Open mic jams observations

dukewellington

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I used to go to a great open mic — anything went. College town bar, mid week with a crowd of freaks. Juggling flaming beer cans, bad poetry, the worst heavy metal you ever heard played on a Gorilla amp, the best solo vocalist you ever heard, a guy with a typewriter, some guy singing “Strokin’”… but generally I avoid those things, especially if there’s backline. Usually worse than karaoke night.
 

Skyhook

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Use to do the open mic thing in a few pubs, community halls, etc., and it could be fun, and I learned a lot, but watching the other people up there…I just don’t want to see it anymore.

Mostly it’s somebody sitting up front on a stool masturbating while people half pay attention while swilling lager, and then clap appreciatively once the person has climaxed.

So true, but that can be very entertaining if you just set your mind to "Peevish" beforehand. 😈
 

ndcaster

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the best open mic I saw had a strict "one and done" rule

it was an absolute freak show: one guy came up high as a kite with an electric dobro and spun around on a barstool while playing long glisses

there were midgets, old country guys, punks, and Ani di Franco imitators with piercings, the whole gamut

and because it was one and done, either performers took their best shot and/or no one had to suffer too long

it helped that Chris, who ran it, had a sense of humor and was ready to sing Elvis's entire catalog at the drop of a hat
 

TeleTex82

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My favorite is when people at a jam are like, "Do you know (insert name of mildly regionally popular song from 40 years ago)?"
 

doghouseman

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in your head man....
I can't understand why Mustang Sally gets mentioned so much. Do people really want to play that so often? (I can totally see how it's annoying.)

There is one jam/open mic night near me. At some point I'm going to get there... it's so hard to imagine people wanting to play Mustang Sally.
Not sure why all the hate for mustang sally. It is a blues song. If you can play the blues, then you should be able to rip through it.

Also, girls named Sally love it and start dancing to it, so I dont see what is so bad about it. I know it gets played a lot, but it is just a blues song for crying out loud, make it your own.

If you need inspiration listen to the original recording by Wilson Picket. If you can sing it as good as Wilson can, then you can complain about the song.
 

tfarny

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Interesting, I have never seen any house bands at an open mic before. Maybe it’s a regional thing or maybe I don’t go to many open mics.

All the ones I have ever done were oriented to solo acoustic type stuff, not as a rule but more the tradition. Mix of old guys doing Dylan covers and younger songwriters doing originals.
 

wulfenganck

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We have a club that does open stage nights once a month. They have a house band which opens the evening for the first 30 to 45 minutes. Then it's usually a band with another small set of 30 minutes and then whoever wants to get on.
I used to step in on guitar for the house-band a couple of times (and 2 times on bass) because the original player wasn't there.
I also performed there with firends and my bands. It's mostly great fun and an audience that knows that you're not going to do elaborated stuff, but mostly well-known songs. Sometimes it gets awful, when someone entitled enters, but usually it's great fun.
I do try to avoid those dead-beat songs like Mustang Sally, Cocaine, Knocking On Heaven's Door and the like and on the better days, there are some nice jams going on. Of course, when you don't stick to 3-chords-12-bars standards, tehre are some flaws often enough, like missed breaks, wrong chords, awkward "guest-tones", but it's always a good laugh from both the band and the audience.
It's usually from 9 to around midnight, but there where glorious evenings up to 2 in the morning.
It's a good way to train playing in front of an audience and when we added a new singer who hasn't sung for 20 years lately, we joined the open stage for a couple of songs to mend her stagefright. Worked fine and she's vivid on playing real gigs.
 

