If you are as fanatic about playing the ukulele as I am, getting to and from a jam session could be an issue if the venue is relatively far and inconvenient and if it’s the first time (in case you get lost). If the jam experience is worth it, you’d find an alternative way to get there to make it less painful and arduous. I’m always surprised when seasoned ukulele players drive more than an hour through rush hour to come to our weekly ukulele jam sessions. It’s not always easy to find parking in our area. The first time, they say they are curious. If they come again, it’s a compliment. We’re doing something right.
Getting to and from a jam session is a consideration if it’s the first time you’re traveling to that location. Driving from my home in Wailuku to North Kihei on Maui is a no brainer because 20 to 30 minutes is about average. I didn’t think twice about attending the remaining two Thursday evening sessions at 808 Jam before I left the island.
Driving from my flat in Dorchester to the photographer’s gallery in Albany Street in Boston takes an average of 20 minutes but an hour by public transport, including a fifteen minute walk from Broadway T-station under interstate freeways. There are always other options, such as getting a ride, using Uber, or combining two events (Boston Public Library at Copley Square followed by the Thursday Ukulele Union of Boston (UUoB) jam on Albany Street near Broadway).
In London, it’s fairly easy for me to cycle, walk, or take the bus to the pub where the Hanwell Ukulele Group meets each Tuesday evening in West London. Ukulele Wednesdays at the Royal George Soho, for me, is a direct train ride on the Piccadilly Line and a short walk up Charing Cross Road in Central London. Getting to Balham Ukulele Society‘s Sunday evening jam sessions (the 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month) in South London is not so easy. However, the jam experience was so fulfilling that I decided to explore other ways of getting there.
Normally, I’d take the Piccadilly Line to Leicester Square and change to the Northern Line going south to Balham. The Balham Bowls Club is very easy to find, opposite Waitrose and the public library, a short distance from Balham station, which serves the Underground and Southern Rail. When I missed the last tube, I tried the train to Victorian and changed to the District Line (tube) and then took a bus.
Curious about Balham Ukulele Society‘s jam session, my fellow HUGGER (a member of the Hanwell Ukulele Group) showed me a different way to get there. I left the house at 6 pm, walked to the bus stop, took the bus to Brentford Station, met him there, took the 6:42 pm train to Clapham Junction, walked downstairs through the tunnel and upstairs to change at platform 15 for the connecting train. We arrived before 7:30 pm with plenty of time to find a table and get comfortable. He insisted we leave promptly at 11 pm (last call for last drinks at the pub) to avoid getting stranded. I arrived home a quarter past midnight. The three hour jam session was well worth the three hour commute.
The leader used a microphone to count us in, sometimes playing riffs on his plug-in ukulele. The two percussionists taking turns on the cajon and two seasoned electric bassists (taking turns or playing together) kept the group in sync. We sat around square or rectangular tables sharing the printed songbooks or read the PDFs from iPads. There was a cool breeze coming through the open windows while sojourners sat outside chatting into the night. What I enjoyed most about the evening was singing and playing the songs in my optimal voice range. For the first time, I wrote down the set list, highlighting the ones I love in bold.
- You Are My Sunshine
- Bring Me Sunshine
- Bad Moon Rising
- Plastic Jesus: different lyrics and faster than the HUG version
- Five Foot Two: repeat three times, each faster than previous
- 99 Red Balloons: one member opened and ended with solo singing
- Riptide: solo riff on kazoo
- Joy Division Oven Gloves: ridiculous lyrics, fast song
8:30 pm break until 9:15 pm leader made his rounds getting to know the newcomers and chatting with regulars
- A Little Respect – I love this one
- Stuck In the Middle with You – with a cowbell
- Hotel California with guitar (?) solo by one of the electric bassists
- Mr Brightside
- Rawhide in A minor (different version from HUG)
- Runaway – my request
- Blue Skies
- Heights of Lola
- Teenage Dirtbag
- Thorn in My Side – one of those songs I didn’t know I knew until I heard it
- Lola – is this a song about transgender ?
- Mamma Mia
Note @ 2nd August 2018
If you have read this entire blog post, you are very likely a candidate for my 50-question survey to help me understand how leaders of ukulele groups select songs and/or create song sheets for their members to use in jam sessions, workshops, or gigs. Without a doubt, song sheets are a necessary ingredient of ukulele jam sessions (group play and sing alongs). The current atmosphere of freely sharing and distributing song sheets on the Web helps foster the spirit of amateur music making. For most, it’s a labour of love, for you do it without expecting any remuneration.
What will you get out of completing the Google Form survey? It’s entirely voluntary. However, the more responses I get, the more reliable my results will be. You will be the first to learn the results of my research and new song sheets that I produce or critique.