Jam To the World!

1150849_657241220953926_2104712487_n        10679539_10152980357526163_7634000306814407658_o I love jams – I love running them and I love playing at them. I love the people that go to jams, the professionals and the non-pros that are brave enough to get up on stage and play their hearts out. I love all the different instruments that come into a room – one of my favourite local jams has a guy who brings timpani drums – awesome! I love jams because of the moments you can’t rehearse which are created from some magical spontaneity and unity that appears only once and makes beautiful things happen. I love the unknown – the mystery – the lack of preparedness. I love the people that support the musicians and friends that want to try something new. I love when people tell me a song is on their bucket list, and we nail it together and get that feeling of ALRIGHT, life is GREAT!

526811_528554577196971_1545937535_nAbout five years ago, a tiny restaurant serving specialty Montreal smoked meat opened in front of our farm. We met the new owners and quickly developed a close friendship. We almost immediately suggested to them that they obtain a music license so we could help bring them business by running a small jam with our band once a week to introduce their new place to the community. The focus became on creating a community jam because they were a restaurant and not a bar, where most of the jams were held and kids could attend. We always started early so the younger ones could go to bed by second set when things got “more grown up” and loud.
We began seeing young people come in a play almost immediately – and holy cow could they play! I remember this nine year old boy who came in to play drums one time. His parents had asked me to choose a song he could drum with the band. I always try and find “homogeneous” music that people can play to – and there are standards that everyone can find a beat on like Born on the Bayou by CCR- for a new drummer, is a really good repetitive metronomic song. So, I suggest to the boy we do Bayou – and he says but looks at his feet a little forlorn.
So I say “What’s the matter? Did you have another song you’d like to do?”
Yes he smiles up at me brightly – In French he says “J’aimmerais faire The Ocean par Led Zeppelin SVP”

