Leading my first real session soon…help!!!

Leading my first real session soon…help!!!

Hiya folks,

This is my first discussion on the board, I did do a cursory check of past threads but if similar stuff’s come up before, well, sorry and please don’t rip me a new one.

One of my favourite sessions back home is run by a couple of old band-mates in Lerwick. I got a call not long ago saying that they’ll be away all through July and I’ll have to take over. I’ve organised a couple of sessions in that pub with other young folk before, and a recent thread about Ronnie Cooper waltzes reminded me of the old guy at the bar with no short-term memory who asks for "The Isles O’Gletness" several times per night…I’m slightly worried about having to lead the real deal.

For starters, there are plenty of regulars better than me and all of them are more experienced - I’m barely old enough to buy a drink in there. Another possible scenario would be the arrival of any hi-flyers. The Lounge’ll always be the trad gods’ favourite haunt, but for example, when I was back home last summer and again at Christmas, a couple of the lads from "Fiddlers’ Bid" and their mate came along regularly. If you’ve ever seen a gig by these guys, imagine what they’re like in a session when they’ve had a few and they’re all driving each other on. I can barely ACCOMPANY them - sometimes I can’t even do that! If any such players do come along, I reckon I’ll just sit back and let them run the show, there’s no way I’ll have the stones to tell somebody whose CDs I listen to obsessively which tunes we’re going to be doing next.

Any advice from the various session leaders on the board would go down a treat - from general dos and don’ts to how to deal with less-than-welcome spectator contributions (the place has a deservedly rough reputation and I’ve had issues in the past, but never as the "guy in charge") to the random arrival of trad music geniuses who BRAKE FOR NOBODY.

Thanks in advance,

Peace, S

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Re: Leading my first real session soon…help!!!

It sounds like the session is well established, which I think makes your job that much easier. You know you’ll have musicians join you, which means all you have to do (for the most part) is start some sets, and let others start some sets. Just keep the session moving throughout the night…relax and enjoy it!

Re: Leading my first real session soon…help!!!

That’s your first mistake - that you feel you have to be "in charge".

Re: Leading my first real session soon…help!!!

No, his first mistake was asking here? πŸ™‚

Re: Leading my first real session soon…help!!!

Seriously though, from the description of the session, I think more of a "facilitating role" is required.

If there’s lots of good musicians there already, just encourage them and make sure everyone gets a "fair crack of the whip". Don’t regulate too much as long as the session is "inclusive".

You only need to start "rakes of tunes" yourself if there’s not much else happening.

Whatever you do, try not to exclude people by just doing your own thing. I’ve seen this sort of thing happen too often.

Re: Leading my first real session soon…help!!!

By "the guy in charge", I just meant "the poor sap who’s supposed to sort out any problems", i.e. with the non-musicians in the pub who can and do become a real pain when they feel like it. It’d be a bit rubbish if somebody started giving the players hassle and I just pretended it wasn’t happening. Don’t worry - I’m certainly not far enough up myself to boss around the players who’ve been doing this since before I was born! πŸ˜‰

As far as the actual playing goes, I don’t think I have to do much at all to be honest, as the regulars’ll just take turns anyway and it’s very tune-orientated rather than socially-orientated. This can mean less than 30 seconds between sets, I’m convinced that this is why I drink too fast when I’m not playing…so momentum shouldn’t be a problem. My only jobs would be getting everyone together, maybe with a couple of new faces, and making sure nobody’s thirsty, nobody hijacks the session and everybody watching behaves themselves.

Thanks for the comments, folks!

S

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Re: Leading my first real session soon…help!!!

‘swift’ ~ you’d be my choice, no doubt. You have the humility, at least in your writing, of what it takes to be a good session conductor. As the rest have been saying in their own ways, drop the ‘leader’ crap. Sorry, for that slip downwards. It is more about directing or conducting. You can help things to move in a direction, and part of the responsibility is to be aware, especially if anyone is being left out, and that means your regulars too… You aren’t the only one that feels the pressure of a visiting dignitary. Usually those folks know they are visitors and won’t mind if you ask so-and-so to start up a set. So, rather than cracking a whip, you are like someone directing a discussion, yours is not to dominate or lord over folks but to keep things moving and INCLUSIVE… You also need to redirect the occassional daft happening ~ redirect, not just cut off or ignore. If something goes sour, you find a sweet place to direct the group energy to, and away from the negative.

