Picture Rock, Installment Two
By EZ Ryyder
Climbing up the worn wooden stairs, we’re surrounded by promo photos of musicians from the days when bands had press kits. I smile at Katy, and the Prophet just nods as we stroll through the front reception area. I slip the mandolin case off my shoulder and stash it behind the Elvis statue. The Prophet hangs on to his banjo case.
The restaurant is packed with mountain bikers, kayakers, local families, tourists, climbers and an assortment of people that just can't be classified. The wait staff is bustling around, explaining the beer selections, taking orders and carrying trays with a mixture of plates and glasses. There doesn't seem to be an open seat and there is no hint of what's to come.
We wander into the other room, sort of an upstairs bar with “seat yourself” tables in the center of the room, high tops along the walls and windows that look out on the hills and redstone cliffs. There is a wrap around porch outside with more tables through the heavy glass door. There are a couple of seats at the bar and we slide in and stake our claim. Annie’s blue-green eyes sparkle our way from under her curly brown hair while she fills two pints and talks to an older gentleman with a fishing cap and a scraggly beard, and before you know it, she asks us what we’ll have. I order a Devious Ale and the Prophet gets a whiskey and a glass of water.
We wait for the other musicians to show, sip our drinks and talk about how quickly the trails are drying out.
Kasey and Erik host the weekly bluegrass jam at the brewery. Most of the time, at least one of them is off touring with a band. Tonight, they are both in town and there is a buzz of anticipation as a few more folks carrying instruments walk into the bar and tuck their instrument cases out of the way. Or try to. The cases are always in the way.
Around eight o’clock, the last guests finish their dinner and as soon as they get up, people start clearing the tables and carrying them out to the porch and stack them on the outside tables. Next, the chairs are dragged across the wooden floor and arranged in a circle. The instruments come out and banjos, fiddles, mandolins and guitars somehow get spaced out so there aren’t too many in a row.
Erik kicks off the jam with a John Hartford tune, “Here I Am In Love Again.” After the first verse, the solos start snaking their way around the circle. When it gets to me, I do my best to play crisp notes that project across the room and don’t get lost in the volume of the jam. Then it’s back to the next verse and the solos pick up at the spot in the circle where they left off.
Most of the pickers are quite competent. Some are spectacular.
After the song finishes, the next person in the circle selects the next song and around it goes. By now, there are 15 people in the main circle and there is barely room to stand in the bar. Soon, additional circles begin to split off in other parts of the building and as the evening rolls along, the real pros start to show up.
There is a jam circle in the front lobby, two in the main dining room and one on the back porch. That’s not counting the main jam that got things going. The place is mobbed. The Tuesday night ride from the Cyclery has occupied the large, Viking-length table in the back—which seems fitting as this group has been pillaging the most technical terrain above town for the past few hours wearing headlamps.
Clusters of people fill the open space between the jams. It’s hard to tell the musicians from the fans or the random folk that stumbled into something real and alive, ebbing and flowing with notes flying through the air and bouncing off the walls.
I wander into the other room to check out another circle and see the Prophet tearing it up with Kasey, Joseph, Topher and some fiddle player that I’ve never met. Kasey is singing “I’ve Endured” and it strikes me that this is probably one of the most enduring jams anywhere.
As on most Tuesdays, I feel lucky to be here.
Next: Installment Three, Spin
Next: Installment Three, Spin
© EZ Ryyder 2012
EZ Ryyder spends his time a little bit farther down the road. Past the city limits.