The Ale & the Witch jam is magic!
In today’s Bluegrass jam climate, there are so many specialty jams popping up. Slow jams for beginners, pro jams for advanced players, B-chord jams for mashers…the list goes on and on. It is harder to find general jams that cater to all levels of players. People tend to push jams in a certain direction, so people attend those jams once and if they don’t fit into what the jam organizers are going for they rarely come back.
In St Petersburg (the town across the bay from Tampa on the western coast) is home to a very special jam that tried to brush off the identifiers and narrow bluegrass level branding. You will find this jam nearly every Wednesday in a courtyard between some upscale establishments in downtown St Pete. The jam is hosted by two of the area’s premier pickers Rob Williams (multi-instrument virtuoso) and Fil Pate (Mandolin Monster). Each of these fine men plays in multiple band formations and dabble in the far reaches of Bluegrass stylings but are without a doubt Bluegrass at heart. These two heavyweights provide the rhythm backbone for the jam allowing players all levels of experience to enjoy a hard-driving Bluegrass jam.
The Ale and the Witch plays host and backdrop for this weekly gathering and provides a high powered Omni mic, speaker system, lighting and sound man for the occasion. They also offer a discount on beverages for the jammers which is a good perk because nothing works up a thirst like Bluegrass jamming. Each week this multi-level courtyard is filled with patrons who love the live Bluegrass music or who just happened to have stumbled across this happy rabble that is held in a very popular section of downtown. In between the high-rise buildings, you can feel the cool bay breeze as the Bluegrass hits ring out into the night.
While Rob and Fil do a great job hosting and promoting this special jam, they are not the only regulars. The usual suspects who seem to take the reins each week are no slouches themselves. If you just happened to pass by and hear these regulars, you would assume that they were or are in a band together with the way they weave in and out of the mic and join together in song. While these guys and gals form an unusually cohesive unit for a jam band, they are in no means a “clique”. Each time you attend this jam you will see a new collection of players added in (all of whom are at different levels of musical development) and each is given chances to take breaks and sing songs…..This is where the magic happens at The Ale and the Witch jam…
People of all skill levels call this jam home. While each musician involved hails from a different area, plays a different style of Bluegrass and is at their own special level of development, each lends their spice to the soup to create a taste that only can be explained by witnessing it firsthand. There are no rivalries or egos, just people making music with one another in front of a live audience in one of the prettiest parts of the town. If you like jams, you owe it to yourself to be a part of the magic of the Ale and the Witch jam!
Justin Mason, Florida Bluegrass Network
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