Saturday, October 29, 2005

Blue Monday do's...and don'ts.

Blue Monday Jammers - Hwy 99 Blues Club

Harmonica Playboy & the Midnight Movers have been hosting the Blue Monday jam session at the Highway 99 Blues Club in Seattle for ten months now. We've sort of modeled the gig after the Blue Monday jams that occurred for years at the late, great Owl Cafe (now the Conor Byrne Pub) in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood. That is, the house band plays the first set and jammers play the next two or three sets. If there's time, the house band plays another short set at the end of the night.

I never use a sign-up sheet at Blue Monday, because I prefer to have the freedom to arrange sets of jammers that I think will probably be compatible. Sometimes this arrangement works, and the crowd gets treated to some excellent music. Sometimes it doesn't work, and the result can be an agonizing sonic train wreck.

There are three things that I like about Blue Monday: (1) we get to play with other pros from around town that we don't see very often otherwise, (2) we get to meet the occasional blues or rock celebrity - for instance, pianist Pinetop Perkins sat in with the band a few months ago, and (3) it's a great place for upcoming talent to play and network with other musicians that might be looking to put a band together.

Anyway, here are some tips for jammers new to the Blue Monday concept:

1. Do bring your own axe - It is unlikely that anyone in the house band is going to lend you their guitar, bass, or drum sticks, not even if you just flew in from Toronto and stumbled into the gig by accident. And don't even ask about my harps, thank you very much.

2. Do keep it simple - It is unwise to get on the stand with a stage full of people you don’t know and expect them to play Percy Mayfield’s “River’s Invitation” flawlessly. It’s also a good idea to give the band some clues about how you want to start and stop the song, and who will take the next solo. I have noticed that, for some reason, musicians’ telepathic powers seem to be diminished during Blue Monday. See the “train wreck” comment above.

3. Don’t wear your leather pants – Take a look around. Almost all of the Blue Monday Jammer Guitar Army are guys. Save it for the weekend, pal.

4. Don’t bring your Marshall half-stack – It will be too loud. Thank you.

5. Do hang out – Get to the club early and socialize with your fellow jammers. You might make some new friends and learn some new chops while listening to the others play.

6. Do have some basic blues chops – There’s nothing worse than trying to play with a drummer that can’t keep time, a guitarist that can’t play in tune, or a harp player that can’t play single notes. I have noticed that some players are totally clueless when their amateurish playing is eliciting giggles from the audience. Don’t let this happen to you!

7. Don’t get wigged out because you didn’t get to play with the house band – Hey, sometimes I only get to play one set with my band at Blue Monday. I can’t guarantee what the set lineups will be before the gig. Sorry!

8. Do bring your whole band to Blue Monday – Your Blues band, that is. I’ll always try my best to get bands up that have made the trek to downtown Seattle. A word to the wise, though – the guy that books the bands at the Highway 99 is not there on Mondays, so don’t consider your set an audition for a gig.

9. Do be patient – Sometime so many guitarists show up that I’ve got to get three guitar players on the stage per set. Your time will come, Grasshopper! Please – don’t show up at 10:15 then start whining to me at 10:30 about when you’ll get to play. This annoys me mightily.

10. Do be nice to the club staff – The staff at the Highway 99 are great and do everything they can to ensure that the clientele has a good time. Don’t pester the staff for free food or drinks because you’re going to play that night. Show some class.

OK, ‘nuff said. Now grab your axe and come on down to Blue Monday and show us what you got!

The Highway 99 Blues club is located at 1414 Alaskan Way in Seattle, across the street from the Seattle Aquarium. The Blue Monday gig starts at 8:30 PM most every Monday.


Blues Boss said...


Excellent JAM TIPS.....also, I wouldn't want to touch your harps anyway!!!

Mike Lynch said...

Blues Boss - Thanks!

Oh, you're too good for my harps, eh? You know, I heven't had anyone suggest that I lend them my harps in a long time, but it HAS happened.

T-Boy said...

yeah...i was jus wondrin'... what nite of the weak is yer blue monday?