Saturday 19 January 2013

"I've Got Blisters on My Fingers"

    Some of the best fun I have had in my life, has been playing music with people.  Unfortunately, it is now something I rarely have an opportunity to do.  In high school, I sang and played a banjo in a folk group.  At university, I did vocals and played rhythm guitar in a rock group that concentrated on the music of the  Beatles, and the Byrds. 
    There for a while during the 80’s and early 90’s, a lot of my friends who lived in McBride were musicians, so there was a lot of playing during our get togethers, but after they all moved away, my guitar has led a pretty lonely life.   Once a year,  I got to jam with people at a New Year’s Eve party, but even that came to an end.
    On Thursday night, I attended a meeting for the Whistle Stop Gallery.  Across from me sat a new resident of McBride, who was a musician, who had just made an album, which I had read about in the newspaper.  As I was leaving the meeting, I passed him talking to someone on the sidewalk, and I picked up enough of the conversation to conclude that he was looking for people to play music with.  I jumped into the conversation and told him I was really interested in doing music, and he invited me to a “jam” to be held Friday night at the curling lounge starting at 7:00.
    Just as a bit of an explanation to those who don’t know, curling is a strange sport played on ice.  A heavy round object with a handle called the rock, is glided toward a bullseye on the far end of the ice.  People with brooms frantically sweep in front of the rock, trying to maneuver it so that it stops close to the center of the target.  The curling lounge is where curlers all hang out socializing.
    I was excited all day long in anticipation of playing music.  Yesterday afternoon, I took my acoustic guitar off of the wall where it hangs, and gave it a strum.  I was shocked by how loud it sounded, having only been playing my tiny ukelele for a month.  I tuned it up, and then got my mandolin out and gave it a tuning.
    In my mind, I had imagined that Brad Strang, the musician I had met the night before, had made some kind of arrangement to use the lounge, and there would just be a few fellow musicians there, but at 7:00, when I walked through the doors of the curling lounge, there were no musicians there, just curlers, sitting around talking.  I realized that things were not going to unfold  the way I had imagined.
    Luckily, most of the curlers were folks I knew, and a huge percentage of them were people I used to work with for years at the Forest Service, so I waited around and joined into the conversations.  Eventually, a couple of people came in with some instruments, so I began to feel a little more secure about the “jam” actually happening.
    After all these years of living in McBride, I am still not used to “McBride time”.  If someone states a time that something is going to happen, it really means that it will happen 30-60 minutes after the given time.  Joan and I are always the first people at an event, because for some reason, we still show up at the given time.
    Anyway, around 8:00, the four of us who had come to play, opened our cases, and withdrew our instruments.  I was quite surprised to see 2 dobros in the mix.  In all the time I have been playing with people, I have never seen anyone bring a dobro, and here two people had brought them.  There were also three guitars, one of which was a 12 string, and I had my mandolin.  
    I had just met Brad Strang the night before, he was the main player, who initiated most of the music.  He played guitar and banjo.   I had never met Bob Matchett, who was the dobro player.  Lelani Arris had the 12 string and the other dobro, which she was trying to learn.  I played mostly the mandolin, which is not my main instrument, but is easy for me to play as long as the songs were in the key of G, and most of them were.
    The main problem with jamming with unfamiliar musicians, is finding common or easy songs, that everyone can play along with.  I felt embarrassed that my mind was so blank.  In my life, I must have played hundreds of songs in the key of G, but last night, my brain could only come up with a handful.
    One of the things I really like about jamming is how it makes me “think on my feet”.  A lot of the music is unfamiliar, and it means constant concentration to get the chord changes, words and rhythms all going, but the challenge is great fun at the same time.
    The curlers seemed to enjoy having us in the corner playing away, I sure had a good time doing it, and meeting some new local musicians, and I hope that our jam last night was just the beginning of something that will continue through the year.  I am going to work up a few songs and be better prepared for the next jam.  

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