Um…seriously?
OK!
Well – the kid nailed it. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room as we all sat pretty astonished at his powerful rhythms. Awesome.
Later on more came – teenagers and kids who had been practicing in their bedrooms with their doors closed, Middle aged men dusted off their old axes. People were happy. Drummers came – djembe and we sat in semi circles mixing all of the music up together. Children played for the first time on stage with big wide half shy grins. The jam allowed for ALL kinds of music. 1800972_653911941334921_431909134_n
The first thing we did was to make sure that at least part of this jam, the beginning part, always began acoustic, for one hour. This gave a chance to the “softer” unplugged players, and very often original song writers to show their stuff without competing with a loud electric sound or the having the natural effect of a “dropped dynamic” causing a sort of downer feeling. There is a time and a place for every kind of music; you learn this very quickly and usually the hard way when you run jams. 10154219_754852437880760_8739167005207651450_n
A few young people began to put together bands, and today some of them are even recording albums and picking up speed on the larger pro musical circuit getting festival gigs and traveling to remote places to play their original stuff. This to me is SIMPLY AMAZING.
I do jams at other places as well. It was such an amazing thing to have been recently in Australia and really I learned everything about Australia through jams and the musicians I met. It was an incredibly open and loving place. I like to tell people that I was NEVER ONCE asked to play a cover, Janis or a blues tune while in Australia. Not once.
Why?
Australians LOVE their jams and they love spontaneity – they love to be surprised by the music – so they often ask for originals. It was fun to get to play new sounds and the added benefit was that if you made am mistake no one knew it  ha! 1383907_10152020292451662_71159953_n
Jams are awesome. But running jams – can be a real challenge. Take last night; I am at what we may consider a “pretty raucous bar” which often has jams that dissolve into frenzied guitar solos at ear shattering decibel levels. It serves as some form of therapy I suppose, for the frustrated normally male players – as most jams do. Whether here or in Australia, I encountered the same problem in every single jam I went to – this tendency to become over energized and focused on making as much noise as possible too early in the night.
Understandably, as an evening moves along and folks have a couple of drinks and loosen up- things get understandably more energetic and a good jam band will connect to this and allow music to get louder and harder. The increasing dynamic energy is one of the best parts of jamming – a great teacher for someone running a jam to learn how to stay connected to the energy of the musicians and spectators in the room.
Now the challenge for someone running a jam – namely often me 😦 is to find song for five virtual strangers, whose repertoire you are completely unaware of or how they play, what their play level is for difficulty of the song – it’s a real crap shoot. The first few notes are always a leap of faith for everyone. If it dissolves too late into the song to stop, then you all settle into trying to save a drowning song. Audiences are usually good natured about these “off ramp” spontaneity – and sometimes the “bad notes” can turn into a spectacular and spontaneous off the rails jam.
Ya just never know. 10247292_10152305921771163_902431890_n
Of course, there are certain songs we all rely on – sort of universal industry standards like mustang sally, Bobby McGee for women with a certain forceful voice who have smoked too much like me, pride and joy for exuberant guitar players, hoochie coochie man for anyone with a harmonica – and other songs carry us through jam nights. Most jammers, again whether here or in Australia use these songs, or open blues jam songs, to “feel each other out. Then once in while you get a lunatic like me who likes to pull out originals that no one has ever heard before and have people spontaneously add their feel into it, live. This is insanity – but sometimes you can just feel that the circumstances are right.
I really have massive respect for the musicians that jump into scary spontaneity with an open and willing heart – because very often, especially in the case of original tunes, you end of expanding the song in a really cool way. Someone will play an unexpected beat or a sound, and suddenly the entire song has taken a new direction or has an added dimension. Sometimes even a new riff or even a bridge can materialize where one didn’t exist before. Jamming is amazing for this – but it takes courage and an abject lack of ego – ie: willingness to sound like shit abnd that’s ok kind of attitude.1011209_10151934182206662_981450487_n
Those are the real players – I have discovered. The old school guys who are willing to make any kind of sound and find it inside themselves rather than relying on structure or the “way things always have been”. Those that brave the outside of the box and dabble in the alchemy of new combinations of sounds.
But’s running jams is not all roses – and I have never learned a thing in Disney Land – right?
Take last night…when I lost my mind.
I was running a tough jam at a place that has this history of difficulty – drunken patrons, hecklers, arguments between musicians and of course the unraveling of the decibel levels. So, I went in determined to keep the energy receptive and pretty acoustic for the first 3 or four songs, and then start to let up electric and drums and stuff. A gradual increase right? Makes sense. But anyone who knows me will tell you – I have never been able to follow a set list – so “planning’ for me is futile.
What ended up happening is that (unlike usual) no drummers showed up nor did any lead electric guitar players. So to continue the flow of the night I just had to keep playing, and playing and playing.
Some folks got up and it was simply great – we got some extraordinary sounds, and some real fun on old tunes like James Taylor stuff and some raunchy old acoustic blues.
The acoustic went on longer than I had anticipated – but again it’s a JAM – and anticipation is not all part of the formula. People with control issues – for example – don’t really enjoy jamming I have noticed. 🙂
Suddenly a man I know, a friend actually, comes up to me annoyed and says something like:
“Well I guess I brought a gun to a knife fight” or something like that weaving his electric guitar in the air a little at me.
I say “What do you mean?”, blank faced.
And he says “well – are you even going to have an electric jam??” He spits obviously irritated and angry. Bad timing.
I immediately have a completely unreasonable reaction to this poor man’s simple desire to play some loud guitar. Suddenly I am annoyed at ALL of the jams I have been to in ALL of the weird places around the world where I have seen one woman or acoustic player after another pushed off stage by guys that want to get their yaya’s off by playing screechingly loud music. 405936_607717759239606_392217611_n
OK I know – I enjoy some serious rock too! After all I am a rock singer. But there is a time and place for everything – and unfortunately I had forgotten to bring along the filter between my brain and mouth, so I say something horrible like:
“Oh for shit’s sake! I’m so tired of all you guys just wanting to hear your loud screechy crap on stage and not listen to people who just want to make music”.
I storm off to the bathroom and come out having taken a moment to laugh at myself in the mirror and find the poor man I had been so scathing with tattling on me to the bar owner. 🙂
“I am REALLY sorry”, I smile sweetly at the owner and say straight up –1530457_754852427880761_7784710413338773906_n
“Yup – he’s right” I say to the owner “I was totally nuts”, I pat the guy on the shoulder and smile going back inside the bar. I turned to look at them and they were speechlessly watching me walk back to the stage through he windows.
Sometimes you’re just human I figure. And let’s face it, jamming can sometimes be enough of a challenge to make you a little wacko. Luckily we all seem to accept that about each other and I wouldn’t give it up for the world. Watching it give a chance for people, even like the loud guy, to play and exert that energy outwards and express themselves, come together to make a beautiful thing – yes it is all always worth it.10687363_898476086830437_706725914266159721_o

