Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Session anchors/hosts etiquette

A few times the situation has arisen where the people hosting a session are late arriving and the people that came to join in are anxious to start playing regardless. They will take seats around the table and begin… and it seems awkward when the hosts arrive. The times I’ve been in Ireland and host are among the last to arrive no one even sits down at the table and they remain at the bar or whatever until the hosts arrive and get settled. I asked someone there about it and they said it’s just the polite and decent thing to do and sitting down and starting to play is "bad form." Among the locals in SF people would sit and start playing regardless and let the hosts fit themselves in wherever when they finally get there, but it seemed awkward enough… and I did notice that when we had well known musicians from Ireland scheduled to host, if they were late they seemed put off by it and would sit at the bar talking and wouldn’t join in for a long time. In the last 10 years or so I have been trying to get the locals to resist starting anyway when hosts are late… but some people still think it’s silly to wait and give me grief.

So here’s my query: what is the protocol where you have your sessions regarding this issue… what do you do when *hosts are late? (Please indicate your region so I have an idea where the particular protocol is located.)

*hosts: usually paid anchors in pub sessions.

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There always seems to be a tendency to start later and later, so I always go as early as I can and I start playing whenever I want. If hosts are late, that’s their problem. If you are early, there is nothing wrong, to my way of thinking, with having a bit of a tune to yourself — after all, that’s what you’re there for.

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Where are you located, Gam? The reason I want to know is to keep track to see if trends are regional.

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I haven’t played regularly at a session with a host for ages, but at least in Scotland — at least at the sessions I attended — people would start playing at the usual session start time and if the hosts were late (which was a rare occurrence in any case), that was their problem. A space was usually saved for them, but no one was put out if people started playing tunes in their absence.

I’m kind of surprised (but not really because we all know what musicians are like) that this a thing. I mean, really? People worry about this?

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I have noticed in some areas, a session leader is nothing more than a confirmed point of contact for the pub owner that at least one musician is going to show up on a weekly basis - at least that is how it is out in the wilds of the American Southwest. If other folks show up early and start playing, it doesn’t seem to cause any sort of issue. When the host arrives they assume their hosting duties; which can be as controlling or as laissez-faire as the session may require that evening, depending on attendance.

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DrSilverSpear writes: "I mean, really? People worry about this?"

Apparently… as I said… it’s something I observed in sessions in Ireland, and when people start playing before hosts arrive here I’ve noticed the hosts visiting from Ireland being a bit put off, and I’ve heard it described as "bad form" by them. Manners differ from place to place, and that’s why I want people to indicate where they are when answering. It might be general differences in basic manners that determines local protocols regarding this sort of thing.

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I bet it’s one of those things that not only varies from region to region, but from session to session. If you’re visiting one in another country, you surely shouldn’t be put out when you discover that they have different etiquette/manners than what you’re accustomed to. That’s what travel is all about!

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When people are traveling I think they react to situations naturally the way they do when they are at home and don’t stop and analyze things—it’s not something you have control over necessarily. But having said that, I personally prefer to wait until hosts arrive before I start playing out of respect. But I hadn’t thought about it much until I noticed the local protocol in Ireland… and it suited me. I suppose a lot of it might have to do with your general attitude towards sessions.

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If its a session then people are there for tunes , get stuck in and have thecraic . If its a gig masquerading as a session then the people who’s gig it is should get there on time! Too many control freaks don’t a good session make .

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As a "host", I can’t say I’d be bothered. If anything, I’d be pleased to see someone else taking it on!!

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As an aside, STW, why have you changed your name to "empty"?

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Empty? That’s a new one for me… It should read "Tøm"…

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Btw, here in Cambridge, UK, for Phantom Button’s "regional" survey!

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"*hosts: usually paid anchors in pub sessions."

From a recent time back in Ireland this seems to be a growing thing. Sessions in the 70s and 80s mostly just happened, and I tended to be somewhere most nights, making music or dancing or both. If certain reknowned ‘regulars’ didn’t arrive, it didn’t slow down the music, though, possibly a bit more chat might happen. Where did I experience this? Where didn’t I, but mostly in and around Dublin. But if you need more ~ the counties of Dublin, Wicklow, Waterford, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary, Clare, Galway, Sligo, Donegal, etc., etc. ~ the towns of Cork, Galway, Belfast, etc…

Here in Lancashire if the main folk aren’t there, their places might be kept for them, but the music seems to start pretty much on time whatever the situation. If they never showed and folks waited, what fun would that be? But, on the whole, those rare times there’s any recompense it seems to have at best been just drink, not dosh, though sometimes locals would come in and place coin on the bar and order us a round, and sometimes we’d even get fed, at one particular little gathering we were regularly served up plates of bacon sarnies, mmmmm!

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Here in Rhode Island, on the East Coast of the USA, my experience is that folks drink and chat until the host or hosts arrive, and only then does the music start. No one ever asked us to, and I never even thought about it until PB posed the question, but that is my experience. The one exception I can think of is when the host was delayed, and we started the tunes at the request of the publican.

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"Empty? That’s a new one for me… It should read "Tøm"…"

Well, the "ø" is used in Norwegian and Danish.
In those languages, "tøm" means "empty".

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Here in Australia, if you turn up late for a gig it just serves you bloody well right,
Weejie, you clever bastard!

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Mr Button — FYI I am in the south-east of England; but the same applied when I was living in the north-east. To me, expecting people not to play until the hosts arrive is rather like expecting people not to talk amongst themselves.

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Generally here the etiquette is that everyone unpacks their instruments at the beginning of th night and pack together at the end . Which is ok , just that too much hidebound etiquette and sessions can lose their spontaneity , everyone deferring to someone supposedly higher up the food chain of hierarchy , with trad royalty at the top conferred by a CD release . Fortunately they are not all like that and unpretenscious players still demure from this stilted artificial way of things . Respect is essential but it’s earned not demanded . IME the paid host coming in to see a session in full swing will sit back and relax knowing that the others are earning his money for him.

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I’ve been to many sessions both in UK and Ireland and I’ve never heard of this phenomenon that Button describes. But maybe I haven’t been at the start of a session waiting for the likes of Frankie Gavin or Joe Burke or someone - and as pointed out above, isn’t that more like a gig than a free session? The nearest I’ve observed is a few sycophants waiting for the paid guy to turn up, but that was more through being inhibited to play tunes ‘all by themselves’ rather than respect for the Great Man himself. Something like lack of self-respect rather than respect for The Man or The Woman. And if the Great Man or Woman were to stand at the bar if the session started before He made an appearance, isn’t that the behaviour of a rather petulant diva? And in any case why is he late if he’s the only one getting paid? Not in keeping with the generally accepted ethos of this music, which may be regarded as a branch of *folk* music.

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Any session I ever went to always starts with a bit of conversation, then someone asks if anyone knows a particular tune they’ve been learning or heard recently, they start playing, we all join in… and off it goes. Anyone else arriving just joins in! If we’re waiting for anyone of note to appear they generally unpack and prepare quietly in the background before joining the circle and being invited to give us a tune… as Danny says it all depends on whether it’s a session, a workshop or a gig. It’s along the same line as playing a solo piece unasked in a session - is it poor etiquette to ask everyone else to stop playing while you perform, or is it showing off? Different I suppose if it’s a new tune no-one else knows… however I digress from the original post - am I correct that the hosts should be there to welcome the visitors, first to arrive and last to leave?

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Yep, Footerin’. That’s much the same as my experience.

"~ a session, a workshop or a gig"

Lead sessions, the core attendees ~ mostly making sure that others are included and are offered an opportunity to start a set if they’re reticent. But I think, as some have already suggested, a difference between a session and a paid gig, with variations in between it seems… I’ve attended a few of those ‘gigs’, and have not taken my instrument, or left it encased, enjoying a pint, the company, and the listen… At sessions where there were ‘names’, they were, on the whole and with few exceptions, courteous, considerate, and tended to try to also be inclusive and appreciative, and not to play at every opportunity or pause, enjoying the chat as well. As to old sods, sometimes we know what a regular’s party piece is and will usually request it, give them their moment, and there’s the occassional time for an air, and such courtesies, consideration and respect doesn’t seem rare, or at least didn’t use to be.

