5 Very Cool, Very Different Live Music Jams in San Francisco (Part I)

Music Jam at Ocean Beach

Jamming at Ocean Beach - Photo by Karen Kiely

Whether you are visiting SF, new to town, or home grown, the following live music jams are all worthy experiences for musicians and singers:

1)  Ocean Beach Jam
Catch a sunset! Play some music! Meet nice people!  What’s not to like about this jam?  All sorts of music was played (based on whatever musicians/singers attend) and the group plays, sings and dances as the sun sets over Ocean Beach. This beach jam was comprised of musicians (all ages and all levels playing acoustic instruments), singers, and other music loving sorts that gather monthly (normally the last Sunday of the month) at Ocean Beach. It is organized as part of the San Francisco Indie Live Music Meetup group . The Meetup group is free to join and will not only give you details about the jam, but also about other cool live music happening around the San Francisco Bay area. People attending the beach jam are encouraged to make a small donation ($3-5) towards the purchase of firewood, and other provisions for the evening gathering. BYOB.

2) Blues Jam & Blues Dancing at Swig
Every Sunday night at Swig located in the heart of San Francisco at 756 Geary St., an incredible (and little known) Blues jam occurs, complete with Blues dancers. I didn’t even know what Blues dancing was until I stumbled into Swig. This is a serious musician’s jam…everyone I spoke to plays or sings in other bands.  They just come to this to get together with their other passionate musicians and rock out. I am constantly amazed at the singer who let it rip. While some of the dancers that regularly attend are amazing, you should not let this intimidate you (as it did me at first). It is blues after all, so the whole vibe is just cool and inviting. Just feel it and enjoy. It’s a very welcoming crowd of locals and tourists that find their way to Swig on Sundays. Note that it really does not get rolling until about 9:30, and goes until at least midnight depending upon the crowd and musicians. No cover. They pass a hat at some point.

3) 16th & Mission Street Jam
Right around the corner from the Bart station, at the corner of 16th and mission, a free impromptu jam occurs every Thursday night beginning around 9:30 and carries on until mid-night or so. The night I went I met a very enthusiastic group, playing songs, performing original rap, doing poetry, and dancing. There were no rules and no leader, just artists making music –definitely a worthy, different musical experience in SF.

4) The Haight Folk Jam
For something like 40+ years, a folk music jam has been happening at Faith Petric’s home in the Haight. Now 97 years old, she was not even at her home the night I went – as she was visiting her daughter in Ireland. Wow! However, the jam went on, just like a well-oiled machine. People greeted us at the door, told us where to go, and how it works. There was 3 different areas in the home where music takes place—all different musical experiences. The more formal room had folks playing one by one a folk song of their choosing based on the “theme” of the night. The other rooms were unstructured and a variety of music was played based upon the musicians in attendance – probably about 30 people in told. This jam occurs every other Friday. Very nice, welcoming group of musicians and singers of all skill levels. No cost. Bringing your own beverage and food to share is appropriate. For more information check out the SFFMC organization website.

Bluegrass Jam at Amnesia
On the 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month, a Bluegrass Jam happens at Amnesia Bar located at 853 Valencia St., San Francisco. It begins at 6 p.m. The night I went was great because a fantastic Bluegrass band played too. The jam happened before, and in between, their sets. Space was made for the musicians in front of the stage…and the bar patrons circled around and enjoyed. Amnesia is a just a cool place too. I might add that both the live music jam and bands are free.

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