Last night I went to a blues jam at a local bar near my home. In my younger days, I used to frequent blues jams regularly, sometimes driving an hour and a half just to sit in for three songs. I haven’t been to a blues jam in quite some time, and last night was a reminder of a darker element inherent to some of these events.
This particular jam is held at a local watering hole, and in general, a fun place to go. The bar owner is a man of high spirits, and his good nature is a catalyst for the overall feeling of community which exists in this quaint setting. Kelly and I were meeting some friends, and when we arrived they were already there, hanging out and listening to the house band play their first set. These friends were also locals and had invited some of their friends, a three-piece blues band of passionate youngsters that drove down from Kentucky.
Shortly after greeting them and settling in, the fellow that runs the jam came over and asked our band friends if they were here to play. When they said yes, he barked “Do you guys play blues? You look like a bunch of rock and rollers to me, with the long hair and everything. This is a blues jam and we’ve got to pretty much stick to the blues.” Certainly not the friendliest foot to put forward. He accepted the fact that they were going to play, but told them they had to play with an additional guitar player, some local SRV type.
As they were the first players to arrive at this first come first serve jam, the jam master told them they were up, but to set up as quickly as possible as the clock was ticking. As they were setting up their guitars and getting situated, the “blues Nazi” walked over to the drummer and told him that he was too loud, even though he hadn’t played anything yet.
A few minutes later they started playing their first song, which was going well until halfway through it when the uninvited “guest” guitar player accidentally unplugged the bass players amp, essentially train wrecking the song. Halfway through the second song our less than friendly jam night commando was in their face again telling them they were too loud. They finished their short set to a decent response, and I might add that I thought they were quite good, full of that kind of youthful energy and passion that so many older players often lack.
When I chatted with a couple of these players shortly afterwards, they told me they frequent a lot of blues jams near their hometown, and at least half the time they get this kind of attitude. It made me remember the days when I used to frequent blues jams and how I had often experienced the same thing. The funny thing is, this particular blues Nazi, is not even a very good musician (as is the case with most blues Nazi’s). His condescending destructive nature wards off many a player. These three excitable youngsters drove 100 miles to come play music, as I had done many times in my younger years. So what if they were loud, isn’t live music too loud half the time anyway? If we wanted to hear quiet music, we would have stayed home and played the stereo.
The moral of the story is: Life is short, so don’t be a blues Nazi
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