Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Flying Carpet Jam Sessions at ACU - something extra special

Hello friends,

Every first, third and fifth (if there is one) Tuesday of the month, there is an excellent jam session at ACU in Utrecht. ACU is a fantastic venue, with a great cafe/restaurant at the front (which serves superb food at affordable prices). The Flying Carpet jam session is run by Monique Veenswijk, and you can check out the website for it here

I was fortunate enough to have the chance to help Monique set up the last jam session. Although I have little to no experience of being a sound engineer, I have spent lots of time either watching or assisting sound engineers with the rigging of studio's, venue's and clubs. It was a great opportunity for me to get a bit closer to the technical side (something that usually freaks out acoustic musicians like myself). Wires and knobs ahoy!

Soulecy rocking out!
After having a spot of (FREE) food, Mo and I headed into the venue, got all of the equipment down from the secret loft hatch, set up the magic carpets, rigged everything, plugged it all in, tested it, put the lights up (not literally, we just turned them from off to on), turned the smoke machine on a few times (because it's fun alright!), sound checked the opening act Soulecy (check them out on facebook! They are hardcore) and patted ourselves on the back for a job well done.

The jam sessions all start with an opening act, so everything is set up for them first. Once they are done, Mo and I had to quickly rig up a couple of instruments, change parts of the drum kit etc. Then it was on to the jamming. Oh sweet Jam, how you come in many shapes and sizes, with many ego's and (hopefully) much talent.

Henk giving us some 'Humble Pie/Occupy'
Most Jam sessions (in my experience) take a while to come together, but at ACU, you can always rely on the legend Henk to kick start things with some power improv singing. With Occupy Wallstreet being high up on the agenda, the songs that were made up across the night all seemed to lean in someway towards the state of the world of money today. Henk is a master at spinning great meaningful rhymes, and the people of ACU were treated to a once only performance of 'Humble Pie/Occupy', which was something special. Henk needs to be on stage, it is a shame that the only chance anyone gets to see him perform is at the jam sessions, but really, you need to see him, he is the jam master.

The night continued to go swimmingly, with some more exciting jamming. I was very focused on the overall sound, wanting to make a good impression as Mo's sound help. The hardest part to control was the guitars, because they were going through their own amplification and were not controllable from the central desk. I kept ninja'ing around the back of the stage and turning them down, to keep the mix right. Guitarists don't like it when you turn them down though, so it was a bit of a constant battle. I took to the stage as a performer a couple of times, and we knocked out some upbeat Blues. I don't have much to feel Blue about at the moment, so I sung the Happiness Blues.
Monique the flying carpet pilot

The swimming goings of the evening turned a little when the toilets flooded (I think someone was trying to flush some Humble Pie). Monique got stuck in fixing them (I won't go into more detail about that, you can imagine for yourself if you really want to) and the jam continued.

The evening wound to a close about 1am, and once everything had been put away back safely in the roof hole, we sat in the bar listening to nice music (mainly chilled Radiohead, Devotchka, Beruit, Elbow etc) talked politics in Dutch (I didn't have much to add as I don't speak Dutch), and patted ourselves on the back for a job well done.

Then to end the night, Henk and I carried a carpet to Monique's place, and then we found a couple of pretty flower heads that had fallen off, picked them up and used them as trumpets the whole way home. I bet we looked like crazy people making up songs with flowers, but the music was still in our souls, and we had to express it somehow.

Not long till the next one now...

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