Here’s John Low’s take on the recently resurrected Northside Jam. John gives an insight into how COVID restrictions have changed the way jams are run.
After six months or so in enforced recess, the inaugural BUMS 2020 Northside Jam involved fifty lucky ticket holders and a certain number of necessary BUMS volunteers. It was run at the Northern Suburbs Bowls Club, Wavell Heights, in the usual 7:00 to 9:00 pm timeslot.
Tickets were available two weeks prior to the event, with BUMS financial members getting the first chance to book their seat. All available tickets were gone by the end of the week.
The jam was not held in the usual bar area, but in a larger room opposite the bar. This function room had two major advantages over the usual venue. It boasted a stage at one end of the room that allowed jam participants to see the set leaders, and have an unimpeded view of the screen. Secondly, it provided additional space to allow social distancing.
Jo Kunde and her assistants handled the entry process well, with minimal delays, given the necessity of recording of attendees’ details imposed on us by our COVID-safe plan.
The jam itself started ten minutes late due to some delays in the setting up of the sound and recording equipment. There seemed to be a last-minute rush, and I felt concerned about the piles of instrument and microphone cables littering the area of the steps leading to the stage. Although people accessing the stage were urged not to traverse this area, some did, and it was indeed fortunate that nobody suffered a fall.
The first set was led by Spare Parts who, together with Caroline Haig for some of the songs, provided a Beatles set of familiar perennial favourites. They finished with the (non-Beatles) ‘Monster Mash’, adding a nice Halloween-feel to the evening. This first set lasted barely 30 minutes, and I personally would have liked to see a couple of extra songs in there.
At this stage I would congratulate John Henderson who did an excellent job of scrolling the music, video recording the performances while occasionally playing his ukulele – multi-tasking indeed.
The second set featured Hans and Rowena who gave their usual polished performance with a nice balance between Rowena’s vocals and ukulele and Hans on guitar. Yes, I know – an instrument from the dark side. But we ukulele players are a broad church. The songs provided a contrast between the familiar and the less well-known, and were enthusiastically received and played.
For the third set, featuring Andrew and Adrian, Adrian had his first outing on the ubass. Adrian is to be congratulated on his bass playing, and sometimes (by his own admission) ‘interpretations’ of a bass line. Well done anyway, Adrian. As a struggling bass player myself, I know what a challenging time that can be.
Unfortunately, the acoustic balance provided by the sound system was less than satisfactory due to technical issues. But this failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the attendees as a first time out “smelling the flowers” of a springtime uke jam. Andrew’s energetic delivery was well-received.
This Northside Jam was an experiment in social distancing and holding COVID-safe public events – just to see how such events would go – with a view to opening up BUMS’ regular jam venues in the near future. Unfortunately, visuals and attendance requirements did not suit some, and those comments will be passed on to the management committee for future consideration in these changing times.
In summary, I would like to congratulate Peter Grace and his band of merry volunteers, in putting on a wonderful evening’s entertainment in a COVID-safe environment for ukulele players bereft of jams over the last few months.
The room used at the Bowls Club was fit for purpose, with the raised stage area and its general layout, and should be retained for future jams at that venue.
However, I suggest those running future jams should ensure that:
- system set-ups are done in a timely way to avoid a last-minute rush that delays starting times
- sound checks are carried out with all performers (if possible) prior to the official start of the evening to ensure a balance between those on stage leading the jam, and those in the audience (for whom the jam has been organised after all), and that set leaders are aware they are leading a jam, and not entertaining an audience.
- more attention be paid to covering or securing cables and leads in the performing area.