Open mics and jam sessions around town.
The difference between open mics and jam sessions can be quite confusing to the novice. Many people believe that they are one and the same, but in reality they are quite different. Traditionally, “open mics” tend to be acoustically-focused, although some open mics can get heavy on the electric side of things, but mainly an acoustic format is the primary goal.
The “jam session” is usually a bit more structured in terms of participation. In both the open mic and jam session situations, all styles and levels are welcomed and that is usually where the similarity ends.
Let’s take the jam session, for instance. Usually, the house band controls who comes up to play with whom as well as what tunes are played. In some instances the band will ask the musicians what they would like to play. This is where it can get rather tricky in most jam session situations, especially in a jazz jam; you better know the form of the song. If you don’t, there will be a train wreck.
Can you imagine playing the tune “Olio” and end up missing all or most of the hits; the danger here is that you run the risk of not being invited back. Embarrassing! It is not a good idea to get up and play if you don’t know what you are doing. Although not all jams are jazz-based, there are many blues jams that can have the same level of intensity.
Now, let’s talk about open mics. Open mics have a different standard, since it is not as strict when it comes to getting or being called up. Open mics tend to be more singer/songwriter oriented. Jam sessions and open mics are usually staffed by a host that will generally open up the night with a brief set of four or five tunes and then open it up to the participants. However, jam sessions usually begin with the house band opening up and controlling who comes up. Both open mics and jam sessions work from a list that those who want to play sign in.
Another difference is most of the time, the open mics usually go straight down the line in order. Jam sessions can be a who you know kind of thing or random calls to the stage during both open mics and jam sessions. Most are asked to play three songs on average, however you may be asked to stay a bit longer.
Some of these open mics and jam sessions ask that those who participate spend a minimum of $5 or so to help cover the costs of the night, which includes paying the waitresses and utilities for the evening. I have known musicians that have balked at this minimum charge, but the money can’t come out of thin air. It is not like you are paying a cover charge, because all they are doing most of the time is asking you to buy a little something.
Open mics and jam sessions run on average of three to four hours, although I am the house drummer of one that runs for five hours. Having participated in both formats, the difference can be night and day in some cases. The main thing here is to play, have fun and maybe learn a thing or two.
Here are a few of the more well-known jam session and open mics in our area.
- Phone# 973-744-1333
- Open Mic every Wednesday 7-12 p.m.
- Trumpets Jazz and Supper Club: 6 Depot Square, Montclair
- Phone# 973-744-2600
- The DLV Lounge: 300 Bloomfield Ave, Montclair
- Phone# 973-746-6988
- Open Jazz Jam/Mic every Tuesday. All Levels.
- Suzy Q’s: 34 S. Valley Rd, Orange, N., Jazz Night; Tuesday’s 9-1 a.m.
- Phone# 973-736-7899
- Hat City Kitchen: 459 Valley St, Orange
- Phone# 862-252-9147
- Tuesday’s; All Acoustic Open Jam. Every Wednesday, Open Jazz Jam with Mike Lee.