When a gaggle of musicians get together with only a vague idea of what they’re going to play and no idea who they’re going to play with, many cool things happen. Spontaneity breeds creativity and fun times. To be fair, sometimes terrible train wrecks happen at jams, too. But either way, it’s usually crazy fun, and audience members will have something to talk about on the way home, guaranteed.
Saskatoon is home to all kinda of jams, open to musicians of varying ages and skill levels. If they’re held at bars, obviously being 19 or older (or having a wicked convincing beard) is recommended, but you can find jams at coffee shops and other all-ages venues. Often times, the best jams are sparked up in the park with your friends and aren’t actual scheduled events. Understandably, those can be a bit tough to pin down.
Aspiring jammers and music fans of all types can browse through the list below for a good jumping off point into the world of jamming. If I’ve missed any cool jam opportunities in this list, and I’m sure I have, please let me know in the comments. I will add them to the list. Let’s expand this thing!
When: There’s only one left this season and it’s on April 25 at 8:00. If they decide to add more during the summer, check back here and you’ll be the first to know. The Bassment hosts jazz jams once a month during their regular season. You can find a condensed schedule on their website. They’re also listed on the event calendar on the Pickup.
What you should know: The official jam description on the Bassment’s website reads: “If you sing or play an instrument, make your way down to our Jazz Jam where musicians of all ages and levels are welcome to sit in.” These jams are always hosted by a professional jazz trio. Anyone who is interested in jamming signs up at the door and lists at least one tune they’d like to play. There is a suggested list of tunes, but you can trust the guys on stage to be able to accompany you on virtually any song — they’ve all got Fake books at the ready.
How to get involved: Just walk in and sign up. You can listen to a few tunes played by the host band and then when they open up the floor to jammers, if you know the tune, don’t hesitate to jump up on stage! If you don’t know any of the tunes, don’t worry — that’s why you signed up with at least one that you do know.
Buds on Broadway
When: Buds hosts a Saturday Afternoon Blues jam every Saturday from 3:00 – 8:00.
What you should know: The blues jams at Buds are hosted by a three piece band. There are a bunch of drink specials on throughout the day, because there’s nothing better than slightly drunk musicians banging out the blues. These jams can sometimes take a bit of effort to get off the ground and be actually entertaining. But if you roll in there with a few of your own musician buddies, you can try to steer the jam in a hip direction.
How to get involved: All you need to do, according to their website, is “Bring your instument, sign up, and play – its that easy!” I recommend you get to know and love the twelve-bar and sixteen-bar blues, because you’ll be playing and hearing them a lot (not that there’s anything wrong with that — to an extent). If you want to get extra snazzy, master a few different blues heads (melodies) and throw them down to mix things up beyond the mundane.
D’lish By Tish Café
When: The jams at this small coffee shop and cafe on Temperance St., near Broadway, alternate in style every week, but they always start at 7:30.
What you should know: Tish herself explains on her Facebook page: “Every Wednesday is an open session for all musicians to stop in and join. [Each week] is a different genre.” The first week of the month is jazz, second is swing, third is Irish acoustic, and the fourth is a folk song circle.
How to get involved: As far as I can tell, all you need to do is bring your instrument and be ready to play some tunes in the fashion of whatever that week’s genre happens to be. When I stopped by the Irish jam, the session seemed like it might be a bit hard to break into if you weren’t extremely familiar with all kinds of Irish tunes.
When: If you haven’t got your fill of blues jamming at Buds, head down the block to Vangellis for — you guessed it — another blues jam.
What you should know: The blues jams at Buds are hosted by a three piece band. There are a bunch of drink specials on throughout the day, because there’s nothing better than slightly drunk musicians banging out the blues.
How to get involved: Again, just bring your instrument and be ready to play some bluesy tunes. The same rules that went for Buds apply here: master the twelve-bar and sixteen-bar blues and be prepared to hear it a lot.
If all else fails… Try an open mic
When: There are lots of open mics in Saskatoon. I’ll be putting a full list together shortly. But your go-to standards are usually Lydias, the Fez, the Woods and Vangellis.
What you should know: I’ve played several open mics where we’ve had people jump on stage to play with us. The etiquitte here can be tricky. It’s not a jam environment. But if you feel like you can actually contribute, the events are usually pretty laid back and some bands may just let you play with them. But please, for everybody’s sake, try to play the same song, in the same style, that the band is playing.
How to get involved: Ask politely and wave your drum sticks/violin/french horn/guitar in the air wildly and shout “I play this thing!”