I was sad to hear at one long established pub where I’d played in the past, in Ireland, when asking the publican of 30 years if there were any sessions, his answer was "I can’t afford it!" It seems the local players expect their pieces of silver, at least in this case. Inquiring about other sessions I also found out that some were more what I’d define as gigs rather than an open session… In some instances it had a feel of the busking in London and Dublin, reserved, possessive, protected, and you’d better not step over the line ~ "This is my turf/site! F-off!"

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Interesting solution Bjarne, but why not just say whoever shows first has the responsibility to start things off, in an inclusive way, ‘host for a day’… 😀 Now where did I put my toup?

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If there are paid hosts at the sessions I go to, they are keeping very quiet about it. So solution, no paid hosts and we play if we want to. Or sit and talk/drink beer etc. As long as we buy drinks, no problem.

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At my local sessions, people seem to wait until two or three melody players turn up and then just kick into it. I only know of one pub that has a session leader as such and if they can’t make it, they pre-arrange for someone else to be there. Although to my knowledge, they are never late, the session would start at 8pm regardless of who was there.

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What brand of wig glue do you typically use Bjarne?

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I’ve played sessions in quite a few pubs around the US and Ireland. I have never heard of this phenomenon. I doubt it is a ‘regional’ thing or even a pub thing, but perhaps it is more a thing about specific ‘hosts’. Maybe there are some hosts or session leads that are very controlling and they have brow-beaten the regulars into a cowering state of submission. Heaven forbid that someone else show even a hint of ‘disrespect’ by starting a set without them.

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As long as the musicians know the following reel it seems acceptable to play it & still respect their anticipated, honoured (big wig?) host(s);
"I’m Waiting for You"
http://www.irishtune.info/tune/888/

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My mind being very business oriented, in a situation where there’s a paid host, I’d say the final choice should be made by the pub owner who actually pays the host. As a pub owner, you’d want the quality of the music to be good enough to be enjoyable by your clients. As a paid host, you’re responsible of making sure the session is going smoothly with a minimum standard. Here in Montreal I once showed up at a session where the host did not show up (miscommunication problems) and it was a total disaster. I did not join (pretty much ran away) but my "business mind" felt insulted that someone was actually paying for such "music". But if the pub owner doesn’t care about the music itself, I’d say it’s really case by case. I would personally try to wait a little for the session leader, but start anyway if he/she’s more than 15 minutes late…

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Round here etiquette demands that the session leader always be the last to arrive. When he walks in we all line up in a guard of honour, bow our heads, tug our forelocks, and offer up small gifts.

At least, that’s probably what would happen if we had session leaders (paid or unpaid). In reality, a bunch of people turn up at a pub and play music. If we had to have leaders and followers, or any other sort of hierarchy, then I’d probably find a different hobby.

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If you don’t have people who are hosting or anchoring sessions I’m really not interested. The query was regarding sessions that have those… I thought I made that clear.

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Ok, I contacted friends in Ennis, Dublin, Sligo and Galway to get their take. Some of these people would be recognized by members here so I can’t use their names or I would be accused of "name dropping." They all agreed that it was depending on circumstances, but they also said they wouldn’t personally start playing or even sit down at the table to play if none of the hosts/anchors (who’s gig it is) wasn’t there yet. They said it doesn’t apply if it’s a "free for all" session though. My friend in Sligo actually rang me to discuss this. He said no one ever talks about such things in Ireland and he had "free minutes" and rang me just for the novelty of discussing session etiquette. He said it is indeed, like I said, just a matter of good manners that compels him and others to wait until the folks whose session it is to arrive before sitting down and starting. He also said he would ring ahead if he knew he was the host and going to be later than just a few minutes to let people know they can go ahead and start if they want. I found that interesting for two reasons: 1) he assumes everyone would wait, and 2) we can now ring ahead even from our cars.

This supports my OP and I do think there’s something to be said about it being different depending on where you are. Most people responding here in the US or in the UK and elsewhere seem to assume there’s no need to wait, but unless it’s a free-for-all it seems to be the consensus to wait until the hosts arrive around Ireland. (I think the term "hosts" and "anchor" is not used to describe people whose session it is in Ireland.) In both cases it isn’t something that happens all the time.

I think there’s another cultural difference at work here too. My friend that rang me also talked about how you would wait to ask the ‘hosts’ if you can join in with them. The assumption that you automatically can join in isn’t as common there as it is elsewhere unless it’s a free-for-all session. This would mean that you would have to wait until they arrived anyway just to ask if you can join in thus solving the dilemma to begin with.

My intention for this thread wasn’t to imply that one way is right or wrong, but rather just to explore the differences. I think these sorts of cultural variations are interesting and good to know when visiting other people’s sessions. Thanks to everyone for their responses. Please feel free to add more if you have something.

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"If you don’t have people who are hosting or anchoring sessions I’m really not interested."

" I think these sorts of cultural variations are interesting and good to know when visiting other people’s sessions."

Doesn’t add up does it? If you are interested in the variation and what other people do, why would you only be interested in one variant?

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Ironic, innit?

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Hey, Bjarne, do you have any distant relatives with names like yhaalhouse? 🙂

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I notice that some members are doing some serious mis-clicking when it comes to their location 🙂

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Bjarne Skjoldwulf writes: "Doesn’t add up does it? If you are interested in the variation and what other people do, why would you only be interested in one variant?"

Please read the OP, I made it clear I was only referring to sessions with hosts/anchors. Also… look at the title of this thread. I don’t know how I can be any more clear.

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Jack, yes, you made it clear which type of sessions you are referring to. And I appreciate your insight on the matter. I just find your approach seems to be biased (fair play though because you’ve acknowledged it) … nonetheless biased to the degree that you may fall short of exploring the differences* fully.

I never said I agree with Bjarne Skjoldwulf’s conclusion. Though I see irony where you, Phantom Button, consider your case straight down the line & consistent (not even a hint of irony)

i.e. the range of *differences between a hosted session where musicians do not take a place at the table until all the hosts have arrived & hosted sessions where the host(s) are more than a few minutes late & the music is started before the host arrives & is seated.

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The session I go to sometimes has the host rotate among several people, so I wouldn’t know who was hosting it on a particular day. I wouldn’t know who to wait for!

I’ve noticed that Americans tend to want to start on time, and Irish tend to drift in later. A cultural thing?

If I was the pub owner and the host was late, I would get a different host! I would expect the music to start at the agreed-upon time. Once again, possibly an "American thing".

BTW years ago I was teaching some workshops at a festival and was amazed, as I walked into one of the workshops I was doing, to find somebody already teaching. I guess they thought that I was late (I was on time) and took it upon themselves to start the workshop. I sat in the back, quite amused at the situation. Eventually the guy said something about "when the teacher gets here" and I said "I’ve been here all along" and was able to take my seat at the front (which he had been occupying).

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Sessions at Cleary’s Pub and the Chelsea Alehouse (both in Chelsea Michigan) have a core of regular attendees. Some of the participants have considerably more experience, longevity, and serve as primary contacts with the proprietors. In that sense, there is a default leadership, but the sessions are very democratic (or, perhaps, anarchistic). People do wait until the agreed-upon starting time, primarily because we have to wait for the radio (or whatever the sound system is) to be turned off so that we can hear each other.

For these sessions, the idea that you have to wait until a formal "leader" shows up in order to start playing has probably never occurred to anyone. Newbies have usually been familiar with session etiquette and ask if they can join in (the first time anyway - once you’ve been there, we assume that you’ve taken the oath, learned the ground rules and can cope). And the idea of paying someone to lead the session - pretty much everyone would walk out and go play in the gazebo by the clock tower, weather permitting.

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I can think of one very well-known Donegal session which would never start until its leader turned up, no matter how late he was. And, when he got there, if he found someone occupying his favourite seat, then said trespasser (having given up said seat) would still be ignored for the rest of the evening.

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"In the last 10 years or so I have been trying to get the locals to resist starting anyway when hosts are late… but some people still think it’s silly to wait and give me grief."

Are you receiving support in this endeavor from most of the locals or is it a constant struggle, PB?

Also, has there been hosted sessions in San Francisco as you experienced them in Ireland, i.e. "The times I’ve been in Ireland and host are among the last to arrive no one even sits down at the table and they remain at the bar or whatever until the hosts arrive and get settled."?

