If you've been keeping up with Reverb lately, you'll know we recently dissected the phenomenon of the Tuesday Night Music Club. Tuesday, our resident sage John Roderick posited, is the night when local acts get their start, taking the first step from unknown to up-and-comer. With that in mind, we made a commitment to review more Tuesday-night shows--one a week, in fact. But what we didn't discuss as much in the TNMC feature was the preponderance of music that happens in this city that's not "up-and-comers" but still a vital part of the scene. Every night of the week there's live jazz at Tula's, blues at the Can Can, and who-knows-what happening at Egan's Jam House. With that in mind, a friend and I headed down to Ballard's Conor Byrne (home of the popular Sunday-night open mike, where local "alt-folk" peeps cut their chops) to check out the weekly Ol' Time Social hosted by popular do-gooders the Tallboys.
When we arrived, the pub was quiet. A few regulars sat at the bar, watching the Mariners game with the sound turned down or just contemplating the space in front of them. In the back, a small circle of musicians played traditional fiddle songs, accompanied by a guitar. Leading the group were members of the Tallboys, the Americana foursome you might recognize from their regular Monday-night square-dancing gig at the Tractor.
As we sat drinking our beers, absorbed in conversation, I noticed that though I could hardly discern the difference between songs, each time one ended another musician had shown up to join, fiddle or banjo case in hand. By the time we left, the ranks had swelled to nearly 30 members (at least 20 of whom played violin), including a stand-up bass player and a lady who provided percussion through dance. The bar had filled as well, and people laughed and chatted with friends under the warm light of the chandeliers.
It was clear the jam session fostered a sense of community among the players. And that's important to emphasize--a lot of the music that happens every week is not about "making it" or even playing original songs, but about the connection music inspires among people. At Conor Byrne, the musicians were clearly having a lot of fun playing for themselves and each other but not really "performing" for an audience.