some random dude from who knows where. Getting to know people and create real long lasting relationships is what makes jam nights 100% worth going. What’s better than meeting someone that has the same interests as you and that cares about making music??

On the other hand, it is quite important not to fall in the trap of what I like to call the “DIVO factor”. It happened to me many times, that when I was in front of a musician I really admired and respected, my attitude would suddenly change. My desire to be friend with that person was so uncontrollable that the person would notice my forced fake attitude and nothing would come out of it. This is something really hard to do! Remaining your sincere self, no matter who’s standing in front of you, is probably one of the toughest things to accomplish. One thing that could help though, especially in jam situations, is that everyone in the room is EQUAL. That person you admire, might be a great musician, but if he/she’s there, that means that he/she is also looking for work the same way you are. Which means, there is no need of treating anyone differently than anyone else.

Here are a few more Pros and Cons:

PRO– try and go to jams where the musicians are better than you. That way even if you don’t get to play you will go home having learnt something. Famous Stan Getz quote: “You can read all the textbooks and listen to all the records, but you have to play with musicians that are better than you.”

CON- If you decide to go every single night to jam sessions, be sure to select your jams well. Not all of them are FREE ENTRY and if you have to spend £15/20 per night (including, transportation, obligatory drinks, etc.), you could end up spending a fortune. Spending money and risking to have a bad night is not fun, especially for your wallet.

PRO– showing your face once in a while to jam sessions to let people know you are still “alive” and available for work is always a good sign

CON– some nights it feels like even the best jams have nothing to offer. The vibe is no there, the music lacks any kind of appeal and you go back home with nothing out of it.

Then finally, I want to point out that this is my personal experience and I’m not trying to teach anything to anyone. If someone would ask me if I would recommend going to jams or not? I would say to try and see. I don’t think jam nights are for everyone. If you go and have found a group of musicians you get along with, then keep going every week as much as you can. Start a band, play gigs etc.

If you hate going to jams and find it way too boring and frustrating, it’s ok, you don’t have to force yourself. Stay home, save money and try to figure out what is the best way to meet musicians and get some work.

Thanks a lot for reading, I wish everyone a fantastic 2019!

‘till next time!

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Chris Castellitto

Author Chris Castellitto

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