The Jam: That's Entertainment?
September 21, 2008 1:20 AM   Subscribe

How can I break up a jam session tastefully?

Our last party featured a live band. It was a great success, with plenty of guests/spectators, and the live show was terrific. Now we're planning our next party, and I want to address a problem that arose last time. After the band finished its show, a bunch of musicians (who never played together before) got up and started jamming. The jam session was great, but... it did drag a bit after a while. After about 20 minutes, the natives started getting restless, but we didn't know what do. The jam was trippy and meandering, the energy generated by the live band started dissipating, and the DJ couldn't start his set. Every time a song ended, the guitar guy who led the jam immediately started playing another. Finally, the jam ran its course after about 45 minutes.
Now don't get me wrong, jams are great etc, but they do tend to be open-ended. We are going to encourage musicians to come with their instruments and jam this time too, but how can we contain it? Limit them to 2 songs ahead of time? Allot a time frame? A nudge and a wink after a while? Each of these solutions seems slightly jarring and uncomfortable. It's a show, and introducing a clock, in any shape or form, seems incongruous. or is it?
posted by Silky Slim to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I don't think introducing a clock is incongruous at all. I'm a musician, and I'm far more used to being limited to a specific time frame than to being allowed to play for as long as the musicians' enthusiasm dictates. I think most musicians, even in an impromptu, partying atmosphere, would be very understanding of the limitations of the clock, especially if a DJ were scheduled to go on after.
posted by Waldo Jeffers at 1:54 AM on September 21, 2008

Best answer: Say to them beforehand "we've got another band after this so could you keep it to about 20 minutes so as not to eat into their time?", get them to agree, and set up a clock somewhere where they can see it.

If they run over that by more than a few minutes it's not uncommon to give "subtle" hints, like dropping out the sound for half a second, or flashing the lights very dark or very bright.
posted by Mike1024 at 2:22 AM on September 21, 2008

Best answer: I second the previous comments. It's standard to have limits on a musical set laid out beforehand. Just as a warning to you, with musicians, as with all kinds of people, you may encounter some jerks and they may talk shit about getting cut off. I've played shows with bands who refused to get off the stage when their set was over and played well over time, which cut into everyone else's set. Don't let those kind of jerks get to you! It's completely reasonable to have a schedule, especially because jam sessions can get so noodly and un-fun for an audience.
posted by otolith at 3:10 AM on September 21, 2008

Response by poster: Alright then, I will!
Thanks folks
posted by Silky Slim at 3:19 AM on September 21, 2008

God, sounds like my last party gig, except the house owner asked if a guy from the acapella group the Persuasions could sing a little before our second set. After 15 minutes of Seger's "Turn the Page" the mood was killed.

Here's what I would do--get the dj and the band together ahead of time to figure out a transition. Have the dj get as set up as possible and after one is done the other starts right up. Cut out the noodlers completely. Like none at all. Have the instruments go in their cases and into another room immediately. It is only fair to the dj and the band who rehearsed and worked hard to get ready not to be upstaged. If the other people want to play, they can start their own band.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:22 AM on September 21, 2008

Will you have an MC? That can be part of their job.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:07 PM on September 21, 2008

I don't know the house setup but you could always move into another room. That's easily the best way to tell a band "uh, we don't want to listen to you guys play anymore...."
posted by BrnP84 at 1:31 PM on September 21, 2008

If you have enough space, PrnP84 is right; you could have one room for jamming and one room for the 'real' bands and people could move between them as they like. Needless to say, that means setting up two of everything.

Another option would be to get in one or two reliable people who can join the jam near the end and bring it to an end - assuming the problem guitarist would leave the stage when another guitarist wanted to join the jam, and the new guitarist would know when to bring things to an end. The only problem with this is, for a 20 minute jam, people might not want to cart heavy instruments around to play for only ten minutes!
posted by Mike1024 at 1:44 AM on September 22, 2008

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