To answer your question from the OP, of the sessions I’ve played in California none (as far as I know) have been formally hosted. (Though I wouldn’t be the sort to jump in if I thought for a second it might put off the host; not at any session.) I’ve played a few sessions in Ireland, all relatively small & none were formally hosted. In Canada I played with a piper from Ireland. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear he agrees with everything you’ve said. Though of the two ‘known’ Canadian musicians I met (didn’t session with either) I imagine both of them would be thrilled to come into a session which began before they arrived & they’d join right in. Granted this may or may not be true if same musicians were paid to host/anchor a session. I suspect the same could be said (‘join right in’) of a fiddler in Grass Valley with whom I’ve played in sessions.

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"I can think of one very well-known Donegal session which would never start until its leader turned up, no matter how late he was. And, when he got there, if he found someone occupying his favourite seat, then said trespasser (having given up said seat) would still be ignored for the rest of the evening."

Oh Lord. A folk diva. Times have obviously changed from the days when a two-word reply would have sufficed… 🙂

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Na éisc, the expectations regarding sessions at my local are mixed. There used to be free-for-all sessions every Sunday from the mid 70s through the mid eighties, and then the session started to falter and fizzle out. Other Irish pubs in the city and in the neighborhood were hosting sessions and most people were drifting away from the "Plough"… my local. San Francisco has a long history regarding Irish immigration and there’s a mix of both Irish and American players that participate. The publican at the Plough loves trad and didn’t want to see the Sunday session drift away from his pub. The other pubs hosting sessions were paying for anchors, and so the publican at the Plough realized he would have to start doing the same to maintain a session. So in 1988 he did just that and the session lives on for that reason.

I was hosting almost all of the sessions there for the next 9 years with one or two other fellahs. I didn’t know much about it and really just functioned more as a custodian setting up chairs and being there. That was during the period where I observed the occasional host from Ireland that was passing through town and hired to host the session reacting to our local session customs and etiquette. Usually they were well known and sometimes even legendary trad luminaries. If they came in and were were all seated around the table and playing already, they would spend most of the night at the bar. There were other things we would do that seemed to put them off too, but I won’t go into those since I’m trying to focus on one particular aspect.

In 1990 I had my first visit to Ireland and was there for just over 2 months. During that time I stayed in Dublin, Galway and Westport mostly spending a couple of weeks or more in each location. It was the middle of winter and I got to know the locals quite well and observed their sessions without many, if any, musical tourists like myself present. This is when I began to realized what it was about our sessions back home that seemed to clash with Irish culture. When I returned I tried to introduce some of these ideas and they were met with mixed reactions. Over the years many more of the local players also went on musical sojourns to Ireland and corroborated my observations… especially if they went during winter. Since then, many things about our local session have evolved in a positive direction, and the occasional Irish luminary passing through who is hired to host the session are responding positively as well. There are many things that have changed about the way we conduct ourselves, but this particular aspect hasn’t had enough opportunities to adjust. I didn’t tell people they couldn’t start, I just suggested that we wait and it resulted in a discussion and that’s what prompted this thread.

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Even the Irish posters on thesession.org don’t all share this particular experience.

At any rate, my view would be that San Fransciso is not in Ireland and if it’s that big a deal to the hosts, they should get there on time! Waiting for the Great Man or Woman to arrive might be the socially accepted thing in some places, but it does not necessarily make it "right" or "better" and since that’s not the norm in Cali, demanding it might cause undo political hassle.

Irish posters on thesession.org speak out…

Emily, I agree San Francisco is not Ireland.

Having said that I appreciate Jack’s concern for the hosts he has invited to a session he is so obviously devoted to. If they seem too grumpy it may be jet lag or other unexpected discomforts & ailments. In any case being "on time" is a human/cultural construct.

Cheers Mr. Button!

;)

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Out here in Walla Walla, Washington (look it up), the session host is never late. I’m the session host/anchor, and the session is at my house. If I weren’t going to be here or if I was going to be late, I’d let people know, I do sometimes forget to lock the back door, though, so if you happen to be in Walla Walla and come to my house, if I don’t answer the front door, try the back, and if its unlocked, come on in and start playing! Please! I’ll be home soon.

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A slightly different thing, but when I ran training courses, I’d always, without exception, ensure I was there well before the start time because it couldn’t start without me.

I have never encountered this situation the original poster mentions but I’d say if you are hosting a session *and* expecting people to wait for you to start things off, get there on time. If you don’t get there on time, why should people hang around waiting for you?

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Just seen the thing about whether it’s the sort of session that anyone can join - again, if there’s a host, that might be their job, surely (just as part of my job was to make sure the correct people had turned up) - another reason not to leave people waiting for you.

There may, of course, be cultural differences about punctuality!

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In some sense, reason for bothering to reply at all, most of the sessions I’ve had the pleasure of participating in had some kind of host/anchor setup, if not one God-like master of ceremony. There were at least a core of regulars who made it what it was, who had established certain norms, with a history of association and repeat attendance and support, with due respect given them, if not necessarily idolatry.

There’s no argument that consideration and good manners, respect, should be the way of things, especially when a guest at someone else’s session, whether that ownership is singular or plural, established in history or moolah, dosh, paid - or both. However, where there is an established tie to being paid, I wouldn’t describe these as ‘cultural’ variations in the large sense of ‘national’, but more ‘personal’, between the publican and the person expected to be in charge, paid for to ‘host/anchor’ said session, wherever that might be, San Francisco or Donegal. Every session is unique, so in that sense yes, it has by some means a culture of its own, established norms and expectations.

There’s no questioning the need for care and courtesy and that "these sorts of ‘cultural’ variations are interesting and good to know when visiting other people’s sessions." ~ and to respect… But by ‘culture’, my sense of it is that it is more individual rather than necessarily of a larger identity ~ national or regional. I can’t think of any two sessions I’ve known or participated in that were identical, and that can even be at times the same session from one get together to another.

My wife and friends often give me guff in that I don’t go to any session the first time with any intention of playing. My wife gets angry about it, has known to kick me under the table. I go the first time to any session with no other expectations than to just listen, and enjoy a drink and, if I’ve gone with others, their company, whether or not their prodding and kicking me. That’s my particular way, to get to know something before attempting to join in, to get a sense of it, and then, next time, asking if it’s OK to take a seat in amongst the circle of musicians.

I have on extremely rare occasion come across a session where it seemed ‘all’ seats were set and spoken for, space limited. But, all sessions I can bring to mind had some kind of hosting, including ones I’ve been the host for, and I’ve even been paid to do it, but most weren’t ‘formal’ in the sense you seem to suggest. I’d be disappointed, where I were the main lead, if I was late and people were refusing to sit down and play until my magnificence arrived. I think I’d soon find somewhere else to play. There’s a certain joy and knowing it will happen without me, that there’s enough trust and community to carry it on no matter what. But that’s another ‘norm’ one establishes over time. That’s the way I’d prefer for it to be.

But, respecting all those variations, I understand the gig thing, but don’t find those kinds of sessions particularly attractive. I was never kean on that whole "do you wanna be in our gang" thing, or cliques. That’s just me. No doubt I’d still be able to enjoy the listen, but if I came across something too tightly wound I’d likely leave it at that, just listening. I appreciate guidance, leadership, a good anchor/host where their main motivation is to include not to dominate. A well run session, yes, hallelujah, that’s grand, and if it is helped by having one or more excellent musicians at the helm, brilliant. That makes sense. Maybe this is politics again, and maybe we’re talking about extremes and all the possibilities in between ~ from anarchy to tyranny. I prefer the middle ground. But, I’d never go into a new session without respect that it will have it’s own established norms, however it is ‘hosted/anchored’, paid or not.
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P.S. Sounds as if your ‘Irish luminaries’ weren’t extending the same consideration to your differences. Why would your particular ‘culture’ at your session be any the less deserving of respect? Why couldn’t those differences be something you let the visitor know about beforehand, as a kind of welcome? ~ rather than feeling the need to completely rejig things to meet your interpretation of your experiences in Ireland?

Oh, yes, as some others have said, another quirk, whether hired individually or as a band, whatever the occassion, and whatever mood I might be in, I/we always got there before the assigned time, and if there was any setting up to do, I/we’d chip in, help, whether that was for a session, a dance, a workshop.

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I think a visiting session leader as Phantom has now described is a very different situation to the regular paid host that we had been discussing previously.

