Bands forming sessions and Bands formed out of sessions.

Bands forming sessions and Bands formed out of sessions.

I’ve touched on this subject before but I feel it could be worthy of further discussion.

We’ve agreed (or disagreed) that there is a place for all types of arrangement as regards sessions. However, my ideal scenario is basically a few people(friends or otherwise) meeting together(regularly or otherwise) for a “tune” without any preconceived plan regarding arrangements, set lists etc. It’s basically a spontaneous affair. Of course, if the participants attend regulary, many of the same tunes and sets will come up. The mainstays may or may not get paid but it’s the music that’s the important thing.

However, many sessions are formed by “bands” who use them to rehearse or air their repertoire. These might still be open to other musicians and they can “join in” if they know the tunes but I think such arrangements can be a bit restrictive and feel a bit “cliquey”. In other cases, musicians in a session may find that they like each each other musically and a band will form out of a session. I don’t mind this so much and there have been some good outcomes over the years; eg in Edinburgh we’ve had Jock Tamson’s Bairns, Fine Friday etc who formed out of Sandy Bells sessions. That’s fine but I feel they should then “move on”(which they both have) rather that change the dynamic of the session too much.

A third scenario, and one which I feel is the worst of all, is when bands are “planted” in a pub under the guise of a “session”. They will sit in the corner and plough through their previously rehearsed programme and “the tourists” and, maybe some of the punters, will think it’s great. This sort of thing is, unfortunately, on the increase and actually encouraged by projects such as “The McEwan’s Sessions” which have caused so much controversy here in Scotland.

Please discuss.

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Further to the above, obviously “session hosts” are acceptable as long as they have a “fluid” approach to the proceedings.

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I’ve been in most of these situations - so long as visitors understand that it’s a band gig by any other name, contribute if you can but don’t bugger it about, then fine; I’ve been in one where , yes it’s a band rehearsal BUT anyone who comes along can get a share of the spotlight too ( nice one, guys );been in a session where we almost formed a band but didn’t; played as a bunch of guys in the corner of the bar BUT it was listed as “The Fred Fernackerpan Five” in the local listings mag, and we just played without trying to interact with the crowd but the bar filled up every time we were there.
It’s the mis-listing to get in a crowd that is the problem, and I agree with the complaint.

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I agree - listing a band as a session, or a session as a band, in order to get punters in, is a crime which should be punished as for the tune duplicaters (see other thread).

If its a session - say so.
If its a gig - say so.
If its a private practice in a public bar - say so.

No one of them is wrong per se.

Anyone fancy a pint?

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The two bar sessions I go to are of the no-preconceived-plan kind - i.e., *real* sessions. Yet the bar staff and the punters invariably refer to us as “the band.” It bothers me sometimes that they have expectations that we have no plans to fulfil. But it never bothers me for long.

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Re: Bands forming sessions and Bands formed out of sessions.

Yes, this happened to me when I was visiting Boston. The Burren boasted sessions seven nights a week, and I figured, “Hey, this is Boston! It must be true.” So I go there on a Friday night. and the session is mic-ed (a bad sign). The whole night, I am basically ignored by the other musicians. Later, one of the musicians comes up to me before I leave. She apologizes and explains that “it’s not really a session on the weekends. The real session is on Mondays with Tommy Peoples.” While I appreciated the explanation, I was still very disappointed.

I definitely agree that a session should only be called a session, if only because it confuses out-of-town musicians. And the microphone thing - I’ve seen that before, and I can’t say that it adds anything to the session experience.

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would that be a high level session?

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Whats the problem John J? You not been asked to play or something!

Keep Music Live, rehearsed or otherwise.

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Curlew, you’re obviously someone who likes to be the centre of attraction or one of these “It’s my gig” or “It’s my session” types. 🙂

Fair enough, if you don’t want me to play with you I can always go elsewhere. So there! 😉

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I also add that I’m all for bands and musicians getting as much work as they can in pubs but they should be called “gigs” and not pretend to be sessions. Unless, they just see such a situation as a “safety net”, perhaps? “Ach, it’s only a session!”

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We did the opposite. We had a session that called itself a band! It was called Corofin and Friends, so that we could refuse ‘entry’ to anyone we didn’t want. This might sound antisocial, but we’d been plagued for years by students (this was in Oxford) who combined an astounding arrogance with the manners of trolls who had been chucked out of troll-land for behaviour likely to bring trolls into disrepute.
Three years after starting this session, during which no-one had actually turned up in order to be refused entry (The pub is not exactly in the centre of town), we realised that we might as well just call it a session.
Which we now do.
I suppose I should put it in the listings.

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That happens a lot here too, Ottery. You’ll see certain musicians advertised in the local listings but, basically, they are just hosts and will welcome most reasonable people into the company. It’s still just an ordinary session, though. I don’t mind this sort of practice and it helps to discourage “any old dross” coming along, though others might regard it as being cliquish.
It’s just down to good manners and having enough common sense to know if you’ll fit in or not, at the end of the day.

