The community hall was a bustle and by 4:30pm the line for the $3 sloppy joe sandwiches finally started to show an end. Brad and I hustled to finish our dinner and were quickly shown to our seats. The Heritage Square Wednesday Night Jam was about to commence.
The crowd that gathered was a solid sea of blue rinse, each one of them sitting up high on folding metal chairs, propped up on foam pads brought from home. A collection of ladies chatted while knitting coasters from every bright shade of yarn under the sun. The jammers were all seated upfront near the stage, tuning their instruments and deliberating on which song from their extensive catalogue would make the cut for this evening.
At promptly 5pm a white-haired man wearing a red gingham shirt and beige slacks approached the microphone. “Good evening everyone, welcome to the Wednesday night jam. We’ve got a full house tonight, including some new comers. Please make them feel welcome”. One after another the jammers took to the stage, announced the key of their song (G as in George, F as in Floyd, but no song titles), and within a half of a bar the entire orchestra of jammers were pickin’ and strummin’ along. Country music was the name of the game – 3 chord structures that repeated for 3 minutes was the trump suit.
Brad and I were getting nervous as our turn quickly approached. Most of the songs we play don’t conform to that pattern, I racked my brain searching for an appropriate number that would be easy to pick-up and jam to.
As we waited side-stage for our turn, I felt someone tap my arm. When I turned around, I was face to face with an older gentleman who looked exactly like the Stay Puff marshmallow man (his face was identical – plump and jolly, with a big happy smile). “You from Nashville?” the man asked. I shook my head, but couldn’t hide my grin “Nope, Canada” I said. “Oh I see… Do you know Delores? She’s from Canada. And I think Gordy is from up around that way too.” As he proceeded to name off a few other people he thought we might know, I heard the final twang of the song being played. This was it – our turn had come.
The announcer followed us on stage and spoke with great enthusiasm into the microphone. “This here is Amy and Brad. They’re from Canada and this is their first time jamming.” The crowd clapped and shuffled in their chairs, it appeared they were sitting up to take notice of these two young kids (my brown hair and Brad’s black beard certainly gave us away). I formed a G chord and began to strum, picking up the pace a little, while stomping my foot. We decided to unleash Bobby McGee on them – I was pre-warned by Brad to take it down a notch, so we putted along at 80%. By the time we wrapped up, the hall was buzzing. We even received some “woots” from the kind folks in the audience.
After about an hour and a half, the announcer took to the stage again and informed us that there would be a short intermission. Cake and coffee was available at the back of the hall. As we made our way back, we were greeted steadily, folks patting us on the back and telling us how much they enjoyed our show. One gentleman even encouraged me to “stick with it”.
By 8:30pm the crowd slowly started to trickle out. And by 9pm, after the final gospel sing-along, the jam was officially marked a success.