Tough Love

318861_166985456709579_154900594584732_366919_1242707_nMy old horse is howling in the barn – his screams are piercing and I hate them cause I know I can’t make him feel better.  I can’t go near the barn – it just makes it worse.  So, in his way and in my own way, we are both howling tonight – we hate change and we have lost a friend. But it’s not the first time he and I howl together…

We have been together for a long time- almost 16 years- he’s no spring chicken and neither am I. We have survived raising seven kids, the death of his partner and of my mother. We have fought over simple things like when it is appropriate to stop and when it is not, and we have mourned together in long green fields on sunny days with our heads hanging low.RANGER

I remember that day, about six months after the other horse I bought master with died. I had never lost a horse before, and it was devastating.  I mourned deeply for many weeks that melted into months.  Master was always a renown challenge to ride – unpredictable and having never quite lost his wild intuitive mistrust of humans, I don’t think i ever completely have ever won his heart, but we have come to know each other deeply.

That day in the field I had this epiphany where i saw his sad body position in my own and I realized that he was mirroring me, in a very clear way. I just hadn’t been able to see it until then.

Things changed for me after that – slowly but we both got better and we moved on.  Eventually we got our own farm – I wanted to be home with him and luckily i had a family who supported my crazy dreams.  master and lily

We found ourselves knee deep in horses before we had even unpacked our boxes, working with a local refuge wanting to do everything we could to help. And there were so many that needed help.

And I saw terrible things.  I saw horses beaten and starved, shot by drunken crazy people, broken legs, and other things that I don’t want to talk about and you don’t need to hear.

I also witnessed incredible kindness and beauty, recovery, healing and community.  Doing this work changed my life.

But there was no balance, and times changed and got hard.  Having a business at home was hard frankly.  I am a private person and I like quiet days. So when we moved to a new farm, over time were stopped taking boarders and refuge horses.  We just didn’t have the resources – physical or financial – anymore.

But i kept a few student and worked with a few people.

One family whose children would come to visit one day called me to say they had bought two horses for their kids, could they keep them at my place.  I reluctantly said yes, but their other option was to keep the horses at a cow farm, and that probably wasn’t the best scenario.

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Molly and Summer in first few weeks

I agreed to take them – but I should have maybe asked some questions. like – how old are they and where do they come from.

When I arrived with trailer in tow on my old rusty pick up truck, i arrived in a muck filled cow barn, where two horses were being harbored in a back stall, barely large enough for one horse never mind two full grown Canadians.  The younger one seemed terrified and hid behind her mother.

I found out they had never been out and no one really spent much time with them.  They stood in muck to their knees.

The baby, only 2 years old, was still nursing on the patient mother, whose name I would discover to be Molly.

From the get go, Molly was the most gentle and willing mare I have ever dealt with. She ambled patiently, peacefully and dare I say gratefully onto the trailer. But her baby was another issue. Already two years old, Summer had never been haltered, handled or even touched with a rope. It was hard to imagine how we were going to get them on a trailer!

But amazingly enough we created a sort of tunnel with the help of a bunch of people and some ply wood. We patiently maneuvered the frantic baby with slow motions of the plywood until she was settled in beside her mother on the trailer.  I remember thinking it was an absolute miracle that it was a twenty minute load time – I had seen some habituated show horses have four hour loads.

So, Molly and Summer came home to my farm.  I had horses in the field and in other paddocks.  I put them in a separate paddock again using the magical ply wood and neighbors trick, and there began our journey.

The owners came only once, gave me half the board and never came back again.  I met the woman about two years later in a mall or something, and told her everyone screws up, but she could at least come and see them.  That was the last time we had contact.

Things like this never happen at convenient times.  This was a particularly bad time. My beloved horse Otis had 486730_10152823664585313_1141956360_nnavicular and it was getting worse. Watching him walk in pain caused me constant states of guilt and sadness.  The weather was bad, and bringing in the rest of the herd would send the mother and baby into a frantic spin. So, for the longest time, in order to get them into the barn, we had to take Molly and Summer would evasively follow behind us, one person in the rear trying to move her energy gently.  There would be no actual touching of summer for about a year.10416597_1420205108275417_8762942668667953911_n

When we would approach her she would lunge with her teeth bared cross the fence, i suppose trying to protect her mother.  And really, the whole thing may have gone very badly, except that Molly was the friendliest most loving horse I had ever met. She loved attention and being touched all the time. So, over time I would spend time with her just petting her while Summer would stand a safe distance away and glare at me.It took some time, but eventually by watching that her mom was OK, she became curious enough to approach and we began to have contact.