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The only situation that I have experienced around these parts is the band coming out of the session. You do get band members at the same session. Sometimes they might play a couple of tunes in a row that you have heard them play together before, but rarely would anyone play a full set or an arranged set. There also have been no paid sessions here.

I really dislike gigs disguised as sessions. Its poor communication and puts people off. I have a personal aversion to some particular musicians as a result of this situation.

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The nucleus of our session is formed by a band, though it is definitely a session, NOT a gig. The session runs like most other sessions I’ve been to (very few arrangements unless someone requests one) but having the band there really adds a lot to the music. They’re used to playing together, so even if it’s a tune they haven’t rehearsed it sounds a lot cleaner and tighter. Even if they do play one of their sets, everyone else is welcome to (and encouraged to!) play along.

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It doesn’t really matter if you are a lowly bodhran player, probably not even a real instrument, like me.

The best I can hope for when I go along is that someone might say “ok, you can play for this one tune, but it better be good”.

As a lowly bodhran player I understand and accept this.

So like I said, to me it doesn’t really matter.

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Whew, Bliss. Glad you’re finally accepting your place in the general scheme of things. 😉

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so, BB, is the Lowly Bodhran easier to play than the Great Highly Bodhran? or is it just in a better key for session-playing?

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Anyway, I’ve only read some of the stuff here, cos I’m a lazy keech, but here’s my wee bit. To some people in my ken, “the session” is their natural environment, whereas to others “the gig” is theirs. This is regardless of possession of natural talent.
So, ad extremis, you have 4 variants here:
natural gigger - has talent::::::::::::::::: natural gigger - no talent.

natural sessioneer - has talent:::natural sessioneer - no talent.

These are the four points of the compass within which we all lie.
So for the first two you’ve got Frankie Gavin at one end and the Wolfe Tones at the other.
And for the second two you’d get the likes of Paddy Hayes, Mick O’Connor, Brian Montague at one end and at the other end……

…well, probably that’s…..

… me

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The lowly bodhran is obviously the reason for bb’s “head down” style of playing. Get a higher bodhran bb.

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The lowly bodhran is played sitting down, and uses a bellows, while the highly bodhran is played standing up, or marching, and is best appreciated from a distance, being an instrument of war. It also only has a range of an octave.
I thought everyone knew this already.

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P-p-pete! you canNOT be serious!

Bodhrans with bellows!

This is the end of the world!

Excuse me while I phone my analyst….

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I’m sorry, I was just extrapolating from other instruments……….

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JohnJ…A fellow musician inscotland who also thinks McEwans kills sessions! Hooray!!..We had a project in Galloway two years before mcews started..It killed everything..we all have to travel along way to play,so if one or two folk are payed to play the rest of us don’t bother..we all saw it as a paid gig! sort of missed the point really..why not put the money into a trad music festival or two..sponser promising pupils at school level…provide taster sessions /tuition for all ages and skill levels..even dare i say it help fund concerts in remote areas..
The fun and shear joy of getting together just to play tunes left when payed sessions started..and yes i know certain town/city centre pubs pay a core of musicians to play..we used to have a level playing field .. But money has clouded the reason for playing for some people…I have been offered more than once,but have refused,I am only paid to teach by the local council,I encourage my pupils to play for fun! if it’s not fun stop doing it !!
Hrumph! so there! well i feel better for that! Maybe McEwans can give us free beer! lol

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I actually don’t particularly like being the centre of attraction John J. unlike some people who post loads of threads on various trad music websites, sound like anyone you know?

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I’ve been playing irish music in pubs for 25 years so when I was asked to play for some cash recently I said yes. (what a tart)

It was not really a suitable venue for what we do, and they expected us to be amplified, however, we did play accoustic on that occasion but were not going back.

We play as a band regularly, but we tried to keep it as informal as possible, and not play all our band sets. (well we did play a couple)

Yes I do agree that an amplified ‘session’ is in fact a gig. A paid accoustic session is a gig too for those concerned. I have no major objection to this, but I feel the venue has to right for the type of music we play.

Perhaps the breweries are trying to entice people into pubs regularly to counter the possible loss of trade when the smoking ban is introduced. (if there is any loss of course)

I’m all in favour of a smoking ban but that can be another thread. Perhaps you could stast one John J.

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Or even ‘start’ one, wink.

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Touché Curlew 🙂 You’re probably right but I’ve got plenty of company here. 😉

Of course, I’m not against bands(or members thereof) forming the nucleus of a session. What better way to hold things together?
It’s just when it’s a performance disguised as a session that I get irritated. I’ve no problem with pub gigs, acoustic or otherwise, as long as everyone knows what to expect.

Re the smoking ban, It’s been passed in Scotland and will, hopefully, come into force next Spring. I’m in favour of it and I think most musicians(even smokers) will accept it. However, I’ve already experienced “lulls” in sessions when some players go outside for a cigarette or something stronger.
I don’t want to start another thread on “smoking” though. Been there and done that. 🙂

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Agree sessions should be called sessions and gigs gigs and so on. Buty if it hadn’t been for a rather bad session we would never have met the other half of the band we now really love being in.

