As the great Bob Marley told us “… We’re jammin’, we’re jammin’, Hope you like jammin’, too.” Marley wasn’t referring to Kamloops, B.C., but it seems to apply. Kamloops has the nickname of The Tournament Capital, but one might consider changing it to Jammin’ Town. I counted eight jams happening on a regular basis and there may be more. On the first Thursday of each month the stars align, and three jams take place concurrently. They are all near 4th Avenue and Victoria Street in dowtown Kamloops. On this night jams were running at the Plaza Hotel, Zack’s Coffee, and the Central Station Pub. I decided to check them all out and have a chat with the hosts of each jam. My first stop was at Busker’s Corner in the Tumbleweeds Lounge at the Plaza Hotel. The host is Kevin Roy.
Jammers at the Plaza Hotel. Host Kevin Roy (top left).
Roy explained, “We have a broad range of artists. We have kind of a stripped-down vibe to us, so no full band set-up or anything. We prefer … more of an intimate sound. The artists that come up usually have acoustic guitars. We, actually, have someone playing ukulele tonight and a couple of people have just played drums by themselves. We’ve had a comedian come up and do a set. Usually, once a week, one or two comedians will come out and try out some new material. We even have a magician, Ryan, who comes by every Thursday and we like to see some magic, too. Pretty much anything. We like to say, “We put the open in open mic.” Roy does vocals and is accompanied by his band-mate Bryce Tinley on guitar. They pride themselves on their ability to play most songs the audience wants.
My next stop was at Zack’s Coffee. It is in the next building, across 4th Avenue on Victoria, from the Plaza. Zack’s hosts The Shape of Jams to Come on the first Thursday of every month. As Zack’s does not serve alcohol, the jam has a different mandate than most. While all the jams have no admission charges, The Shape of Jams to Come, allows optional donations to be made and the money goes to the Kamloops Interior Summer School of Music to support kids’ jazz programs.
Jammers at Zack’s Coffee. Host Jackson Marshall (1st photo on the left)
Host Jackson Marshall filled me in on the details. “We initially envisioned it as more of a jazz, improvised music kind of a setting. But really with improv you get whoever you get. So, whoever shows up. If your thing’s country, chances are we are going to sound pretty country, tonight. It’s different every night and you have to come find out yourself. We have a good variety of jazz musicians and a few more rock players and high school kids as well. It’s been pretty diverse, so far, here. ” Typically, there are keyboards and a drum kit available for use and I have often seen the musicians share guitars and basses.
I then crossed Victoria Street and walked two buildings North on Fourth Avenue and was at the Central Station Pub. They host the Midtown Jam at the Central.
Jammers at the Central Station Pub. Host, Kris Ruston (1st photo on the left)
Richard Graham and Alexander Ward are the principals behind this jam and I talked to Kris Ruston, who was doing the hosting, during a break. “The jam is relatively new. It used to be an open mic. We brought in a drum kit and the full band, an amplifier, guitars, the works. So, if anybody wants to come in and bring their own guitar or play the real drum kit we got it set up,” said Ruston. “We get all sorts of musicians. The Decoys were here last week, with Matt Stanley. My friend Steve shows up. He plays in a band called Dr Fabulous. Other musicians that don’t have gigs on Thursday nights, if they are not gigging come down and play with us. … tonight, Mike Turner on bass, and Richard Graham on drums. Most of the Infectuals. A couple of weeks ago we had the same crew with Russell (Graham) on vocals. So we actually had the Infectuals here. (Rustin is also in the Infectuals). Sometimes, guys will come out that have the ability to do some improvisational things. They just want to play on a chord progression, that’s fine. Otherwise it’s mostly old, classic rock thing I kind of know. They just come up and we discuss it a bit or on a break. They come up and we all sort of contribute space.”
I stayed to the end at the Central and caught the last few performers, which included a surprise guest appearance by Dorian Payne of Swackhammer fame. Then back to Busker’s Corner to complete my journey on the first Thursday night of the month.
I had attended three different, and very entertaining jams, all happening in downtown Kamloops on a Thursday night. Maybe Bob Marley was talking about Kamloops.
Busker’s Corner, Tumbleweeds Lounge, Plaza Hotel Thursdays 7:30 PM-2:00 AM
The Shape of Jams to Come, Zack’s Coffee (downtown location) 8-10 PM. The first Thursday of every month.
The Midtown Jam at the Central, Central Station Pub Thursdays 8:30-11:30 PM
Drink and food specials available at certain times. Check the venues for details.