With a visiting musician I think it would be entirely right and proper to wait. If the booking was described as a performance rather that a session you certainly wouldn’t expect the backing band to start up without you. And if the guy has been asked to come in and fire up a session, but when he arrives he finds the session is in full swing, then there is really nothing he needs to do, he might as well spend the night at the bar.

But I don’t think that would apply to the regular session leader.

Nicely put Mark M (ex Skreech)…

Re: Visiting session leader

This is from the original post, so who’s tardy now ~ 😛
"… when we had well known musicians from Ireland scheduled to host …"

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Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

DrSilverSpear writes: "and since that’s not the norm in Cali, demanding it might cause undo political hassle."

This is one thing that irritates me about these session-dot-org discussions; people misrepresent what others are saying and then attack that as if it was actually being said. This is a classic Straw Man; nowhere in this thread have I indicated I’m "demanding" anything from my session mates. I said I was suggesting it… quite different all together, but if you change it to "demanding" suddenly you have transformed the discussion into something it’s not. Can we please check ourselves a little bit better to avoid this?

As for anything being the "norm" in California… Irish sessions are a relatively recent phenomenon and are not carved in stone as far as how they are conducted and participated in. I see nothing wrong with taking a critical look at these sorts of aspects… I’ve seen the local session here improve in many ways as a result.

John Culhane writes: "I’m the session host/anchor, and the session is at my house."

This is off topic… unless you’re paying yourself. Please try to stay on topic. I’m referring to public sessions in pubs that have hosting anchors… usually compensated for in some way. Our session has rotating anchors that only do so once a month or less, or are passing through from elsewhere and are invited to be host. I’m the only one that comes to nearly all the sessions regardless of being one of the rotating hosts. I’m only hosting once a month usually and it’s not held at my house.

Mark Hammer writes: "If you don’t get there on time, why should people hang around waiting for you?"

It’s not really just about being late… sometimes sessioners will arrive early and want to start before the host(s) arrive. But at the sessions I’ve been to in Ireland they might think you were pretty cheeky if you just sat yourself down and started playing. Again, it depends on the circumstances, but in general I have never seen this happen. I remember wanting to sit at the session table when I arrived to assure a good seat, and I would have loved to start playing, but my shyness ended up functioning in my favor and I stayed at the bar or somewhere nearby instead. I’m pretty sure I was more bold than I should have been on a couple of occasions and sat down prematurely, but the reaction was noticeable… so I refrained after that. Our session in SF isn’t like that… people find a seat when they arrive and avoid sitting where the hosts are going to sit. I’m just hoping we don’t get into the habit of starting before they get there.

But this speaks to the reason I personally prefer to defer to the hosts: before we had rotating hosts all the sessions were the same. You have the same tunes played each week and the same people would tend to fall into dominant or subdominant positions… and others always remained passive. When we started having rotating hosts it opened up the session for more options and each host brought their favorite tunes to the session along with their particular session style. It did take a while for local sessioners to let go of their old habits and allow the hosts to drive the bus… but I think it’s for the better. This doesn’t mean no one else can start tunes, but we did over time begin to realize that the sessions were more interesting if we allowed the hosts to more or less guide the flow of the music. The hosts would also sometimes come with their own contingent of support musicians that added to the difference of their session compared to the generic ones we used to have. Also, the particular host’s session style might tend to bring some of the shyer passive players forward to start tunes for a change. All of this added up to more variety in our general session climate. I realize you need a fairly large trad music community for this to happen, so it’s less likely in smaller towns and areas that don’t have a lot of players to draw from… one of the reasons you are likely to find different session customs regionally depending on those factors I would think.

DrSilverSpear writes: "Waiting for the Great Man or Woman to arrive might be the socially accepted thing in some places"

Why do you say, "Great Man or Woman" as if they are egomaniacs or there’s something wrong with being a session host? I’ve seen other similar demeaning comments on this thread from others. Again, this thread isn’t intended to provide you folks with a forum for bashing session hosts. I don’t understand why you have to go there. Can’t we discuss different aspects of sessions without this sort of thing?

Re:Paid Session Hosts vs …

If you’re back to discussing *different* aspects of sessions does that mean now you’re interested in sessions with & w/out paid host(s)?

😏

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Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

No, Na éisc… different aspects of sessions that have hosting anchors. I’m getting the impression that these aren’t very common among session-dot-org folks. They are more likely if you’re in a larger city where there’s more than one session that don’t have the same people every week… or whenever. Maybe the only good this thread can do is give people food for thought when they visit sessions elsewhere that have larger trad communities.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Sorry for straying off-topic, Phantom Button.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette in larger cities?

Beg pardon I would think DrSilverSpear is familiar with sessions in a relatively sizeable trad community. If not Glasgow then how tightly must we shape these trad community/session parameters?

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Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Phantom Button, if you ask a question on a public forum, you just have to accept the answers you get. You really can’t throw hissy fits at people if they don’t say what you want to hear.

Re: throwing hissy

Coming from ex Skreech ~ truly ironic!!***

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Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Ceol writes: "Sounds as if your ‘Irish luminaries’ weren’t extending the same consideration to your differences. Why would your particular ‘culture’ at your session be any the less deserving of respect? Why couldn’t those differences be something you let the visitor know about beforehand, as a kind of welcome? ~ rather than feeling the need to completely rejig things to meet your interpretation of your experiences in Ireland?"

Well… some of these "luminaries" have been at it for decades longer than us. Some of them have been the very people who I listened to upon discovering the music for myself in the first place back in 1975. I can’t imagine briefing them on our local session idiosyncrasies before sessions they are booked to lead here. As far as respect goes… the fact they agree to host our sessions at all is enough respect from them towards us I think. Even though I feel like I’m borrowing music from a culture I wasn’t raised in and have no claim on, I suppose I like to think our sessions are more like the ones I’ve experienced in Ireland regardless rather than being something we reinvented for ourselves here in the outback of Irish trad… but that’s just me.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

>>"Coming from ex Skreech~ truly ironic!!***"

🙂

San Francisco isn’t Ireland.

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Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Mark M writes: "Phantom Button, if you ask a question on a public forum, you just have to accept the answers you get. You really can’t throw hissy fits at people if they don’t say what you want to hear."

I accept and appreciate the answers I’ve received. What I don’t like are Straw Man transgressions and needless attacks on the people involved in the topic. I sincerely want people’s opinions and feelings regarding this issue… bashing session hosts is pointless and distracting… you don’t agree?

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Na éisc writes: "San Francisco isn’t Ireland."

I never said it was… but we ARE playing Irish traditional music are we not?

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Jack, wouldn’t you agree that not every situation requires a paid host? I realize this is off topic, but it may have some slight bearing on the subject nonetheless.

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Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

>>"I sincerely want people’s opinions and feelings regarding this issue… bashing session hosts is pointless and distracting… you don’t agree?"

Not really, If you start a thread about paid hosts and that’s the way it goes, that’s the way it goes. Just because you start a thread doesn’t mean you own it or control it - you’ve put your question out into the wild, all you should be doing is watching to see where it goes.

As for paid hosts at sessions, I have to admit I’m baffled by the concept. We do have similar situations round here - where a few musicians are paid to provide music in a pub, and others join them. But they aren’t classified as sessions, it’s "XYZ and friends" perform. Round here ‘session’ means a bunch of people just playing together for their own entertainment.

"we ARE playing Irish traditional music are we not?"
As it is interpreted when, where, & by whom it is being played.

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Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Jack writes: "I sincerely want people’s opinions and feelings regarding this issue… bashing session hosts is pointless and distracting… you don’t agree?"

Mark M. writes: "Not really, If you start a thread about paid hosts and that’s the way it goes, that’s the way it goes. Just because you start a thread doesn’t mean you own it or control it - you’ve put your question out into the wild, all you should be doing is watching to see where it goes."

Jeremy writes in the House Rules: "Contributions should be constructive and polite, not mean-spirited or contributed with the intention of causing trouble."

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Mark M. writes: "As for paid hosts at sessions, I have to admit I’m baffled by the concept."

You need to get out more… I found hosted sessions all around Ireland. They also exist all around the SF Bay Area, Chicago, NYC, Seattle, Portland, LA, etc. I realize all sessions aren’t hosted… especially in remote areas where there aren’t a lot of musicians. I have been to free-for-alls in Ireland and elsewhere, but that isn’t what this thread is about.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Surely being mean spirited is when you ask a question, then tell people you didn’t want the answers they gave? Being ‘constructive and polite’ means reading all the answers you get, then just quietly ignoring the ones you don’t like.

