Eyes were on the large black cat surveying the scene Sunday, Jan. 5 at the Recovery Lounge in Upper Jay for the first January Jam of the season.
"This is Diesel the cat's third year at the Recovery Lounge, but last year was the first time he attended every jam," said Kelly Tucker of the cat. "He stays for the whole thing. He stays for the jams because he is part of the community and he wants to be fair to everyone. He knows how important it is for the musicians to be heard. He likes it when Scott drums. He is a big fan of Scott and Byron. He likes some of the good looking women that get up and play. He likes when they come over and pet him too. He's got some local favorites, but we are not naming names."
"I have seen him in here with some quite large crowds, and they don't seem to bother him a bit," I said.
Dutch Stout jams at the Recovery Lounge Jan. 5. (Photo by Naj Wikoff)
"Yes, even when there is a D.O.G., but he has taken dominance over most of the local dogs," said Tucker. "Diesel was born in 2004, so he is going to turn 10 this year after he knocks my beer over."
"He did come close to that," I said, "but I am glad to see Diesel here. It means the new year has begun along with great music at the Lounge."
"I have no idea how many January Jams we have held," said Scott Renderer, the impresario of the Sunday sessions held in the a former Ford Assembly plant located at the junction of Route 9N and Springfield Road. "I guess maybe seven. The original inspiration was to play music with other people, bring musicians together that normally wouldn't play together, and have something to do on a Sunday afternoon in January."
"If a musician wants to be a part of the jam, what should they do?"
"They should show up with their instrument, see me, and tell me they want to play and I will put their name on the list," said Scott. "They can also play with other musicians, too. We get all kinds of musicians. We get a lot of acoustic music, of course, folk musicians, singer-songwriters, jazz, blues. Sometimes bands come in and play a set. We get a lot of guitar players, electric guitar players. They come from all over, from Plattsburgh to Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, Bloomingdale, Keene Valley, Westport, Essex and even some from Burlington. It is a pretty diverse mix of music. Some weeks are heavy on electric, some are heavy on acoustic, you just never know. Sometimes we get a lot of young singers who want to try out before an audience. It is a good place to debut or try new work because it is friendly and there is not a lot of pressure."
"I have been playing for 24 years," said Drew Sprague following his opening performance. "My wife and I did a diaper jam here, because we are friends with the owners, which is everyone brings diapers because we are having a baby. It was an open mic thing and it worked out. So we decided to do it again next year, and they have been happening ever since. It's good to get out on a Sunday in January. Last year, it really picked up. We had a lot of musicians and other people from Saranac Lake. Obviously, a lot of the people here are playing music, so it is a very supportive environment. There is a lot of camaraderie, and I get to try out a couple new songs I have written."
"We have been playing together for about six months," said Dutch Stout of Jay. "I did not play here last year, but I have played seven or eight times before at the Jams. It's a great laid-back atmosphere, a great opportunity to try out new material, a very friendly crowd and a great opportunity for the community to get together. I have been playing for 40 years. It's a passion. I just love playing music. There is Rainer Maria Rilke quote, in his Letters to a Young Poet, 'You do it only if you absolutely have to.' For me I feel that I have to play music."
"I have been playing five years," said Dawn Reuter. "This is my second year playing at the Lounge. I think this is a great atmosphere and a great community effort to have everyone come in a play some songs and just get together. It is fabulous."
"It is like a neighborhood living room," said Stephen Longmore. "I come to listen to the music, eat, drink, and talk with my neighbors, and warm up by the collective fire."
"We have been playing here since the beginning," said Bob Haley. "We are not on our way to Carnegie Hall. I played in my living room for 25 years because there wasn't a venue like this before. The best part is that there is a no-pressure attitude. Anybody can come here and do anything they want because the attitude is, 'Look, it may sound like nothing to you. It is only going to be for 15 minutes. You can put up with it.' It's true. I have never seen anyone get booed off the stage. You get applauded for just getting up there and being able to do it. The guy before us never played before anybody five or six years ago and now he's doing great. People should get ready for it as ready as they can get, and then come down, visit, watch, see what it is and put their name on the list. There is a great mix. You get people like Drew Sprague, who is a real musician. His wife is a musician. You get some who can play anything, and you get others starting out. There are all sorts of people who get inspired to do more than they ever hoped to or imagined. It's fun. It's a lot of fun."
"Look at it. It is so eclectic and so eccentric," said Julie Robards. "You have everybody. You have the young kids, you have every generation, and the music bridges the gaps. You don't have to be a pro. You can get up and make mistakes."
The January Jams start at 2 p.m. every Sunday in January.
For more information, visit the Upper Jay Art Center's website at upperjayartcenter.org.