Damn, that sounds a bit namby pamby. Yeah, there are those rare occassions where some of us have had to say f-off, but that doesn’t sound like your style. I like what I’ve read, and I think you would be perfect for the job, considerate and welcoming. Hell, I wish I lived in your neck of the woods, with someone like you running things I’d become a regular. No, I wouldn’t be bolshie Dow, I’d defer such things to you… πŸ˜›

Also, your regulars, most of them, who know the scene and you, you need to know their support is there, especially if you understand and respect the history of that particular session. They are mostly on your side, I’m sure…

Re: Leading my first real session soon…help!!!

From what I’ve seen sessions usually run themselves. If as session leader you’re paid and meant to lead tunes all night, just start up ones when there is a palpable hiatus in proceedings. If there is a nucleus of strong musicians that’s all you need to do. If you’re not paid, forget it - why should you do anything?

As for being "the poor sap who’s supposed to sort out any problems" - fvck that. That’s why they hire bar staff and failing that it’s why there’s a police force. You’re a muso, not a cop.

Every session is different, and I’ve even been in miked up ones where I’ve had to announce the next set of tunes. If that’s what you have to do, so be it. I’ve also been in gatherings where you take turns at playing round a circle and the self-appointed leader reared up at me for playing 2 sets of tunes in a row. A most undignified way for a session leader to behave. Make sure you don’t do that, or you’ll just look like a tw@t, but I’m sure you won’t.

Best of luck and as ceol says you’ll be fine on the night.

Re: Leading my first real session soon…help!!!

Cheers ceol, I’ll let youse all know how it goes but it’s a while away yet. Better actually do some practicing in the meantime, whenever I go back I’m always amazed by how cr@p I let myself get during term-time…

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Re: Leading my first real session soon…help!!!

And thanks to KML too - I wish it was one of those where the core group gets paid, I need the flippin’ money! πŸ™‚ I’m sure the playing side of things’ll keep going by itself, that’s never been a problem before and if it dies down I can always nag the guitarist to sing us something. I know how that sounds, but it’s exactly the opposite of the usual singer-guitarist session situation - everybody WANTS him to sing but it’s like getting blood from a stone!

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Re: Leading my first real session soon…help!!!

I’ve never been to a session with "a leader". Odd concept.

Re: Leading my first real session soon…help!!!

Dafydd, that’s because they did such a good job you didn’t notice there was anyone at the helm… You need to drink less at sessions… πŸ˜‰

Swift, you have plenty of time to widen your perspectives while you are at the session, get a feel for how it actually works, rather than just contributing… That’s a good thing. As Keys suggests, they sort of ~ or should at lest seem that way ~ to mostly flow along on their own, well established ones anyway. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some gentle nudging taking place, and directing, and the more it isn’t overtly obvious, the better, but no problem if occassionally you need to more openly bring someone into the fold who may be suffering some unintended neglect…

Back to ‘dafydd’, yeah, I have experienced ‘THE LEADER’ concept, and don’t like it. But, to have direction is sublime, and is, on the whole, less intrusive or obvious… Sometimes it is more than one person, like a core group, usually no more than a few, though a well established session can be like a committee at times. They are also the ones, in the better sessions, that make an effort to welcome in old timers and new comers alike, and to poke and prod music out of the participants if there’s a slump. Hey, some nights, maybe the barometric pressure or humidity, you just find everybody in suffering from something akin to jet lag. But take care, if you prod, you might get a growl back. Don’t take it personally. Even the nicest folk have their grouch moments…

Who’s asleep? ~ What I meant is that before you take that responsibility you’re lucky in that you can catch the session a few times before you’re at the helm. And for those few times you can be more sensitive to how it functions, the make up of the evening, the structure ~ beyond just participating…

Sometimes that overall understanding and awareness is all you need…

Re: Leading my first real session soon…help!!!

I don’t think you have to be the key musician to be the leader.

Its more like your the guy that is always going to be there rain or shine … the guy that people can contact…the reminder e- mail sender.. the guy thats has all the phone numbers…. you know that guy.. sounds like you have more then enough tune players..

Re: Leading my first real session soon…help!!!

Learn a hundred tunes - you will be fine.