For his birthday celebration in 2016, Rollie Hallen, a local musician and instructor at Lewis-Clark State College, got some area musicians together to make some music. It was enough fun that they decided to keep the party going. That’s how their eclectic monthly band jam was born.
On a Wednesday night of every month since, Hallen and Bill Wilcox have set up full band equipment — drums, electric guitar, bass guitar, amps and a public-address system — at Riverport Brewing Company, just to see what happens.
And what happens is some pretty good music. Hallen, Wilcox and a few others generally kick things off with a couple songs before handing things off to other musicians who show up. Sometimes a full band will come up and play. Other times it’s just a selection of musicians who may or may not have ever played together before.
“It’s the opposite atmosphere of a battle of the bands,” Wilcox explained in an email. “Everyone gets together and celebrates music and cheers each other on.”
The goal is to get as many people up to play as possible, and most everyone gets to do a couple of songs. People generally matched in skill levels are rotated on and off stage, so everyone’s having fun.
“The young guns as well as the old bucks and everyone in between gets up on stage and shows their stuff,” Wilcox said.
Musicians of all ages and ability are invited and can use the provided equipment or bring their own. The only rules are that you’ve got to be tuned and on time and that there can’t be fewer than three people on stage at a time.
“It’s not an open mic, it’s a band jam,” said LeRoy Blewz, who sings, plays harmonica and organizes the stage. He also creates one-of-a-kind posters and collectible magnets for the gatherings.
What started as 10 to 15 people has grown to 30 to 35 people. There have even been a couple of bands that have formed in the process. The environment lends itself to collaboration and learning, Blewz said, as different people from different bands, music genres and abilities come together and share everything from guitar licks to how a band works together.
“It’s an incredible passing on of intelligence and talent,” he said.
Some come out to jump up on stage — others want to watch for a bit before they hop on, and still others just come to listen and enjoy drink. And because it takes place in a tasting room, all ages are welcome.
“It’s three hours of some of the best music in the valley,” Blewz said. “There’s no way you can come and not have fun.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Band Jam at Riverport Brewing Company
WHEN: 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: Riverport Brewing Company, 150 Ninth St., Clarkston