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What I love about playing in a jam band

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by tb-player, Sep 15, 2020.

  1. Boy Scout - Always be prepared.

  2. Hippie - Let it flow, man.

  3. Vegetarian - its all about the carrots.

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  1. tb-player

    tb-player the bass player Supporting Member

    Mar 6, 2019
    We have a gig this Sunday on a local dock bar. It's a popular spot and should be a fun time. This is a band that gets together a few times a year for epic jams. We always have decent crowds that appreciate good music.

    I just got a text from the singer with 4-5 more songs... almost all Bob Marley tunes. I'm laughing because we don't have any reggae tunes in our repertoire... although we sometimes tend to find some nice reggae vibes when the jams get good. Last-minute-tunes is a fairly typical occurrence.

    To me, this is the best part about playing in a band like this. Flying by the seat of our pants and hanging on for dear life.

    It's actually pretty typical. One of our last shows before quarantine was a benefit concert. It was a packed house of local who's-who types. We had a great setlist and the crowd was into it. At one point, the lead singer just turned around and said "Watchtower." We'd never actually played that tune... ever. He was looking at me to start it. So I started strumming chords up the neck of my bass in the rhythm of a Michael Hedges cover I remember from way back in the day. One by one the band joined in and we just went for it. Turned out to be one of the best jams of the night. We're still talking about it.

    I know some players who would be cussing the singer for doing stuff like that. I mean, I'm a total "be prepared" kind of player. I'm the guy who always know my parts and even has spare charts, if necessary. Truth-be-told, there was a time I would have hated being put on the spot. But these days, situations like this tell me that we have a guy leading this group who has total confidence in his band (he points to me for a bass solo on the weirdest tunes... lol). In my opinion, that's the highest compliment he could give us.

    I'm curious... how would you react to this kind of musical environment? Would you hate it or thrive?
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2020
  2. Biggbass


    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth
    Bob Marley tunes....you be jammin'.
    when we get into extended jams it's usually on a classic Allman Bros Band tune. But reggae is always fun. I also like to take a classic rock tune and do it reggae style.
    bobba66, sonojono, HolmeBass and 2 others like this.
  3. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    Well, there's a substantial population that believes it's unacceptable in a cover band to do anything other than make exact reproductions of "THE" recording (and of course that leaves aside the whole question of which recording is "THE" recording.

    I don't fall into that camp. I would rather play something and experience some surprise. If I'm going to duplicate every note of something it needs to be material that justifies that approach. Beethoven? yes. Bob Marley? No. And as a listener I would rather hear a band doing something kind of familiar but in a different way ("Gee, that's a new approach") than to hear 5 guys on a stage attempt to reproduce something that took weeks in a studio - why not just play the record, in that case?
    gjohnstone, mikeyjm2, blue4 and 8 others like this.
  4. Volker Kirstein

    Volker Kirstein Blippy the Wonder Slug Supporting Member

    Oh, I just love being thrown a song I've barely heard and never played while on stage. It's like that exhilarating feeling when you're flying down down the highway and smoothly downshift into 2nd instead of 4th, and your engine screams and leaps out of the hood.
    Neo1, Drzejzi, flannel cat and 8 others like this.
  5. To each his own, prepared, always be prepared. I'm just not a fan of surprises.
  6. Paulabass


    Sep 18, 2017
    I love it when someone calls a tune we haven't done before OR, if during a different song, one member starts to lead us into something new with a series of chords changes or a signature lick, and slowly we can circle the wagons and switch to it (or a semblance of 'it'). Also, my old trusty move, as soon as someone shouts Freebird we switch to it, in whatever key/tempo/groove we are in now.
    The Jam band motto- ten minute segues between two 3 minute songs
  7. tb-player

    tb-player the bass player Supporting Member

    Mar 6, 2019
    I agree with that 100%. I do my best to always be the most practiced/prepared guy in the room.

    Still, I've found, the more prepared I am, the better prepared I am to handle those inevitable surprises. Of course, when the surprises work out well, we're even more juiced to do it again next time... lol.