I had some very good people helping me through this. My friends daughter was the first to get a halter on her. It was an incredible achievement, and we celebrated i recall.  My nephew with his calm ways helped in the round pen and with the first few blacksmithings. At the beginning we discovered that as much as Summer seemed to be uncontrollable, she was pretty happy being told what to do in a round pen – she enjoyed the interaction. This told me that she was smart and looking for new experiences.  That’s a great quality in a horse.

Separating Molly and Summer came at a bad time for me – when my own mother had cancer.  Emotionally I was pretty aware that I was avoiding taking a two and a half year old off its mother – but it had to be done. We must have done every possible permutation and combination of herd gathering possible. We have four paddocks and a giant field of about 15 acres of beautiful natural land.  Some of the horses, like our big Belgian mac who has had bouts of cancer and has trouble keeping weight on, benefit greatly from the natural balance and richness of the food source of the field.

1044616_10151693908085781_1125981810_nOther animals like the little blind pony someone else abandoned here years ago, could not be in the giant buffet of life – we would have had to roll him in.   So we had to really consider all sorts of things when combining groups of horses and separating Molly and summer. Like – which one of them would jump which fence.

It finally ended up that Summer was in the field with Big Mac, Bentley the gentle thoroughbred and lily the standard bred mom of the herd.  She became fat, happy and very calm.  She had all the space in the world to run and play, and Lily loved having her to play with.  Every day they would frolic and roll, run and jump – a miracle for Lily who came in with a broken leg. 167627_10150371954035230_2509647_n

Anyways here’s the thing, today a man drove up to my farm in a big white pick up truck.  He had smiling eyes, and asked me if Summer was for sale. I said no.

We spent the next hour getting to know each other – and I agreed to let him take her – and her mom.
I have never met anyone who loves horses as much as this man does I think. He has two right now, and was raised on a draft horse farm. He’s an old school farmer with the values I have come to know as solid and sorely lacking in the world.

His horses live out their lives with him – he doesn’t buy and sell. Oh and even better – he lives up the road and wants to teach me how to buggy harness and train a horse for harness. This is very exciting for an old gal like me – new things turn me on.

Don’t you think it’s funny what a day can bring? This morning I woke up to a field full of horses, and frankly a shoulder load of responsibilities. I spent every day with Molly in some way -she was my friend,joy, my companion.  This was a very hard thing for me to do. But it was the right thing. Everyone has a purpose in life, and i wasn’t going to be able to allow her to reach her potential. He will.

11880617_10155944293755230_8371160800738576233_nAnd – they get to stay together.  This in the world of horses or any animal indeed is a real miracle –

So it’s with no small sadness that I said goodbye to Molly and Summer today.  I’m selfish enough to have reconsidered it all four times before we arrived at his beautiful farm with the rolling fields.  They have a run in barn and shelter, 8 acres of lush grass and all the room in the world to play.
I was so happy for them.

But I was just thinking – sometimes love isn’t the easiest answer – but it’s always the best one.  10405262_10154297082545230_901116161941923182_n

Music, to me, is Unity.

beautiful and true 😉

Rik Roe: Words & Pictures

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Music, like life, in my want is very simply led. To be enjoyed, to be cherished, to be remembered, but most of all relished.

Be it with family.

Be it with friends.

Be it alone.

No matter which, through either  of these 3 measures, Mind, Spirit, and Heart must be engaged, and rallied in what I simply have found termed as…

Unity.

At my achieved age, tolerance combined with knowledge and experience, has rendered me susceptible to certain patience and impatiences in life that have caused change and rendered decisions that a younger-self wouldn’t have done. A less experienced man would be more prone to be more accepting and more harmonious, riding the wave of “drama” that young hearts and younger minds enjoy.

That requires effort and time that is ill-afforded, and laudable; and more of a cause for distinction and separation than achieving the harmony that is more achieved…

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