KeithDavies 100

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We have a club that does open stage nights once a month. They have a house band which opens the evening for the first 30 to 45 minutes. Then it's usually a band with another small set of 30 minutes and then whoever wants to get on.
I used to step in on guitar for the house-band a couple of times (and 2 times on bass) because the original player wasn't there.
I also performed there with firends and my bands. It's mostly great fun and an audience that knows that you're not going to do elaborated stuff, but mostly well-known songs. Sometimes it gets awful, when someone entitled enters, but usually it's great fun.
I do try to avoid those dead-beat songs like Mustang Sally, Cocaine, Knocking On Heaven's Door and the like and on the better days, there are some nice jams going on. Of course, when you don't stick to 3-chords-12-bars standards, tehre are some flaws often enough, like missed breaks, wrong chords, awkward "guest-tones", but it's always a good laugh from both the band and the audience.
It's usually from 9 to around midnight, but there where glorious evenings up to 2 in the morning.
It's a good way to train playing in front of an audience and when we added a new singer who hasn't sung for 20 years lately, we joined the open stage for a couple of songs to mend her stagefright. Worked fine and she's vivid on playing real gigs.
Nice! That's how it should work!
 

dougstrum

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We host 2-3 open mic/jams a year.
Always interesting, but I sure would not want to do more than that.

Went to an "acoustic jam" last night. I brought my old Gibson L50. I've been working on it for a while and thought it'd be fun testing it out.
The jam was a loud piezo acoustic fest, bass and drums were part of host band.

My poor little old acoustic didn't stand a chance, got talked into playing a friends guitar~
 

wulfenganck

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This is on the other end of everyone else's stories of "the band tolerating a bad singer/player"...

My only experience participating in an open jam was this:

In a bar that I'd played before in bands I had been in. There was an open jam and open mic type band on stage this time. The lead singer was asking if anyone wanted to play a tune with the band. I had a couple beers in me so I said "ok, sure". I went up on stage and one of the guitarists handed me a guitar. The lead singer (through the mic) asked me what I wanted to play. I asked "what do we know?" and he just smirked and said "what the hell do YOU know?". So I mentioned I was recently working on some Howlin' Wolf tunes.

"Alright, we'll do Red Rooster".

And before I could say anything, they launched into... not Little Red Rooster. It was a jazz tune about a rooster, but it was nothing at all related to Howlin' Wolf. It took me almost half the song to figure out it was in the key of F#m. As soon as I figured that out, the lead singer yelled "Solo!" and pointed at me. As soon as I launched into some weak and noodly pentatonics and/or minor diatonics the tempo changed. At the end of some bars it returned to the same tempo. I struggled the whole time to figure out the roots of any chords being played by the other guitarist. They were all jazz chords and it all went over my head.

When the song ended, the lead singer was yelling "give it up for Cometazzi! Isn't he... great?". I strummed an open E chord on the guitar that was handed to me and it was severely out of tune.

Basically, I got made an ass out of for everyone's entertainment. I've never participated in any open anything since.
That was pretty patronizing and quite rude ON BEHALF of the house-band. They clearly wanted to make you look bad.
I've been to open stages where there were the "local heroes" made the whole thing into a kind of "the popular kids are having a party and you're not invited". Usually those kind of open stages die pretty soon, because the audience also gets bored.
Sad enough it seems to happen more, when it's an explicitely "Jazz"-oriented club, ah, well.
Luckily there is one club in my hometown and another nearby who do open stages with a nice and friendly attitude.
This is one of those moments, where modern technics really prove to be helpful - I got around 250 songs on my tablet - pretty much everything I have played for the last 10 years.
That helps a lot to find something more interesting to play with others.
 

THX1123

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Open mics are an awesome way to gain experience learning to play for an audience. The key words, in my opinion, are "for an audience."

The thing is that (in my experience) open mics and jams often attract persons for whom the audience often seems to be the last concern. I genuinely enjoy and support watching someone (even if with very limited skills) try and express themselves and entertain the room. I support that 100% percent. You can tell when people are trying, and when they mean it, even if they are unskilled. I saw a guy at an open mic I played in coastal Oregon who was not very skilled, in fact he had to pause sometimes between chord shapes. But he emoted, he got his feelings across! His original songs were simple and unique in such a naïve and visceral way that, to me, it was 100% legit. People supported him there. He got more applause than the bluegrass guys who went up before him and shredded for 15 minutes without looking at the crowd, or caring 1% about them.

I would rather not endure opportunistic or delusional persons who are there to inflict themselves and potential [email protected] upon the room through endless I IV Vs and other rote displays that do not include consideration for actually entertaining other people. That is what basement and garage jams and Youtube are for. Have a house party and do it there please.

