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Ever host a Jam night at the local bar?

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by mboogiemanusa, Jan 1, 2013.

  1. Any TBers ever host a jam night at their local clubs as a bass player host? One of my local dives that my cover bands regularly gigs called me to see if I was interested in hosted their weekly Thursday night open mic / jam night. I am just a bass player however do have the PA / amps and drums to do the job. The previous hosts were lead guitarists / lead vocalist that probably knew 300 songs off the top of their heads and could fake the rest. Just wondering if being a non-singing bass player is going add enough musical value to pull this off. This jam night mostly attracts an older crowd of musicians that mostly want to play 50's to 70s classic rock, country and old blues songs. Any advice ?
  2. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Sure. Go for it. I sing but not a ton. And I have filled in for the host of an open mic night that I was the house bass player for. You just have to set things up from the start. Before you get started, just go out and let everybody know that they need at least a singer and guitar player to do a song. That puts the responsibility on THEM to come up with a jam. If they are older guys, odds are many of them know each other. And they know music together. You might even put together a partial list of songs you are comfortable with so that they can choose from that list if they want you to play.

    But if you are hosting an open mic night, be prepared to let others play your bass. They might not bring their own. It has been my experience that bass players more than others don't bring their own instrument to the jams. So if you are one of those people who might get edgy about someone else playing "your baby" then perhaps you should bring your backup bass. I made pretty good money doing those jams for several years so I actually went out and bought a pretty inexpensive "loaner" bass to take those nights. I would play my main player on songs I did, but like shoes at the bowling alley, you play whatever I give you if you don't bring your own.
  3. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    Don't expect to make money. Expect to deal with 1000 clowns. I'm not saying no, because you might also meet some great players and the whole networking thing. Do it, put up with it, just don't expect immediate reward for it.
  4. Did one for a couple of years, and it was lots of fun. I originally supplied a full backline (3 Amps) and a PA with four mikes. Most guitar players and some bass players wanted to use their own gear, so I cut down to my bass rig and the PA. All the proceeds went to charity, so it was for fun not money.
  5. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    I am a non-singing bass player and member of the host band at a local blues jam twice a month. It's fun, but sometimes I get stuck up there. We play a set to start and then begin allowing others to sit in. Sometimes I'm the only bass guy all night, sometimes there are three or four bass players. Also, when I have to play with others it can be hairy not knowing their tunes (usually some obscure blues tune by someone I've never heard of---I'm not really an afficianado). But, I let my experience carry me onward best I can.

    Go for it, what do you have to lose? It may be the best thing you ever did, who knows?
  6. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    LOL that's beautiful I have never been to one but that's what I imagined it would be 999 Bob Segers and one Joni Mitchell.
  7. I was invited down to meet the Bar manager tonight. I was offered the gig and will start next week. Should be fun for a while .....I'll be trying to get a good assortment of musicians and musical styles....these jam nights tend to be dominated by guitarists that what to wank on old blues songs. One side benefit of this venture will be that my cover band will be getting some priority bookings over some of the rival bands in the rotation.
  8. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    Yes, for many years. My advice: start singing and playing guitar if you don't already, since you'll probably do just as well at that eventually as many of your attendees.

    I bent over backwards to encourage anyone not "just" playing guitar or playing 12 bar blues -- but of course many people will want to do just that, and you might as well embrace it. If you can snag a good horn or keyboard player you'll be way ahead of the game.

    I still do a house band gig once a month at an open mike, but I just play bass and I usually get at least one or two other bass players in to spell me for a few sets. We get a few jazz players most weeks and do a Real Book set at least once a night, which can be fun for the more adventurous guitar players. I make copies of some easy charts and send 'em home with them so they can learn on their own time, which has worked out pretty well. There's a sax player regular who's an excellent reader, that helps even more.

    Best of luck, and have fun.
  9. Marginal Tom

    Marginal Tom

    Apr 28, 2010
    O'Fallon, IL
    My advice from attending many open mics: Keep the volume under control, use a sign-up sheet to insure that everyone gets a reasonable amount of face time, network with the other musicians and always remember that every good musician was mediocre (at best) when they started playing out.
  10. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC

    I quit going to another jam due to the volume. It was just way too loud for me. Too bad because they would often ask me to fill in with the host band, which meant I'd get paid. But, alas, I couldn't stand it.

    At our jam we do use a list in order to be as fair as possible to those who want to play. First come, first serve, and everyone understands that.
  11. BassChuck


    Nov 15, 2005
    Invite people you know. It's always good to have people there you can count on if you need them.
  12. Yeah, if you don't sing and can't really hold down things, make sure you can roust up a "House Band." If you build up enough steam and can afford to pay a house band a bit at the jam, or on a weekly "guest" to the open mic or jam, that'll bring in people more consistently and generally get better players.

    There was a local bar that had a rotating host for an open mic night where I used to live, and I'd fill in as host every now and then. There's two local jams that I regularly go to, and two that I sit in on a whole lot as a house bassist. I liked the open mic because there wasn't as much bickering. It was just as fun to watch the guys bomb terribly as it was to hear some awesome 17 year old kid who blew everyone away with their sheer talent.

    In addition to some great advice given on this thread, I'd also suggest that you actively attract and market to the best players that you can. If you have a jam, get a good group together as the house band. Once you have a handful of really good players playing at any give time, the ones who aren't as good will have more of a "learning" attitude instead of a "look-what I can do and I'm pissed that I'm not on yet" attitude. While you do some primadonna type musicians, in general, the better the musicians you get, the less attitudes and bickering you'll get. In general, the better the players you can attract, the better the jams go.

    Be ready to put up with some ATROCIOUS and loud noise at times, especially at the jams. This'll happen at the jams even when good players are jamming out.

    At the same time, they can be tons of fun, and you'll ALWAYS learn more while hosting. People are always bringing in great tunes, and you can get some great players who'll show you a thing or two. If you can pay enough attention to what works and what doesn't, your musicianship skills will rise a whole lot.

    The networking can be really, really good, especially if you run a jam or open mic. You can get yourself known in the local scene really fast (for better or worse, depending on your talent and attitude) as "that guy who runs the jam/open mic at that bar on Tuesdays." If you have skills, you'll get sub gigs in no time, and can find other new band members fast, too. One of the jams that I go to regularly gets some great players. That jam directly attributed to the formation of some really good local bands. After moving into my new-ish town just about a year ago, I've now got sub gigs all the time. I got into a couple of of original bands (that shortly thereafter fell apart) and one really good cover band (which I just joined) because of how I'd sit in as the house bassist for a couple of jams. It was tons harder to get things going in the last city that I lived in before now, since there were literally no jams at all.

    Also, there's times where things just magically click, y'all have a great time, and the audience is happy and amazed. I'd say "go for it." If you do and fail miserably, at least you can say you gave it a shot!