I’m not trying to cause trouble. I’ve given you my honest opinion on both the original scenario and the re-vamped one you offered when you weren’t getting the answers you wanted. If you don’t like the answers you are getting, perhaps you shouldn’t have asked the question.

Re: Contributions

I’m logging off for now. But before I do I want to emphasise listening & mutual respect makes playing music what it is.
I may be skeptical about what others have to say but when it comes down to it music & respect are equally important, for myself & I hope for some of you.

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Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

>>"You need to get out more… I found hosted sessions all around Ireland."

Yes, I’m quite familiar with the concept, it’s just we don’t usually refer to those situations as ‘sessions’.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Mark writes: "we don’t usually refer to those situations as ‘sessions’."

In our case it’s an informal gathering of musicians open to anyone who plays trad where people sit around a table laden with beverages somewhere in the pub and share tunes… and there are anchors who are booked to be the hosts on different nights or whatever the arrangement happens to be. These are advertised as and understood to be by most people as "sessions." You can call them whatever you want, but I can guarantee you that most people call it a "session."

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

As a co-host at a session in Pennsylvania, both of us are usually on time. If there is a night where one of us is tardy, the other host would know about this delay in advance and be there to "setup" the session space. This usually includes moving tables around, and hunting up the proper "session stools (i.e. no arms)" that have been scattered about the pub. On the rare occasion where we would both be absent, a pair of suitable players would have been asked ahead of time to fill in. If there were a situation where both hosts were late, I would not be offended, nor would I consider it "bad form" for the other musicians to have started the session.

I know that the original queery was not regarding renumeration for the session host, but since there have been some comments to that issue I’ll chip in my $.02 cents (about what we make per tune as a host 😉) First of all, we don’t always have the same people showing up at our session…yes, there is generally a core group of players, but even this can shift around on a given week/month/season, so if there is going to be a session available for players who may only show up when they are able to, then it follows that there also needs to be someone who commits to being at the session every week regardless of circumstances. That is one of the primary reasons to have a paid host in my opinion and my guess is that’s why the pub owner considers this a worthwhile expense.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

As a co-host at a session in Pennsylvania, both of us are usually on time. If there is a night where one of us is tardy, the other host would know about this delay in advance and be there to "setup" the session space. This usually includes moving tables around, and hunting up the proper "session stools (i.e. no arms)" that have been scattered about the pub. On the rare occasion where we would both be absent, a pair of suitable players would have been asked ahead of time to fill in. If there were a situation where both hosts were late, I would not be offended, nor would I consider it "bad form" for the other musicians to have started the session.

I know that the original queery was not regarding renumeration for the session host, but since there have been some comments to that issue I’ll chip in my $.02 cents (about what we make per tune as a host 😉) First of all, we don’t always have the same people showing up at our session…yes, there is generally a core group of players, but even this can shift around on a given week/month/season, so if there is going to be a session available for players who may only show up when they are able to, then it follows that there also needs to be someone who commits to being at the session every week regardless of circumstances. That is one of the primary reasons to have a paid host in my opinion and my guess is that’s why the pub owner considers this a worthwhile expense.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Not every session host is as functional as you guys are, fidlfad. Sometimes sessioners are early too and want to start playing. The idea is how do you respond when sessions are hosted by people who might not be regulars, or only once a month or whatever, and there are people there that have come to join in. Do you sit down and start playing regardless? In some places it doesn’t matter evidentially. That’s why I’m asking. The regional differences are interesting.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Not every session host is as functional as you guys are, fidlfad. Sometimes sessioners are early too and want to start playing. The idea is how do you respond when sessions are hosted by people who might not be regulars, or only once a month or whatever, and there are people there that have come to join in. Do you sit down and start playing regardless? In some places it doesn’t matter evidentially. That’s why I’m asking. The regional differences are interesting.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Had this happen today at the Auld Dubliner in Long Beach. Due to bad traffic in L.A., the hosts were a bit late, so we just sat around, enjoyed a pint, and chatted until they arrived and got situated. Next week I’m hosting and I’m sure they would do the same for me and my co-host.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Sorry for the negativity, Jack. Living amongst assorted paid, hosted sessions for the last six years has pretty much put me right off them. However, I am sure yours is lovely and I would probably pop round to the Plough and Stars if I was in San Francisco. In fairness, we ended up at a session in NYC hosted by well known players and it was a fantastic night. But in the case of others I have been to, the dynamic of it all leads to a morass of egos and politics. That’s probably not the case when the host rotates, however.

And sessions may not have been around for that long, but even an individual session that’s only been around a year will have norms or habits. Anyway, it doesn’t sound as if there is any remote consensus amongst the regulars at the Plough or posters on thesession.org on this issue. Given the lack of consensus, if bringing in something like this is going to raise the hackles of some regular session goers, I probably wouldn’t bother.

I’ve also traveled round Ireland a bit and find sessions there vary from anarchic free-for-alls to basically gigs.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

I find this all very interesting, Phantom’s well-thought-out posts and the various replies. I think the nub is indeed a cultural thing, a thing which takes me back to my college days and a class I took called Cross-Cultural Communication.

We were shown a training film from the Airline industry used to train employees about how to deal with cultural differences. One scene showed a well-dressed Indian man running up to the counter and demanding "Where is MY plane??" The counter clerk says "I’m sorry sir, that flight left on time at 3:00, it is now 3:30." to which the Indian man yells "It should have been held for me!"

Our teacher explained that in India a plane, a bus, a train full of low-caste people would indeed be held for a person of a high caste, and a person of high caste would as a matter of course walk to the front of any queue. (This was 30 years ago, the same might not be true today!)

These sorts of things, the caste system in India or even the one in Britain, are extremely difficult for Americans to understand. If Bill Gates went to the front of a queue at an American convenience store he would get dirty looks, if not rude comments or being physically shoved back to the back of the line.

What I’m gleaning here is that many Irish view it as showing due respect to a prominent musician to not expect him to be on time and to hold the beginning of the session for him. This conflicts with a number of American cultural things:

1) we expect promptness, for things to begin on time.

2) we are usually in a rush to do things, to not waste time, to accomplish as much as possible in the minimum amount of time.

3) we assume egalitarianism, one aspect of which is that no one person’s time is inherently more valuable than anyone else’s: thus a host being late shows disrespect for all the people who showed up on time, and him expecting everyone else to sit around doing nothing while waiting for him shows even more disrespect for the other people’s time.

Now about this quote from Phantom:

"…the occasional host from Ireland that was passing through town and hired to host the session… If they came in and were were all seated around the table and playing already, they would spend most of the night at the bar."

This, to me, is a business thing and not a cultural thing. If I HIRE you to host the session but you spend most of the night at the bar, we have a breach of contract, and I’m not going to pay you.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

As an Irish person living in the US, I think Richard Cook hits upon some of the cultural differences of why many of the American posters find the idea of a Hosted session odd or even off-putting.
In Ireland, deferrence to people who have earned their stripes, is considered respectful and the done thing (generally speaking of course, not everyone falls in line). You are not just showing respect to the person, but the tradition itself. In the US I have found that once you get out into the hinterlands that the people that play Irish trad often come from a general ‘folky’ background and their sense of ‘democracy’ is often at odds with the idea of ‘leaders’ or one person exerting more control over a session that others. They can often be inclusive to a fault.

Personally, the best sessions (as in musical experiences) I’ve had were generally at hosted sessions, no matter the geography. Sometimes you get lucky and the right people fall into the right place at the right time with no host/leader needed or involved… but those tend to be one of things at festivals etc. For a regular session to keep a decent standard over the years, it is helpful for it to be hosted, preferably by someone who plays to a decent standard (I’ve been to sessions that were hosted by people that were not much past the beginner stage).

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Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

In SoCal, we’ve had mostly hosted sessions (both paid and unpaid) for as long as I can remember. I think it’s what has made it possible for us to keep these sessions going over many years. Some are hosted by the same players every week (like the one I co-host at The Ould Sod or the previous long-running session at The Field hosted by the "Boxty Band"), others have a group of players who share the hosting duties, as we do at the Auld Dubliner.