    For me, it's all about trust... trusting the guys you're playing with and trusting yourself to be able to reel everyone back in when it's time.
  8. tb-player

    tb-player the bass player Supporting Member

    Mar 6, 2019
    Freaking brilliant. I'm totally stealing that. :laugh::roflmao::laugh:
  9. viper4000


    Aug 17, 2010
    Be prepared by knowing your instrument or role, training your ears, knowing your mates. Let it flow when it flows.
    OogieWaWa, Winslow, whero and 2 others like this.
  10. Paulabass


    Sep 18, 2017
    It's hard to 'step into' a jam band. You have to know your bandmates styles, likes and dislikes, to be able to anticipate where they are likely to go. Great jam bands are not created overnight. Rule #1 check ego at the door.
  11. I think cover bands are as much fun as a wet blanket. If I want to listen to the Beatles, I can play one of their recordings. Nobody can reproduce their sound, so why try? Same goes for ABBA, but I don't have their recordings.

    When I used to jam frequently, we'd play the way we thought sounded best with the material the audience wanted the hear. If you wanted to play something new, on the other hand, you wouldn't just blurt out the name, it was up to you to start playing the song, then others would join in.
    blue4, JeezyMcNuggles and Claymore like this.
  12. viper4000


    Aug 17, 2010
    Yeah def. I started in jam bands, and knowing your role and mates are key. Maybe even more than technical ability (prolly not). Case in point, back in those days, we could jam out actual songs and actual improv jams. But if I were to jump out into a bridge PU fretless bass solo, everyone would have stopped. Because that was not my role. But if I were to change the direction of the song rhythmically or via key change, they would follow me down that path. Miss those days.
  13. tb-player

    tb-player the bass player Supporting Member

    Mar 6, 2019
    This is really well said. And as bass players, we have that ability. There’s constant nonverbal communication between my drummer and I.
    There is a local jam/jazz band that I sit in with 2-3 times a year, when their bassist has a conflict. You’re absolutely right... it’s difficult to just slide into a jam band that has been playing together for years and think you’re going to communicate the way they do. In those scenarios, I actually have intentional ‘casual’ convos with the guys in the band about their likes/dislikes, favorite moments when jamming...etc. It makes a difference, but it’s not nearly as helpful as simply playing with them.
  14. kittywithabanjo

    kittywithabanjo Supporting Member

    Nov 26, 2014
    Coquitlam. BC
    I am pretty used to that, as long as everyone has their ears open its all good, but yeah it sure helps if its players you know.
    tb-player likes this.
  15. MotorCityMinion


    Jun 15, 2017
    Reggae tunes trigger a bathroom break for me but I also don't like anything on the fly in public. Fumbling around in front of band mates, it happens and is expected. In public, nope.
    Pulverizor likes this.
  16. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Curious. I love to jam. I love being in the company of musicians that are better than I am and having the opportunity to create and stretch.
    But I would 10 times rather be deaf than hear other people do it. Phish comes to mind right away.
    But in my defense, I don't utilize LSD.
  17. I think it would be a blast.

    Gov't Mule does this all the time and there are some great YouTube videos of them playing a song, obviously for the first time as a band, and the bass player has clearly never played the song before and is intently watching and listening.

    Last night I watched a really interesting documentary called Nothing Stays The Same: The Story of The Saxon Pub, about the famed nightclub in Austin, TX. The film featured a band called The Resentments, who have had a Sunday night residency at The Saxon for 20 years and have two rules: they never rehearse and they never use a setlist.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2020
  18. smogg


    Mar 27, 2007
    NPR, Florida
    I'm not crazy, I'm just a little unwell
    ^^^^^^^ This this and more this. ^^^^^^^
    Jam bands are great for jam night. One the busiest night of the week with a full house the band hired better bring their A game.
  19. Carl Hillman

    Carl Hillman

    Jan 1, 2010
    Using your ears and flying by the seat of your pants is part of being a for-hire, side man. As a member of a band, it's another thing altogether.

    But, either scenario wouldn't bother me, because I'm used to it.

    I've worked for band leaders who wouldn't even tell you what tune they were going to do next, they'd just start playing (or singing) the melody, and your job was to start playing, make it work, and make it sound good.
    LBS-bass, kjp360 and DJ Bebop like this.
  20. Steadfast

    Steadfast Supporting Member

    Sep 28, 2015
    Search Me
    My role as a sax player is always a surprise. I am hired to play solos. People are so used to me they don’t t even shout out the key Anymore.
    On bass— I need a little notice— at least the key. Lol
    Remoman and DJ Bebop like this.

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