hello everyone!! as a lot of you know, i'm huge into the blues...guys like SRV, albert king, buddy guy, etc. really resonate in my soul. of course, playing the blues is the most fun, but at my age (23) it's tough to find people that are into it. i feel that, especially in this area, most guys my age are into heavier stuff...punk rock and hardcore seem to be the only stuff people want to play. don't get me wrong, i can appreciate and respect those styles, but nothing hits me like the blues.
anyway, i've been trying to find people in my area (hampton roads virginia) to play this stuff with and up until recently had been unsuccessful. i saw on facebook about a funky blues jam at this bar in hampton (roughly 30 minutes or so from where i live, if you're familiar with the area i'm coming from virginia beach). i decided to check it out last night.
i got there around 8:25 right before the music started. as i walked up they began to play and i immediately liked what i heard, before i even saw anyone...sounded tight, funky, and grooving. i walk in to see four older black gentlemen wailing away, wearing the traditional blues uniforms...fedora hats and striped short sleeve dress shirts. a single thought occurs in my head: i have arrived.
i go to the bar and order a whiskey coke and bide my time, listening to the music, chatting up a few people about the event. when the first break starts, i ask the host (a blazing guitarist named jay) how it works. he is very warm and friendly and says i'm welcome to come up for a number. i head out to the car, grab my strat and tune it up, and wait through another few tunes. finally, after another break, i am summoned with a point and a "let's get my man up here" from the host.
i go up and find that i have to play on a crate solid state amp that i have no prior experience at all with...the cabling system was some type of wireless system that plugs right into a little transmitter thing that you clip onto your belt - a totally new animal for me. as if this wasn't rattling enough, as soon as i put on my guitar, with all eyes on me, my worst fears are realized: the back hole in my strap fails. *CLANK CLANK*. my guitar clatters to the floor as gasps rise up from the crowd. what a great first impression to make on a crowd of expert musicians
so i plug in and re-tune and we get ready to start. the host is discussing what song they are going to play with the keyboardist. "let's do pick up the pieces!" he says, and everybody happily nods. the next part of the exchange goes like this:
me: what key is it in?
host: either E or F. probably F
host: alright, everyone ready?
me (to the keyboard player): what are the changes?
keyboard player: alright, here we go!
and with that, the song began. i started off a little bit too loud, and the host gave me a few glares. i did what i could, but another fellow there was nice enough to come and adjust my volume for me while i was playing. i was also feeding back a little bit, but again, on an unfamiliar setup there wasn't much i could do. i settled in and from there, things started going up.
of course i had heard the song "pick up the pieces" by average white band, but i didn't know it by name. once i listened to the groove (listening! such an underappreciated skill for musicians!) and got in the pocket, i started off just banging on that F note on the third fret of the D string. i tried to lay off as much as possible - we played with an absolutely monstrous sax player (i think herby knows him), who was jamming hard, so i didnt want to step on his toes. finally, i got the nod from the host to take a solo. i laid down a decent ditty - it wasn't awful, but the combination of an unfamiliar setup with people i had just met on a tune i didn't really know kind of held me back from really getting into it. i relied mostly on the old stock minor pent licks that i've been playing since HS.
after that one ended, i got off because the host wanted to do a soft ballad by himself. for some reason, a couple people said i sounded good and a few people complimented me on my playing. i made sure to go up and thank each of the musicians for letting me play with them, and some of those guys even said i had a good sound, which was flooring to me. the keyboardist (who was absolutely smoking) even said "you need to do that again son!!" which made me feel great.
i ended up playing a few more with them as well as a couple other guys, and i met a whole bunch of cats that have the same musical tastes as me, mostly older. it's intimidating to play with guys that have been playing their instruments for as long as you've been alive, but it's refreshing to finally become familiar with a group of musicians whose tastes align with mine. they definitely have a jazzier, funkier kind of feel, but it's way closer than anyone i've ever played with before.
overall, despite some initial setbacks and nervous hiccups, the night was a rousing success. i'm super glad i decided to check it out, and i will definitely be going back there every sunday night that i can. hope you guys get some sort of mild entertainment out of my story and i look forward to hearing your thoughts and similar stories from others.