The Sam Bonds Bluegrass Jam
is an acoustic jam held every Tuesday night starting around 8:00-ish. The jam is open to any musician who brings their own acoustic string instrument, ala fiddles, mandolins, banjos, guitars, harmonica, bass, etc. (as much as we like drums and horns, the logistics of this jam lends itself best to acoustic strings only). Harmonicas are OK, washboards we can do one at a time - and play softly! (no sticks, cymbals or gongs, please). The jam is unamplified, a' natural, no mics, no amps. Just sit in a circle and play. We usually start in the neighborhood of 8:30 and play until around 11:00, with a 15 minute break somewhere in there. We have won local awards for things like best jam, best open jam, best hair; you know, the important stuff.
BASS PLAYERS: There is a house bass you can play, if you don't wanna lug your doghouse down, feel free to use ours.
The material is a mix of instrumentals (fiddle tunes, breakdowns) and sung songs. The host has a large catalog of songs which they will call out and start, and solos are sent around the circle to anyone who wishes to take one while the rest of the combo plays appropriate backup. Most of the songs are drawn from the basic bluegrass catalog, a partial list is listed on the left side of this page. Sometimes we'll adapt tunes from outside the bluegrass tradition, say from rockabilly or blues, but work within the format of the jam.
The host may open the floor for someone else to lead a song, but we do ask musicians to keep in mind the nature of this jam. This means songs with few chords and simple structures, as well as being rhythmically appropriate for the instruments at the jam. 6 part epics complete with transitions, tempo changes, fireworks, and circles and arrows on the back explaining each one are great for your band, but for this jam, simplicity reigns.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
Ability levels range from beginners to seasoned vets. All are welcome to play, but a basic musical proficiency is assumed. Most of the songs follow basic progressions, often (but not always) using progressions based on I-IV-V, with the occasional II or b7 thrown in. Knowing how to navigate swing-type/rhythm changes will also be occasionally helpful. Rhytmically, we live on the backbeat; get familiar with the 'boom-chuck' ryhthm. Guitars, bring a capo. I know you don't need one; bring it anyways. If you need help with any of these concepts, a google search will likely turn up a million resources that should be able to get you going in the right direction.
The schedule for each jam's host is listed on the left. The host's job is to generally keep things moving along, and keep song selections appropriate to the situation. While the nature of the jam is open, the host may make decisions in the best interest of the jam.
The most important concept though, is to have fun. We'll all be out of tune at some point, blow a chord, forget a lyric, play the wrong note; it happens. Relax, have fun; that's what we're here to do!