It was a pretty good crowd for a Monday at Bogey’s Lounge. The regular crowd shuffled in. Many of them had guitars or harmonicas in hand because Monday is the night for the open jam at Bogey’s, 970 Sibley Memorial Hwy. in Lilydale.
The weekly jam of amateur and professional musicians begins at 7 p.m. with the four-piece Bogey’s House Band performing several blues standards. While John McCann, Tom Harkness, Kent Dougherty and Nick Zwack play their respective harmonica, guitars and drums, the “jammers” sign in on a large white board and wait for their turn to play.
McCann recalled how he had been sitting at Bogey’s bar one night fooling around with his harmonica when the owners brought up the idea of an open jam night. “I didn’t think Bogey’s had enough space. It’s like a real juke joint,” he said. “But one thing led to another, and here we are two years later.”
Almost every kind of music is welcome at Bogey’s jams, though blues and rock predominate, according to McCann. “I started out as a jammer,” he said. Now he has his own group, the Johnny Mac Band.
Bambi Alexandra, a vocalist with her own blues and country bands, enjoys singing at the Midway Saloon jam because of the house band’s expertise. “I get to stretch a little,” she said.
Midway bassist and guitarist Roger Anderson rarely misses a Monday at Bogey’s. He is not in a band currently, so he enjoys playing with other musicians at Bogey’s. “The jams are becoming more popular here,” he said. “People want to play, but it’s a lot of effort to get a band together. I really got into playing electric guitar here. It’s a supportive environment, but there’s enough competition to keep you on your toes.”
Another Bogey’s regular, Midway bass player Scott Johnson, said he loves playing with bands again after a five-year hiatus while raising two children on his own. Johnson had been in a band and used to own a music store. Now he plays at several metro area jams each week. “I run into people I haven’t seen for a long time,” he said. “It feels good to play again.”
Tom Tait of Macalester-Groveland is fairly new to jamming. A trumpet player in his college jazz band, he began studying the harmonica after retiring as an attorney and legal writer. He took lessons from Harold Tremblay of Macalester-Groveland. “At first I was pretty nervous,” Tait said about playing the harmonica in the jams at Bogey’s. “But I got over it. Musicians are very forgiving.”
Jammmin’ on Mondays at Midway Saloon
In addition to Bogey’s, Tait occasionally plays at the open jam from 7-11 p.m. Mondays at the Midway Saloon, 1567 University Ave. Hosted by veteran guitarist Moses Oakland and his mates David Beattie on bass, Mike DuBois on drums and Jordan Hedlund on organ, the jams at the Midway Saloon attract about half regulars and half newcomers, Oakland said. The jammers play a variety of instruments, including horns. “Three trumpet players make it their regular haunt,” Oakland said. He expects attendance to pick up as COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease.
Bambi Alexandra, a vocalist with her own blues and country bands, enjoys singing at the Midway Saloon jam because of the house band’s expertise. “I get to stretch a little,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to sing or play with high-caliber musicians.”
Open mics at Plums, kj’s and Keg and Case
Alexandra has been working on writing songs, and she has tried out some of her new compositions at the weekly Songwriters Showcase from 9 p.m.-midnight Sundays at Plums Bar, 480 S. Snelling Ave. Hosted by Nicholas Hensley of Macalester-Groveland, the open showcase provides singers with professional backup on guitar and bass. Participants come from all over the state, Hensley said. They sign up ahead of time so that everyone has a chance to sing.
Two fairly new open mic nights are being offered weekly at Keg and Case Market, 928 W. Seventh St., and kj’s hideaway, 408 Saint Peter St. Players of all ages have been coming to display their talents and gain experience playing in front of a crowd.
“The goal is to make space available for musicians who want to play,” said Keg and Case marketing director Tanner Montague. All kinds of music and even comedy and poetry are welcome at the West Seventh market. “Online signups usually fill up in a couple of hours,” Montague said.
Held from 5-8 p.m. Sundays in a former restaurant on the first floor, Keg and Case’s open mic event offers performers a full sound system, keyboard, electric bass, acoustic guitar and electronic drums. Musicians may bring their own instruments, but using the house instruments saves time, Montague said.
Kj’s open mic is held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesdays. It may be the only one in town that provides a baby grand piano for performers, in addition to drums and acoustic guitar and bass. Both cover songs and original music are welcome, according to host Debbie Briggs. A jazz singer and guitarist, Briggs usually gets the sessions started with her own renditions.
“We thought having open mic nights would be a great way to get people in here,” said kj’s co-owner Kristen Siers, who with her husband Jeremy Siers took over the former Vieux Carré nightclub last year. “It’s been fun. You never know what you’re going to get.”
— Carolyn Walkup
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