I still sometimes go with my acoustic and sing 2-3 well-rehearsed songs by myself. There's an open mic in my new town at a cool little coffee house I am planning to try as I am looking for a new band. Maybe I will find someone to play with by performing. If I do, it will be because I hopefully come across as genuine, and hopefully entertain someone there with my songs, and not because I was self-indulgent, or insecure and selfish.
 

Flat6Driver

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Open mics are an awesome way to gain experience learning to play for an audience. The key words, in my opinion, are "for an audience."

The thing is that (in my experience) open mics and jams often attract persons for whom the audience often seems to be the last concern. I genuinely enjoy and support watching someone (even if with very limited skills) try and express themselves and entertain the room. I support that 100% percent. You can tell when people are trying, and when they mean it, even if they are unskilled. I saw a guy at an open mic I played in coastal Oregon who was not very skilled, in fact he had to pause sometimes between chord shapes. But he emoted, he got his feelings across! His original songs were simple and unique in such a naïve and visceral way that, to me, it was 100% legit. People supported him there. He got more applause than the bluegrass guys who went up before him and shredded for 15 minutes without looking at the crowd, or caring 1% about them.

I would rather not endure opportunistic or delusional persons who are there to inflict themselves and potential [email protected] upon the room through endless I IV Vs and other rote displays that do not include consideration for actually entertaining other people. That is what basement and garage jams and Youtube are for. Have a house party and do it there please.

I still sometimes go with my acoustic and sing 2-3 well-rehearsed songs by myself. There's an open mic in my new town at a cool little coffee house I am planning to try as I am looking for a new band. Maybe I will find someone to play with by performing. If I do, it will be because I hopefully come across as genuine, and hopefully entertain someone there with my songs, and not because I was self-indulgent, or insecure and selfish.
Everyone goes for different reasons: shake off the rust, prove to themselves/a few friends they can do it, network, entertain the crowd, etc.

Many of those entertaining people is the least concern. That was often way down on my list when I did it. Not %%^^ing up was at the top of the list.

The problem is most basement bands get together once or twice and expect to GIG twice a month with a handful of songs and no, I mean zero, clue what it takes to get there and get your crap set up....assuming you even have a place to gig.

#sigh
 

tfarny

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My favorite is the girl with a capo on the acoustic guitar, and when she doesn't understand why everyone in the band can't transpose on the fly and follow along on her song.
Making fun of newbs is kind of not what tdpri is supposed to be about, just my opinion. Take it to TGP.
While I know some people who would LOVE this kind of jam / open mic with a backing band supporting, I cannot imagine it would be entertaining for anyone and the only people I would expect to be in the audience are people waiting to go up on stage, and whomever they might bring with them. Which is cool, and great, I just would not imagine greatness or even decentness to be the end result on the stage.

A set of ground rules / guidelines would probably help the situation along for all parties - for instance, no pedalboards allowed, no alternate tunings, tune up before taking the stage, and so on. It would make for a better and more fun night if your band could communicate this in advance to people.
People learn this stuff through experience unless they are told otherwise.
 

DanglingNutslots

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So last night was the first Blues Society jam night of the year. I went, mostly to check it out and see if it was something I’d like to do. I brought Linda Lou, my Telecaster-based “partscaster” with the P90 in the neck, and my ModTone Dirty Duo overdrive pedal. You can set up two different overdrive sounds and switch between them – one warm and bluesy, one aggressive and more rock.

The crowd was the usual catshow of wannabees and has-beens. Lots of Hawaiian shirts, sporty little hats, and gray ponytails. One younger guy was decked out like a motorcycle gangster and sported goggles onstage, fingerless gloves, and a leather cowboy hat (the universal head covering of a certain kind of hipster). He had an awful blue Strat copy (Ibanez or Yamaha Pacifica, I think) and he tried to do Stevie Ray. There was this harp player with one of those hipster bowling shirts and a sporty little porkpie hat and shades who tried really really hard, but came off looking a bit theatrical. And the usual assortment of fat slobs with Stratocasters slung down resting on their beerbellies. Not the friendliest of crowds either – hard to be sociable when you’re so invested in your fragile ego. I wore Wranglers and an old Rat Fink t-shirt under a Carhartt flannel – no stage costume for me. Since I'm completely bald, I usually wear some kind of hat, but decided to just let my fweek fwag fwy.

