Tonight was an interesting acoustic jam in Emmaus. Several new folks in the house, with fewer than usual usual folks. We have morphed into a unique kind of jam, predicated on listening first and finding our way into these folk, pop, bluegrass tunes. We defer to the person leading the song and let them set the song up. We do make some nice music along the way, quite often, in fact.

I am, at times, a tough task master, often asking that folks put away their lyric sheets and play to the room. I don’t object to folks bringing out lyrics to tunes that they have been working on; I sometimes do that myself, but Googling the song and jumping in on the chords and lyrics is going a little too far for me. I’m an old fart.

I hate to say it, but I enjoy sharing the music organically. (oh, no. not that word!) The listening is sometimes more important that the playing, especially on songs that have meaningful lyrics. There’s always time to jam on other tunes and that is one of my pet peeves with other local jams – lead after lead, endless blues or country licks – but sometimes a song is meant to be a song and not a vehicle for hot licks. There’s something special about a good four-minute song.

I like the intellectual challenges these jams present. I try to figure out the songs I’m not familiar with and the chord structures and find a way to compliment the arrangement. I often find myself as responsible for setting up the rhythm, the chords, and I’m fine with that. Occasionally I get to attempt a lead, and if others holding down the rhythm, I get to noodle along. That’s fun, too.  Again, it’s for the sake of the song.

I find I have to balance my expectations of the jam, and reflect on why we gather to share these songs. It is about the social nature of the event, and that is the ultimate factor on why we gather to play music.