Over the years, like Arkle, I’ve also had my most enjoyable musical experiences at hosted sessions, independent of geography.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

I’m in Texas. If our leader is late we start without him. I’ve never seen him pout at the bar over it.

Session anchor/host/facilitator ~ etiquette

"sessions they are ‘booked’ to lead" ~ PB Yes, understood, a ‘special’ situation, one where the intent must be in the advertisement and promotion? It has, in my sense of it, more of a ‘workshop’ feel to it, where the courtesy would be to wait for the special guest, with respect… Also that you’re establishing an evolving tradition, that you have something firm in your mind that you’re trying to create there in San Francisco. However, I think it is clear from the responses that we don’t all interpret what happens in Ireland in necessarily the same way that you do, or, that we at least have had ‘different’ experiences, understandings and appreciations. In general I prefer dances and house parties, and informal (hired or not) to formal hired host-centric sessions. But, I agree with you and would follow your sense of courtesy when attending something where there’s a hired core of one or more ‘luminaries’. In any such situation I’ve usually been only a guest, never a regular, and more often than not, knowing the situation, I’ve mostly listened, with appreciation.

As previously said and agreed, addding my nod to that ~ "the best sessions I’ve had (the pleasure of being a part of) were ~ hosted sessions, no matter the geography", paid or not, facilitated by one or more regulars.

But, my understanding of the gist of PB’s contributions is that it’s about something more than just a ‘hosted’ session ~ "sessions they are ‘booked’ to lead" ~ PB

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Since we know there’s a cultural thing about Americans (you know, the only thing louder than our mouth is our pants when we go on vacation) and also that San Francisco is one of our more diverse and friendly big cites, I thought you might be able to just tell folks that the person coming was invited special, and where they are from, everybody waits until the invited players show up before they start. Go on about how if they get started without him, he’s going to take it like nobody wanted to wait for him even after they invited him to come out. You know, he’s come a long way just to be here with us for this session…and all that. If there is a city in America that actually might work, San Francisco could be it

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Why not advertise it as a workshop w/session to follow?
Gives your out of town host(s) time to get settled in their own way & those who came to play would most likely show the desired restraint.

Nate, this is just speculation on my part, I’ve been thinking all along that what Jack is dealing with is not so much the host from Ireland being late but rather the anticipation of musicians who have come to play with someone they consider an icon. Some of them may not even frequent the usual sessions at the Plough & Stars’, they’ll arrive very early, wanting to secure a good seat, their adrenaline is pumping, they’ve one thing on their mind. If that’s what’s happening it may not be so easy to reason with them. If it was me I’d look for a way to prepare before hand.

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Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Too simple Nate Ryan.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Richard Cook writes: "This, to me, is a business thing and not a cultural thing. If I HIRE you to host the session but you spend most of the night at the bar, we have a breach of contract, and I’m not going to pay you."

Except for the fact they often were chatting with the publican too. I have no idea what the convo was, but it might have included comments to the effect of, "I guess they don’t care who leads the session here." I have no way of knowing. But I do know that in later years when we didn’t act like immature trad geeks they played a lot more tunes with us. There are many other aspects to this I haven’t brought up… but as I said… it’s about going ahead and starting if you’re either early or hosts are late.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

ceol writes: "But, my understanding of the gist of PB’s contributions is that it’s about something more than just a ‘hosted’ session ~ "sessions they are ‘booked’ to lead"

I think it’s clear from what people have said on this thread that hosts lead the session. The ones I go to we look towards the hosts for a majority of the tunes, but a lot depends on a particular host’s style. In the old days when sessions were presumed to be free-for-alls people would be waiting for the first moment of silence as soon as a set of tunes ended so they could get theirs in. This resulted in a very manic feeling about the session. These days we are very relaxed and people aren’t like race horses at the gate with their instruments cocked and waiting to fire. We can relax, take a breath and enjoy the space between tune sets… and maybe even say things to one another or the group. The non musical parts of a session are as important as the tunes.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Na éisc writes: "Why not advertise it as a workshop w/session to follow?"

Often we have workshops for the luminaries passing through, but it doesn’t necessarily coincide with the session. But I think even our local hosts deserve the same respect. Waiting till they arrive before starting is a strong signal that we came to play with them. There are plenty of sessions around for people to tradsterbate in if they want.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Richard D Cook I like your teasing out of the cultural issues - and I like the US egalitarian thing (but then I spent some of my early school life in the US) rather than the snotty British class thing.

It’s also something that was ingrained into me from working in Radio (which is mostly live) - if you’re late, it’s as bad as not turning up at all.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

…and I can see how people of different cultures view things differently. For me, I’m quite familiar with some aspects of the US because of my time at school there, but there are some amazing differences between US and UK culture, and both are different from Irish culture.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Thanks for this insight, especially the part about showing respect for the tradition itself:

"In Ireland, deference to people who have earned their stripes, is considered respectful and the done thing… You are not just showing respect to the person, but the tradition itself.

In the US I have found that… their sense of ‘democracy’ is often at odds with the idea of ‘leaders’ or one person exerting more control over a session that others. They can often be inclusive to a fault."

Yes we tend to be suspicious of castes, pecking orders, "people exerting control" as you put it. Not only that, but we’re often suspicious about "traditions" in general, which crops up in our approach to Irish music from time to time: Americans reinventing the music to suit themselves rather than accepting it the way it’s traditionally played. So not only might an American be put off by what he perceives as having to cow-tow to the big ego of the star player, he might reject the notion that the star player’s playing is more important than his own. Being from Appalachia, my impression is that the feeling there is that any traditional player’s music should be repected and valued.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Then you get into cultural constructions of "respect," which aren’t straightforward. If the session is due to start at 9 and the host doesn’t get there until 10 (and for the craic, lets pretend several of the regulars have to work early the next morning and were planning on leaving at 11), should those who arrived on time wait an hour for the host to appear? Under some social constructions of "respect" for the music and tradition, the answer is yes, they should. Under other social constructions of respect, the host should respect the time of his fellow sessioneers and not be an hour late or expect them to wait.

As sort of a metaphor, you get horsepeople who go to a trainer and say, "My horse is disrespectful of me." The trainer asks, "What do you mean by disrespectful?" The horse owner answers, "Well, when I lead him around, he runs over me or he drags me off to get the nearest patch of grass." Trainer asks, "What do you do when he does that?’ Owner replies, "I shout at him and jerk on the lead." The trainer then says, "How is he supposed to know then that he’s not meant to walk on top of you. The horse can’t connect shouting and yanking on his head to doing something that is perfectly natural and reasonable to him, if he doesn’t know what it is you’d rather him do." Horses aren’t born knowing they’re meant to quietly follow a person on the end of the lead and respect what the person feels is their space. People like to assume that if an animal or other person isn’t behaving in the manner they were expecting, that person/animal is "disrespectful" and should get the cold shoulder or the angry jerk on the lead.

Surely communication is better. Tell the session, kindly and tactfully, how you would like them to behave, rather than sitting at the bar and moaning about disrespect to the tradition. Like training the horse to lead so it knows what you want, rather than shouting at it when it doesn’t do what you want. Or you can at least give them the benefit of the doubt and presume that they have different constructions of "respect" than you.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

I didn’t mean "you" as in Phantom personally. I meant you as in the general… mainly as in the hosts who go "feck it" when they see a session that has started without them and opt to stay at the bar.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

I stated early in this discussion that I usually start playing when I want to, regardless of whether or not the host is late — perhaps I should clarify that this is purely an interregnum measure, akin to making small-talk at a dinner before the guest speaker arrives, and I would of course stop playing and acknowledge the host if and when he arrives. It seems to me that ‘freezing out’ the host to the point that he stays at the bar is worse form than turning up late. It is a simple matter to give a wave and a smile and point to a chair.

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Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

I wouldn’t claim to have experience of a large number of sessions across the length and breadth of Ireland but my own observation is that in relation to above, there is a clear distinction between sessions where there are paid anchors and those that rely on more informal attendance. Some of the former are more like gigs, they may appear to be a session to the tourist but in reality, it’s all prearranged and usually paid for in some manner. There are of course others, where a couple of stalwarts turn up each week or whatever and the rest of the musicians vary from week to week. In these instances, in my experience, people know that tunes start around a certain time. It’s common courtesy to wait for the stalwarts if they aren’t in place at that time. But after say 10 or 15 minutes, people will just tune up and carry on, no problem.

