Jam Session Hell

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The Jam Session

If it’s a good one there’s an energy that’s more than the sum of its musical parts. It’s truly COOKING.  A mundane 12 bar blues jumps to a whole other level. For a few seconds the whole universe makes sense. I’ve experienced a handful of those. Sadly outnumbered by jam sessions from hell.


Jam sessions can get sticky sometimes.

Jam sessions can get sticky sometimes.


Three-sheets-to-the-wind Singer of Tuneless, Unstructured and Incomprehensible Socio-political Rants

Flashback to my first year in Berlin. Hungry to connect with local musicians, my social life consisted of a faithful rota between three session venues. The Acud,  the Floez and the Anker. The Acud was the edgiest. You never knew what was about to go off (and I don’t just mean onstage) It was a magnet for folk with a screw or two loose. At sessions a bassist and drummer generally stayed put for an hour or more, backing the  never-ending queue of guitarists, singers, horn-players and assorted wannabes. Unless you were high in the pecking order – which I wasn’t, being a) an outsider b) female  and c) sadly lacking in flashy effect pedals – you got max three songs. There was a particularly hot rhythm section that night and, happy to be next in line, I tuned up and stepped up. So did the Acud’s pet village idiot, a three-sheets-to-the-wind singer of tuneless, unstructured and incomprehensible socio-political rants.  The hot rhythm section stopped for a cold beer, only pausing  to make the stitch-up official by announcing me and him as the next act. Which is how I got stuck in front of at least 50 people with the task of making Sonny Jim sound like a rock star. Thanks guys.

Darkest chapter in  Jam Session History

…..The Floez folk were friendlier, but  had a weird guitar culture  – four or more volume 11 guitarists  might be onstage at any given time. (They’d play a mandatory 15 minute version of Pick up the Pieces by the Average White Band  every session, and if you got it wrong you  hadn’t made the grade.) But  I’m the queen of less-is-more.  Two guitarists, maybe (under strict supervision.)  Three’s a crowd.  Four’s a nightmare.  A new tactic was called for. I brushed up diligently on my basic bass skills and turned up one night with my lovely Fender Jazz bass.

My lovely Fender Jazz Bass

My lovely Fender Jazz Bass

I stood in the hallowed spot normally occupied by the regular Floez bassist, who was on holiday….. I’m actually doing OK for the first few songs, even managing occasional fancy turnarounds …till we start on Hey Joe, with that all-time defining killer bass line  hook which I hadn’t a clue how to play.  The self-appointed head guitar honcho – a mean little guy with a Hitler moustache  (who probably worked in the tax office for his day job) conspicuously crosses the stage, mid-song,  to tell me, – “We have to talk!” He consolidates his people skills by yelling through the mic at the end: ” Do we have any proper bass players here?” Some hairy muso, who’d been playing bass since birth, lurches onto the stage as I ignominiously slink off.

That’s all folks

These events were the lowest points, flanked by many less memorable, mediocre  onstage moments.  In which men (invariably men) listened with rapt attention….to their own instruments and little else. The magic times happened with those who listened to, and respected,  their fellow players. The Anker was much better for that, with a hot house-band who were flexible and welcoming. I’m still grateful to their frontman, Tom Blacksmith – a real gentleman who always gave me a break, and Nina Davies the  superb keyboard player who  was also happy to let me in.

In the end the jamming experiences  – both good and bad – motivated me to get my own band together. Goodbye sessions, hello Kathy X

Kathy X Leipzig Tattoo Convention 2003

Kathy X Leipzig Tattoo Convention 2003

2 responses to “Jam Session Hell

  1. i know all too well the likes of those twits who humiliated you…i’m pretty sure the ones you’ve mention never wrote any worthwhile music of their own,and never ventured beyond their own locale or made records…the very nature of their mediocre minds leaves them right there jamming hey joe and pick up the pieces for all time.

    whenever i occasionally get to see young bands play,i always home in on the most precarious member,he/she is often the most interesting one,and will be doing something properly original in the following years…they spring up else where in a new situation,standing out from everyone else…it’s a trip.

    kathy…i’m so happy that you found the right players to have around you…you deserve it..you have musical intuition,you write great lyrics…you sing, you play,and you’ve got charisma…no amount of muso-isms or money can buy that gold.

    that was a fun read …


    • dead right! where are they now?

      that’s perceptive of you to see that the “precarious” players may yet have more to say in the long term. I heard that Patti Smith used to beg to get support slots supporting the support bands (!) and was severely heckled…but she didn’t do too bad in the end.

      thanks for your sweet comments about me! xxx


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