When it comes to music jams, Santa Fe’s cup runneth over. Most popular are the Canyon Road Blues Jam at El Farol and the Soulman Sam and the Soul Explosion Jam at Evangelo’s—and there are plenty of others.
Yeah, we’ve got a lot of jams in Santa Fe, and you may be wondering which one to check out first.
Many local jams attract professional musicians. This isn’t a bad thing; for example, electric blues is not something I enjoy but, at the Canyon Road Blues Jam, I saw musicians talented enough that I took pleasure in the genre. It was a unique chance to catch so many great musicians performing together.
But that’s not the only type of jam Santa Fe has to offer. Perhaps you’re a fledgling musician or a professional music appreciator, or maybe you’re just looking to make new friends with similar interests. Whatever your situation, get to the weekly open bluegrass jam at Backroad Pizza.
Since it opened its Second Street location in 2002, Backroad has quietly been putting on some of the best shows in town. Musicians like indie-queen Mirah, rapper $amwise, my arch nemesis Casiotone For the Painfully Alone and even yours truly have rocked the pizza joint.
Unfortunately, while the great shows have flowed steadily, the lack of audience has been a constant disappointment. Ultimately, shows are way more fun with big crowds, and it’s scary to go anywhere alone. However, after recently checking out the open bluegrass jam, I’m going to make a conscious effort to pay more attention to the restaurant’s music schedule.
I figure the open bluegrass jam could have gone one of two ways: a muddled cacophony of indeterminable sounds, or an evening of well-played music. I’m pleased to report the experience was the latter. As I drove up, the circle of musicians was easily visible from outside of the plate glass windows. The sheer number of musicians was impressive and created a warm and inviting atmosphere that was noticeable even from the parking lot. The muffled sound of acoustic bass made its way to my ears and, with each step closer, a different instrument became audible.
Once inside, I was instantly astounded by the music. Multiple guitars, mandolins and banjos meshed softly as a fiddle made its way to the forefront. It was clear this jam is about the fun and the music, not the level of professionalism. The songs weren’t always in tune and there was a smattering of mistakes, but the true draw was the musicians’ camaraderie and shared interest in the genre.
I’m of the mind that music should be played for the sake of happiness. Those who depend on it for payday are on another level and must take it more seriously but, as far as I’m concerned, the more fun you have, the better it comes off. Not for an instant did it seem to bother the players that most of the diners weren’t paying attention, nor was anyone upset by a false start or sour note. I hung out for nearly two hours, during which there was no sign they were letting up or even taking a break.
This, to me, is music in its purest and greatest form. Old-timers and young folks alike came together to share their love of bluegrass, and the result was brilliant. I only wish I knew the exact songs that were being performed (I’m a big bluegrass fan, but am not well-versed enough to know song titles). I would imagine that for any fanatics out there, the promise of not only hearing the music, but also joining in on the fun is welcome news.
Open Bluegrass Jam
Tuesday, Jan. 26
1807 Second St.
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