It's a BLUES JAM, folks - not an open-mic night. If you're a budding singer-songwriter looking for a platform to showcase your latest collection of power ballads, you've come to the wrong place. We play the blues.
We kick off at 8:30. Things can quickly get busy, so the later you arrive, the slimmer will be your chances of getting a turn onstage.
Say hello to Vera and hand over your £1. Write down your name and what you do (singer...guitarist...drummer etc.) We do our best to give all our jammers a chance to perform before the night is through, so if you know that you'll have to leave early in order to catch your train home etc., TELL VERA - then she'll do her best to get you onstage early in the evening.
It'll help a lot if you can write down your full name, not just "Pete" or "Steve K". This isn't compulsory, but it avoids confusion when calling people up to the stage - you wouldn't believe how many Petes, Mikes and Steves we've got! Besides, we like to give everyone a proper name-check in our weekly "Roll of Honour" on the website homepage.
From the sign-in sheet, Vera puts together random groupings of players. Half the fun of the Blues Jam is that you never know who you're going to end up on stage with or just when your name will be called out.
Each set normally consists of three numbers. On exceptionally busy nights, we may have to cut this down to two, but we only do so with great reluctance. On the other hand, if by some happy accident you turn out to be the only bass player in the house, be prepared to have a busy time of it - lucky you!
Always bring your own instrument, cable(s) and tuner. In an emergency, a fellow player might well consider lending you their gear, but you should never just turn up and expect to borrow stuff.
Keyboard players and drummers can relax, though...
As soon as you've got yourself a drink and found a seat, make it your first duty to get tuned up, check all your gear and be ready to roll. Arriving onstage unprepared and then spending the next 10 minutes tuning up and fiddling with your cables is a real pain in the neck for everyone else. It's disrespectful to the audience and it robs your fellow jammers of precious playing time - a guaranteed way to make yourself VERY unpopular.
On nearly every jam set, you'll find that the band is led by an experienced player/singer who will choose the songs and hand out the solos. They'll always try to make sure that every other player who wants to play a solo gets at least one opportunity per number. When that opportunity comes your way, go for it!
The rest of the time - no matter how impressive your chops might be - revert to being a member of the rhythm section. "Sit in the pocket" and give your fellow jammers room to breathe; squash that urge to fill every spare moment with a note or riff; don't splurge all over someone else's solo or let your rhythm-playing drown out their lead.
Above all, keep eye contact with your fellow players and WATCH THE BAND-LEADER for signals, stops and tempo cues.
When choosing songs, stick to material that falls into the kind of 'core' blues repertoire your fellow jammers will be most comfortable with. A jam set is not the place to break in new, obscure or quirky numbers. Likewise, don't expect anyone to be able to read sheet music.
As band-leader, it's your responsibility to call the songs clearly so that everyone else onstage knows what kind of number to expect. If it's a well-known blues standard, by all means give the title, but don't assume that everyone will know how it goes. Describe it. "Easy-going shuffle in 'A' - quick changes - watch me for the stops" - that's the kind of information your fellow musicians need.
Whatever the song, don't let yourself be a slave to the particular version you're familiar with. It doesn't matter how many verses / solos the original recording had: you have to ensure that all of your fellow jammers get a chance to play a solo if they want one. When handing out solos, make it very clear who it's being offered to, and make sure they've got the message. Big, definite gestures are better than a subtle nod or a vague waft of your hand.
IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT SOLO LENGTHS: Time-wise, soloists are always given "twice round the block" - i.e. two complete 12-bar progressions. Any shorter than that and they won't have time to develop what they're doing, and both the musician and the audience will feel cheated.
Although we have a full backline, harp-players are welcome to bring along their own (preferably small) amp and we'll always do our best to accommodate it. Stage-space is limited, though, so if more than one harp-player arrives with an amp, they usually agree amongst themselves to use just the one for the whole night. It saves a lot of rigging/de-rigging of gear - and that avoids wasting our most precious resource: TIME.
Don't worry: we'll let you know if you're not loud enough - and we'll let you know if you're too loud. Keep it sensible. Remember, it's the upstairs room of a club, not Wembley Stadium! The Blues is a subtle genre, full of dynamic highs and lows. If you start out at ear-bleeding level, you'll have no dynamics to play with - and, very quickly, no audience to play to. They'll all have buggered off!
It's your first time with us. You don't know anybody (yet). You've summoned up the courage to put your name down on that sign-in sheet - well done! - but now you're nursing a drink and feeling a bit nervous: worried that when it comes to it, you'll lose your way in the middle of a number, make a fool of yourself and "let everybody down"...
Relax. This isn't the X-Factor! Nobody's here to judge you, least of all your fellow jammers, 'cos we've all been where you are now and we know what it feels like. Every week at the Blues Jam, players at every level of talent and experience - from complete newcomers to seasoned pro's - get up onstage together with one simple aim: to have fun playing the music we love. And y'know what? It works!
Maybe that's why we've become renowned as the friendliest jam in London. See you onstage...
It appears that a number of other Blues Jams around the country are copying the text of this page and adapting it for use as their own "rules of engagement".
That's fine by me - hey, I'm glad y'all find it useful - provided that you acknowledge that it originated here and provide a link to us (www.leytonstonebluesjam.co.uk ) on your website. Don't forget to get in touch and tell us you've done so, and we'll add your website to our Links page too. After all, we're doing it for the music, right?
Blues Jam webmaster