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Lovely story ‘flying tigerpig’, I’m glad you’re enjoying your band.

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Is it OK to treat a session as an audition?
I am always on the lookout for up-and-coming promising musos to be occasionals in my band, and give them a bit of encouragement.
The regular band see quite enough of each other as it is without wanting to play in sessions as well.

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If I go to a pub that advertises a “session” and see people with mics in front of them – I sit and listen. If the same pub has musicians sitting around a table, like I would expect – I ask if I might join in. It doesn’t matter to me if they’re in a “band” together as long as they don’t play “arranged” music, but if they play tunes together in medleys they perform as a band – what’s the harm? It’s usually tight and strong – and a fun ride. Other people are usually asked for suggestions of tunes and/or medleys, so everyone gets a chance, but if the session is hosted by a band I would expect them to do most of the choosing – it’s still fun.

Our band often hosts sessions like this. It’s a chance to share tunes that are new to us or not included in our regular repertoire. It’s also a much more relaxed setting than an amplified “gig.” And there’s added fun because other players are invited to come along for the ride with us. We also get a chance to play with others and hear new tunes and sometimes enjoy really good playing from visitors passing through.

I’ve seen some locals getting a bit annoyed at the fact that we play together as a band and include tunes in the session that we perform. But they do the same thing when I go to sessions with people they always play together with. The difference is that I don’t mind… in fact I enjoy playing along with folks who have a strong set of tunes like that.

But it all comes down to preconceptions. If you have too many preconceptions you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. If you’re visiting a session, just enjoy it for whatever it is and you’ll have a good time.

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Nice one Jack.

What I didn’t mention is that as a band we nearly always play for weddings. A lot of people ask where and how they can get to hear us, so local sessions would be a great oppertunity for them.

Hopefully there will be some more ‘paid sessions’ coming up at more suitable venues, and I look forward to that.

Yes we could play sessions where we don’t get paid, some of us are up for that and do, alas some of us are not.

Enjoy your music.

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The other answer, curlew, is for them to get married.

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Confession time:
I played at a McEwans session with some friends.

It was a Friday night when we were doing nothing else anyway, it was in another town at a pub that doesn’t normally have sessions, on a night when no other pubs in town had sessions. We got £70 each (x4).

Can’t see we did any harm, though the stated aim of seeding an ongoing session is very unlikely to happen.

The billing was misleading , as others have complained.

However no one seemed to mind, we certainly weren’t miked, and the manager thought it a great success. The young lassies getting set for a night of clubbing had stayed for a good bit longer (he said) and the old codgers had dallied for several drinks longer. As McEwan’s were paying for it, not him, it seeemd like a good deal.

No one else came along to play with us (not surprising when you see the way it’s advertised, and it would be an unlikely pub for “folkies” normally I suspect), but there was a good deal more friendly interaction with the folk inthe bar than you might get at a “gig”.

If it planted any seed at all, it might have been with the younger set (barely 18 if that) who seemed genuinely intrigued by the music and the informal way of playing it.

We are not a “band”, just a bunch of pick-ups for a one-night stand, however a lot of one-off ceilidh bands are made up here from drawing from the pool of sessioneers.

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In New England, you sometimes run into something called a “closed session”–advertised to the public as a session, but not open to musicians dropping in (and I hereby nominate the term “closed session” as the ITM oxymoron of the week). That is what fiddlerpianist stumbled across in the Burren. The public generally doesn’t even notice, as the same general type of music is played. The best bet for the person looking for a session is to scout these things out in advance without your instrument, and just listen for a change. Another option is to keep the session listings on this website up to date!
I am a member of a band that grew out of a session, and many of the four of us still show up for those sessions. But it is usually never all four of us that show up at once, and we avoid any “prepared” arrangements when we play at the session. We are guilty of occasionally trying out some new sets during the session, but I don’t think it steals anything from the proceedings, or we wouldn’t do it.
Given a choice between sessioning, and performing as a band, I would definitely choose sessioning–playing just for the fun of it, with free beer as a bonus!

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The band you mean? Showaddy. Shouldn’t think so, you should take look at them. Ha Ha.

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No no no curlyou! - You say you play mostly at weddings and people ask how they can get to hear you - they, the ones who want to hear you play, could get married and have you play at the wedding.

Of course I don’t mean the band - everyone knows that people are in bands because they don’t have the interpersonal skills required for anything like marriage.

I bet your band isn’t as ugly as mine. (though we do have a token woman)

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“a token woman”!!??!!
that IS UGLY!

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It would be a severe move indeed to go and get married just to hear us lot play, though were not bad.

We do actually have a good looking caller, I was referring to the rest of us old farts.

When she’s not available we have a very dependable other old fart to call for us, then we look gooood.