I don’t go with this idea that people in the USA are more egalitarian etc. than Irish people. There’s a strong resistance to the notion of class in Ireland in terms of breeding anyway. In practice, people are aware of where they stand in the social order but we don’t go with this crap about peers and class structure etc. Don’t confuse that with respect for age or experience though, that’s just common courtesy.

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Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

"Don’t confuse that with respect for age or experience though, that’s just common courtesy." hate to say it, but that’s what’s on the real decline over here.

I liked Dr SS horse metephor. Now if only city folk could have as much sense as a horse….

Session anchors/hosts/facilitators ~ etiquette works both ways

"In the old days when sessions were presumed to be free-for-alls people would be waiting for the first moment of silence as soon as a set of tunes ended so they could get theirs in. This resulted in a very manic feeling about the session." ~ PB

Where? 😏 The sessions I’ve had the ‘pleasure’ of dropping in on, or chosen to be part of, in the past, in Ireland, and elsewhere too, and recently, weren’t/aren’t like that at all. Well, most weren’t/aren’t, though some of the city ones could be a bit manic, and often included said luminaries. Mind you, when I’ve experienced that kind of hot house approach to music I tend to just listen, and not return.

As to the deference to earned stripes, I understand some folks find more respect in North America and outside Ireland, while in Ireland there were that many decent players that, in a sense, luminaries didn’t find their pedestal, respected yes, as would be anyone who’d put in the time and accomplished a level of competence, but no idolization, or at least not always. What I love about Ireland was that I wasn’t made to feel outside or inferior or of less value than said luminaries, including by the majority of those luminaries. But then, we may all be measuring lumins by different criteria, though no doubt some are naturally in agreement, such as skill, ability, experience, understanding and knowledge. There are other possibilities that can raise or lower the level of lumins. One of those for me is humour, and another is courtesy and consideration for others ~ and for differences, including in ability… 😀

Where’d my edit button go? 😏 ~ I’d meant to add, me too, I also like your horse metaphor Doc, Hi Ho Silver! 😉

Maybe we need more ‘session whisperers’?

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

"Maybe we need more ‘session whisperers’?"

Where’s my *like* button?

The Horse’s Mouth ;)

"What I love about Ireland was that I wasn’t made to feel outside or inferior or of less value than said luminaries, including by the majority of those luminaries."

I recall Mr. Ed saying he had the same experience in Ireland.

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Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Richard Cook’s comment about it being a business thing reminds me that there is a huge and poorly defined continuum of possibilities between the free for all session and the paid performance. Which as we all know from beating the dead horse over and over again is a minefield fraught with opportunities for misunderstandings.
And speaking of horses, I also liked Doctor SS’s horse analogy. When the expectations have not been made clear, one can’t blame the beast for not doing what is expected. And even when expectations have been made clear, sometimes the beast still wants to follow its own nose. 😉

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

ceol writes: "Where? 😏 The sessions I’ve had the ‘pleasure’ of dropping in on, or chosen to be part of, in the past, in Ireland, and elsewhere too, and recently, weren’t/aren’t like that at all. "

I was referring to our local… not sessions at large. I thought it was clear I was talking about the history of our sessions… perhaps not clear enough though.

Re: Host’s etiquette

Fair enough, Jack. A minor misunderstanding on ceolachan’s part about whose "old days" were being recalled. They sometimes blend together; don’t you think so? Thanks for the clarification.

Speaking of your local sessions what do you think of DrSilverSpear’s suggestion ~ "Surely communication is better. Tell the session, kindly and tactfully, how you would like them to behave, rather than sitting at the bar and moaning about disrespect to the tradition."?

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Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Na éisc , I did… but it was only a suggestion… I wasn’t "telling them how to behave." The night that prompted this thread wasn’t the only time this happened. Generally people seem to have become respectful of the host/anchor concept and appreciate the benefits of having them as opposed to the free-for-all default session style we used to always have. The free-for-allers still wish it was like that, and behave as though it is, but I don’t think they have thought much about why our session environment has improved over the years… maybe because they don’t come very often. I’m probably the most consistent participant since 1988, and this might be why the organization of the sessions has fallen into my hands. But the real credit for the sessions should go to who deserves it—the publican… who loves trad more than the extra money he could make if he abandoned it.

The Host’s Host

Your publican sounds like a keen ‘session whisperer’!

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Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

I don’t think our session has been going more than about 15 years; I inherited the reins of "facilitator" when the original founder member had a storming row with the notoriously grumpy landlord and stomped off into the night, having been barred from the pub.
I was just thinking that last night I didn’t even start a tune set; the heat here in London is getting to me, and I was very happy that there were enough musicians to lead off the tunes, and not need my input. We ( me and "Er Indoors ) try to be there first or soon after, and negotiate with the staff as to which corner of the large bar suits them best on the night ( sometime the rooms upstairs are rented out as accommodation, and they don’t want us playing directly underneath them ). There’ll be one night next month when we are away, and I just tell everyone and say they are welcome to still come and play without us. Why make a fuss ?
It sounds to me like there are a few over-testo-steroned individuals trying to jockey for position in one or two sessions. Not ours.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

NB; Pedants corner; it’s testo-sterone, NOT test-ost-erone.
From the latin; testis; a small oval ball, usually found in pairs, and sterone, a hormone, as in Sylvester Sterone, a hormone-charged hunk.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Sounds like bollocks Pete.

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Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Even more pedantry. It’s testo-ster-one. The "ster" indicating "sterol", and the "one" indicates a "ketone".

Session anchors/hosts/facilitators/whisperers ~ etiquette - both ways, including a need for definition & clarity

"Generally people seem to have become respectful of the host/anchor concept and appreciate the benefits of having them as opposed to the free-for-all default session style we used to always have. The free-for-allers still wish it was like that, and behave as though it is, but I don’t think they have thought much about why our session environment has improved over the years…" ~ PB

And, consequently, have earned some right for respect in turn. Why not be ‘firm’, in a horse whisperer sort of way. What you’ve said, the basic gist of it, makes sense to me, and has from the start, though I digressed into related matter, unsure on some exterior points. But your main gist, bringing in a focus, you just really need to formulate, as through discussion with ‘other interested parties’ 😉 ~ a clear and concise way to set your ‘rules’. Sometimes, as in what I now understand this to be, you need to be firm, direct, and clear, but you can also educate, inform, give them your reasons. You could even try formulating them here and see what we think, but also discussing them with other ‘established’ players in ‘your’ session, that too would likely result in making the ground underneath this more solid. The last thing you want is a bog, a swamp, a quagmire. Find that solid ground and then give it to them straight, and if they complain, really, taking it even more firm, you might help them to find their own direction, like suggesting an alternate venue for them to start up their own ‘free-for-all’.

I can’t say I’ve ever actually experienced a true ‘free-for-all’, well, maybe that one night the booze was flowing a little too freely and I could swear we were all playing together, at least loosely around the same beat, but not the same tune, or, at least not all starting on the same phrase… 😏

Re read what you’ve said, there are some gems there, but also, there are some offered by others as well. Don’t take the fluidity of discussion as necessarily something bad to rail against, that is just the nature of ‘chat’, and I really wouldn’t like this to become a ‘Roberts Rules of Order’ kind of place. There is room for the occasional lost soul, mad person, attempted joke, or metaphor, or misunderstanding, as long as we try to calm the occasional anger some misunderstanding can irritate. I know I’ve been guilty of getting wound up and riled, but it’s my fault, even if someone has found that button and purposefully pushed it. More often than not I find it has been me with the finger on my own button, if not realizing it at the time.

These kinds of discussions, about session etiquette, and folks different notions and ways, I always find interesting, if not always contributing. It will continue to be a subject worthy of our collective rambles and rants ~ and slags and wind-ups. I slipped into commenting because ~ I’ve always had a certain affection for the poster, and I like his ways with the music too. 😉

You don’t get what you want without sometimes having to also accept the responsibility that you may at time shave to be a hard ass. Despite it seeming you might have that ability, it wouldn’t surprise me if you didn’t. It’s not easy, and the few times I’ve had to ‘put my foot down’, I’ve always been uncomfortable about it, felt awful, but ~ I wasn’t just doing it for my own sake, and someone needed to say something.

