Author: Carlin, Larry

March 19, 2008
Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Jam fever. It is great to see more and more bluegrass jams springing up seemingly everywhere. Along with the jams that have been going on in various locations for many years, some of the new sessions are the one in San Jose on alternate Thursdays, the one in Chico on the fourth Saturday, and the new one that will be starting next month on April 20th in Pleasant Hill. What other genre of music (besides perhaps old-time music) has as many jams as bluegrass? And how many of those are “people friendly,” where just about everyone is welcome at any time (unless it is a “closed” jam)? There are a lot of bluegrass jams listed below taking place tonight and tomorrow, so if you are sitting at home waiting for the baseball season to start while looking for something to do at the end of the day, just grab your instrument and join the fun. Jam fever…hope you catch it soon!

More Jim Hurst -- Besides all of the Jim Hurst workshops and shows listed here two day ago, in addition to the 7:30 p.m. concert at the Fifth String in Sacramento on the 25th Jim will also be doing a 90-minute workshop at the store sometime prior to the show. Space is limited to nine students and the cost is $40. For information on this workshop (including the time, which is still to be determined) or to reserve a space, call Jon Fox at (916) 739-6101. In case you missed the posting the other day, Jim will play a house concert in Sebastopol on the 19th at 7:30 p.m. (info call Kevin at 707-824-1858 or; he’ll play at Schoenberg Guitars on Ark Row in Tiburon on the 20th, info at (415) 789-0846; he’ll do a workshop and house concert in Santa Cruz on the 21st; on the 22nd he’ll hold a workshop at Gryphon Guitars in Palo Alto at noon and then play a Fiddling Cricket show in Santa Clara.

Jammin’ in Morgan Hill -- In Morgan Hill on the first, third and fifth Wednesdays folks congregate at the El Toro Brewing Company from 6-10 p.m. They also meet on the second and fourth Thursdays. For info contact Dick Simunic at (408) 782-2739 or

Berkeley bluegrass -- Tonight The Whiskey Brothers will be playing old-time and bluegrass (first & third Wednesdays of every month) at the Albatross Pub in Berkeley starting at 9 p.m. They play classic Western swing, bluegrass and original music, featuring great vocal harmonies. The band includes local music-scene veterans Jeff Ward on mandolin, Dave Courchaine, guitar, John MacFarlane on fiddle, Bruce Campbell on bass, and Craig Fletcher on banjo. No cover.

Jammin’ in San Jose -- The new open jam is off to a great start in the South Bay at Mountain Mikes Pizza, 1532 Branham Lane, San Jose, from 6-10 p.m. The jam is held every first and third Thursday of the month. For more info please contact Fiddle’n Steve Pexton at (650) 455-2504 & or Banjo Bob Farrell at (408) 341-8809 &

Jammin’ in Sacto -- Every Thursday evening, from 7-10 p.m., there is a jam at The Fifth String Music Store, located at Alhambra & J Streets in Sacramento.

Bluegrass Gold in Larkspur -- On the 20th at 8 p.m. the next edition of the series Bluegrass Gold will take place at Sweetwater Station in downtown Larkspur. Bluegrass Gold is produced by Carltone Music, and The Itchy Mountain Men will headline the show. Formed in 2005 while high school sophomores in Marin County, The IMM began with casual jamming, and before long they were playing shows. Their repertoire includes old-time bluegrass, jazz, funk, rock and blues, all blended into a new and unique style of music they call “kickgrass.” They’ve played numerous engagements in Northern California, including the Sausalito Arts Festival and the Amador County Bluegrass Festival, and they received recognition for “Best Emerging Band” at the Berkeley Old-Time String Festival & Contest in September 2006. The band members are: Ricky “Slick Rick” Mier, banjo; Joel "Snuffy" Morais, mandolin and vocals; Ben “String Bean” Margolin, upright bass; Roger “Stretch” Krakow on guitar; and Christine “Sweet Pea” Donaldson, vocals. Sweetwater Station (formerly known as the Larkspur Café Theater) is Marin County's premier nightclub as well as the home for bluegrass music in the North Bay. For more information call the club at (415) 924-6107.

Jammin’ in Encinitas -- Every Thursday there is a bluegrass jam, so go tomorrow to Today’s Pizza, 481 Santa Fe Drive, in Encinitas. This jam/class is a 35 year tradition that until recently was led by bluegrass legend BanjoBob Cox. Bob retired last summer, and now Jason "BanjoJay" Weiss continues the tradition. So on Thursday the 27th take your instruments with you for a night of pizza, pickin', and grinnin'! This is an excellent jam for those closet pickers wishing to learn to play bluegrass with others. The time is 6:30-9 p.m. For more info email Jason at

Jammin' in Marin -- The Marin Bluegrass Jam, which has been running for almost nine years now, takes place on the first and third Thursdays of every month. So on the 20th you can join in at the Marin Lutheran Church at 649 Meadowsweet in Corte Madera, just off the Corte Madera exit of Highway 101. Dave Hanks will be your host. The time is 7:30-10 p.m. The playing level is beginner to intermediate. It is a big room, so there is also space for those who may want to go and listen.

Jammin’ in Berkeley -- Thursday night is beginners jam night at the 5th String Music Store, 3051 Adeline Street, in Berkeley, from 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Take your pick -- David Zimmerman of Homespun Rowdy has come up with an idea for a community-building music project focusing on getting bluegrass students playing together. His “PickUp Bands” will be small groups of musicians that he will coach as a band for a six-week session to prepare for an opening set before a Bluegrass Monday show at Amnesia in SF. In each meeting, he’ll work with the band on material selection, song arrangements, harmony, band dynamics, and stage techniques to get the students more comfortable in a band setting and to prep for a short set. The idea here is to encourage the kind of musical progress that can really only happen in a band environment where players work together to identify and showcase the strengths (and iron out the weaknesses) of the members. Playing in a band setting is invaluable to the development of timing, ear, and taste and when done right, can result in not only every individual sounding their best but the group sounding even better than the sum of its parts. He will be starting out with a price of $120 per person for the six meeting session. In this smaller configuration and with an established goal of a 20 minute set at Amnesia, people will get their money’s worth out of the experience. He has created a web site with all the information including a “PickUp Band Questionnaire” that will allow him to put people together into groups that will work for them. Go to the site for more info.

Posted:  3/21/2008

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