Jam Nights, Potlucks, and Parties

I went to a house potluck-party-social gathering thing tonight after work. It’s hard to describe because, well it just is.

A friend I’ve been hoping to hang out and jam with gave me an invite that I couldn’t resist. The 9-hour workday tempted me into bed, but I didn’t succumb. I grabbed the wife, a loaf of bread, a sweet potato and headed out the door.

It was at an old house in the middle of downtown, only a few blocks away from where my wife and I live. I never got a home address but I knew the general area and I knew what to look for: a picture perfect produce department VW Bus. And lone behold, there it was—parked on the corner of a picture perfect produce department house. As I parked, live music bled into the street and serenaded the surrounding houses. I had a feeling this would be fun.

We were immediately met with smiles, hugs, and delicious food.  The baby gate at the top of the stairs created an awkward entrance, as everyone seemed to stop conversation to watch me struggle with the latch. Eventually, I pried the gate open and recovered my masculinity.

Besides the food, the better feast I found were all the musical instruments scattered around the spacious and eclectic living room floor. There was a plentiful potluck of pianos, guitars, banjos, bass, shakers, djembes, beer bottles, and singers. Even a miniature drum set for the host’s two-year-old son that provided plenty of entertainment once a local jazz drummer took advantage of it.

One of my favorite things ever is to play music in a living room. Whether it’s an open mic format with strangers, sharing new music between old friends, potluck jam sessions, or worship sets with printed lyric sheets, I tend to gravitate towards the “living room” venue the most. It’s an intimacy that you can’t find on stage; an intimacy I tend to crave if I go too long without it.

It didn’t take long to start jamming. Eventually, almost everybody had something that made noise. The house truly became alive as mixtures of jazz, blues, classical and funk absorbed into the walls.  I think my favorite part was when a six (and a half) year old girl started singing at the top of her lungs—whatever words came to her head. It was off key and ridiculous, but it was also bold and courageous.

Could I do that? I wondered to myself. I’ve always been more concerned with looking cool and sounding good. In my friend’s living room, I started to think about the endless chase of perfection I must’ve started sometime in high school. I forgot what truly makes me happy: completely letting go.

I need to start pulling together jam nights, potlucks, and parties. The more I play music in corporate settings, the less I am in love with my craft. Though it’s fun to be inspired, it sucks to be showed up by a six (and a half) year old girl.


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