Best of luck, and don’t forget to give us an update as your thoughts develop on this, and as to how it works out in the end. Wishing you the best ~ ‘c’ - a friend in the digital quagmire
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My blessings on your publican, lucky you, and the rest of the locals that benefit from their interest and support, priceless. I’ve no doubt you regularly find ways to communicate your appreciation and thanks.

Oops! Talk about room for misinterpretation ~ that opener of mine was supposed to be ~
"And, consequently, you have earned some right for respect in turn."
~ meaning you PB, time & effort spent… 😀

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Forgive me if I’ve missed a few key posts in this thread, but it seems to me PB is talking about three distinct situations: The special guest host, the weekly session anchor/host, and the open session. It seems perfectly reasonable to me that if there is a special guest host, the regulars would wait for that person until starting. If its a weekly host from your town and one you’ve played with for ages, I’m guessing waiting or starting would depend upon the established culture of that specific session. The casual session is of course a free for all. As far as PB’s specific situation, it makes perfect sense to wait for a special guest host irrespective of region.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Jusa Nutter Eejit… The rotating hosts only come once a month, and I think they deserve the same respect as the occasional luminary passing through who is invited to host a night. It has more to do with one’s general approach to having hosting anchors. As I said, the benefit is the variety it brings to our biweekly sessions at the pub. I am one of the monthly hosts, but I go to nearly all the sessions. When I’m at someone else’s session I conduct myself differently, i.e., I don’t start many tunes, usually only when asked, and I don’t direct activity, i.e., inviting others to start tunes, etc. If I think someone should be invited to start a tune I will usually tell the host and let them decide and do it. If I realize or find out there’s a singer present… I’ll inform the host rather than taking it on myself. I generally treat the host(s) as if they are driving the bus. I’m either the driver or one of the passengers depending on whether it’s my turn to host or not. I think the idea of waiting for the host(s) to arrive supports this notion. I don’t consider it a *rule* but rather just a way to be supportive of the hosts.

As people have pointed out, there are exceptions, and if only one of the hosts for a particular night is there I look to them to determine if we should go ahead and start or wait for the others. And again, this wouldn’t apply to all sessions in all pubs, and it wouldn’t apply to a smaller community of musicians who all show up every week. Here in SF only myself and a couple of others come to all the sessions… there is a different crowd in the majority from session to session. They come occasionally, or only on the nights their preferred hosts are scheduled… part of what makes the rotating host concept so interesting. On the night that prompted this thread the desire to start before our hosts arrive was brought up by someone who rarely shows up at our sessions… so they wouldn’t be savvy to the subtleties of our session predilections. But at the same time one of the regulars started quietly noodling tunes (to warm up I think) and might have inadvertently raised the compulsion to start… or he just didn’t care… but I don’t know which. But while he noodled we discussed the idea; not as a rule but more as a concept… and it got me thinking… and I started this thread because I thought it might be interesting to see what the response in here would be. The audience here is global, and that’s more interesting, and that’s why I was hoping for each person to give their location. But I think it might actually have more to do with the particular sessions, i.e., how many people, how big the community is, how regular are the sessions, etc., and yes… the topic is only relevant to hosted sessions.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Jack the reason I was thinking the question needn’t be limited to "hosted" sessions was based on the criteria you gave for hosted sessions in the first post~ "(usually) paid anchors in pub sessions." It seemed to me, at the time, too constricted if you wish to explore the range of possibility. There’s always overlap & grey areas between sessioning styles. Even in a session which is considered as not having a host I think it’s fairly common for most musicians to turn to the individual or individuals whom they think has the best grasp of what’s expected & when. It may be a free for all but that doesn’t mean most people aren’t willing to wait for "that" particular person to get settled if it means the music will be better.

From my perspective there’s a core question regarding how (& when) the music "begins" for any given session & how is respect for the music & musicians perceived by all present. A few variables to consider include which individuals do most musicians (in any session) typically turn to & when? What, if anything, is communicated to infrequent session goers? What are the expectations of the regular session goers?

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Re: Session anchors/hosts/facilitators ~ etiquette (rules of engagement)

Is that information clearly and readily available, and provided, given guidance? And to repeat the same basic content in my head in this regard, said well by the previous post:

Na éisc ~ "There’s always overlap & grey areas between sessioning styles. Even in a session which is considered as not having a (specific & single) host (paid or not) ~ it’s fairly common (in the greater part of my limited experiences) for most musicians to turn to the individual or individuals (established regular(s)) whom they think has the best grasp of what’s expected & when."

It’s not like it all has to ride on the shoulders of the host to make expectations clear, diplomatically hopefully, but I would want to know and would strike up a chat and learn something about how things are run before ever making a contribution. I’d follow the lead of others…

I’d been discussion the formation of new sessions with several people, and most of us agree that it’s best to establish what’s wanted, and to have something solid in mind rather than just risking ‘crash and burn’. As you’ve said, if you want the results to be up there, you need to do the prep, and, however difficult that might sound, you do need some rules ~ etiquette… But that’s never stopped anyone from just doing it. But if you want to accomplish something specific, you need to prepare the ground for the seed, and you need to both nurture it and protect it.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Just as a practical matter, how do you advertise the start time of a session when the actual start time is "whenever the host happens to come, that is, unless he happens to head to the bar for a while, in which case it will start whenever the host decides to leave the bar and start playing" ?

TRADITIONAL IRISH SESSION AT SOME POINT THIS EVENING

Obviously Americans vary, like any people do, but in general we’re more punctual than some cultures, and expect things to start when stated.

I have spent nearly four decades now attending functions here in California run by Irish people, Scottish people, and Spanish people (actually from Spain) and I’ve noticed that Spanish things tend to be quite vague, often with no times mentioned, or if times are mentioned things actually happen three or four hours later, if they happen at all. Oftentimes it’s difficult to find out exactly where and when a thing will happen.

Scottish-run events tend to be precisely run with everyone expected to be on time. There’s usually a printed programme and it’s adhered to. (Though in actual fact this Germanic precision is, at times, something of a veneer concealing behind-the-scenes chaos.)

Irish-run events somewhere in the middle.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Some years ago, I was ‘invited’* over the phone to a session in London by one of the hosts. I turned up casually late, the session already in full swing. I felt an certain awkwardness when everyone seemed to have been expecting my arrival and wondering where I had got to. It was only at the end of the session, when I was handed a wad of notes, that I realised, to my mortifying embarrassment, that I had been one of the hosts. I still frequently autoflagellate over this incident.

*This was not a session that one normally needed to be ‘invited’ to, but it was one that I didn’t usually go to and I had taken the ‘invitation’ as nothing more than a welcoming gesture.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette 😲

I hope they’re not still waiting.

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Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Richard Cook’s Irish punctuality post reminds me of a story I heard where some visitors to Ireland were told there was a dance at some hall in Doolin at such & such time. The visitors were running a little late, but when they showed up there were a few people waiting out front. They asked what time the dance started, and someone said, "It usually starts when Johnny arrives with the keys."

Na éisc writes: "The reason I was thinking the question needn’t be limited to "hosted" sessions was based on the criteria you gave for hosted sessions in the first post~ "(usually) paid anchors in pub sessions." It seemed to me, at the time, too constricted if you wish to explore the range of possibility."

What I meant was, usually paid. I was opening up the possibility that a host might not be paid, not that the session wasn’t hosted.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

I get that. You’ve made it quite clear, Jack.

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Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

Each & every host (for sessions in a pub) is a guest of the publican. All questions regarding etiquette are ultimately deferred to her or him. Local protocol is in the hands of the publican.

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In our case, we are the guests of course, but the publican plays hands off regarding etiquette and leaves it to us assuming we aren’t being unreasonable.

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Understood PB. I can wholly appreciate that. Yours is a relationship of trust & mutual respect between the publican & yourselves.

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Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

We have exactly the same arrangement with our publican as PB, has worked very well for us.

Re: Session anchors/hosts etiquette

I run a couple of sessions here in the Midwest US, and at each one I don’t mind at all if others start before I get there. Partly, that’s because I always hope that some of them will start their own sessions at some time, so it all keeps going. There may be regional similarities, but I do think this one comes down to individual preferences.

For example,
http://www.randalbays.com/sessions.html
http://www.slowplayers.org/SCTLS/etiquette.html