I signed in on the sheet as spot #7. Didn’t think I’d be playing for hours. However, they are doing it different this year – they assemble “bands” from the people who sign up, so you end up playing with a half dozen people you’ve never met. Crazy. I ended up being the only guitar player in my “band.” And they asked me if I could sing and I replied that I’d rather someone else do that. Years back one of my duo act partners told me I couldn’t sing, and that sapped my self-confidence. <sigh>

So the “host band” did their thing for several tunes (they provide the backline of amps and drum kit and will sit in if one of the “bands” needs say a drummer). And then the first “band” was up to do their 3 tunes. I revisited the sign-up sheet and was surprised to find that I was in the next “band,” which by that time barely gave me time to get my axe and stomp box out of the case. But I believe it was Wally Shakespeare who said “If a thing is to be done, is better to be done quickly or not at all.” I think he was referring to murder …

I got my gear hooked up on stage and checked out who was in my “band.” Drummer was from host band, no problems there. Keyboard player seemed OK. Bass player was a guy I’d been chatting with who may turn into a friend, and this wasn’t his first rodeo. Nice clean-cut 30-something chap with a case of harmonicas inspired confidence. But then there was the “singer” who was dressed like an extra from “The Night Before Halloween.” And singers are usually primadonnas, and she proved to be no exception.

She wanted to do some forgettable tune in E to start out. No problem. She was really going for it, though, with all the gyrations and vocal affectations. Plus she was to my left, and I was afraid she’d bang into my headstock at any moment, but she didn’t, thank God. Then we did some other blues standard in A, and she got even more animated and the sound of her voice got even more erratic. Then it came time for our third and final tune …

When I was in a band in Colorado Springs, we had a tune that we trotted out in the third set and it always killed. We took the tune of “Mannish Boy” by Muddy Waters (doh doh doh doh) and dropped the lyrics to the Beverly Hillbillies theme into it. It was a perfect fit and a real crowd pleaser. So last night I printed out the lyrics and brought them along so we could do that one and entertain the folks.

I told her how it was supposed to work, and she had no clue what “Mannish Boy” was (REALY???). She started to sing and it was so bad that before she got past the first line, I stuck my face in front of the mic and started doing it my way. From somewhere deep in my gut, this edgy, nasty, gravelly, growling voice came out. I wish I had a recording – it sounded OK to me, but I was carrying the guitar part and singing into a mic for the FIRST TIME EVER, so I had no clue. Nor did I care. She took the hint and faded offstage. Hope I didn’t make an enemy, but it was what it was.

My wife wasn’t there to take pictures or hear how we did, so I have no record. Pity. But I got over whatever stagefright I might have had all these years. Probably a good thing she stayed home – one of the gals had her purse stolen. And now I’m looking for tunes for April. And when the man asks me if I can sing, I’ll answer an enthusiastic “Yes!”
I enjoyed your story very much but I think you should take a break from people for a while.
 

doghouseman

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in your head man....
Making fun of newbs is kind of not what tdpri is supposed to be about, just my opinion. Take it to TGP.
While I know some people who would LOVE this kind of jam / open mic with a backing band supporting, I cannot imagine it would be entertaining for anyone and the only people I would expect to be in the audience are people waiting to go up on stage, and whomever they might bring with them. Which is cool, and great, I just would not imagine greatness or even decentness to be the end result on the stage.

A set of ground rules / guidelines would probably help the situation along for all parties - for instance, no pedalboards allowed, no alternate tunings, tune up before taking the stage, and so on. It would make for a better and more fun night if your band could communicate this in advance to people.
People learn this stuff through experience unless they are told otherwise.
not trying to be critical, just going along with the OP.

Also a bit of a PSA for more seasoned players, since some musicians might not be aware of the implications of playing along with someone using capo until the song starts.
 

DanglingNutslots

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not trying to be critical, just going along with the OP.

Also a bit of a PSA for more seasoned players, since some musicians might not be aware of the implications of playing along with someone using capo until the song starts.
You could also show up with a guitar tuned down and not tell them. At least with a capo you can tell there’s something up.
 




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