Pickin' up bluegrass

The 8x10 offers beginner to advanced jam sessions at Second Sunday Social

October 11, 2007|By Dana Kinker | Dana Kinker,Sun reporter

Bluegrass music has finally found a place in Baltimore where musicians, young or old, experienced or beginners, can come together and partake in a Sunday afternoon jam session once a month.

The Second Sunday Social, a bluegrass pickin' party at the 8x10, started four months ago as a way to showcase the musical genre and give local musicians a place to learn more about it.

"The 8x10 really wanted to have bluegrass on the calendar, but bluegrass music is not very economical for the club," said Bryan Shupe, owner of the 8x10 since 2005. "Bluegrass is a front-porch type of music that is often hard to sell tickets for - making it next to impossible for bars and venues to host it. Our hope is that the Second Sunday Social will begin a bluegrass tradition here in Baltimore that will continue to grow and become more successful."

The Second Sunday Social is held the second Sunday of every month at the club. Doors open at 2 p.m. with a beginners' jam session that lasts until 4 p.m. This focuses on more traditional bluegrass music that is well-known, allowing new musicians to take part and learn. From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., an intermediate to advanced jam session is held, featuring more complicated songs.

Both sessions are hosted by Chester River Runoff, a local bluegrass band that has been performing together for the past three to four years.

"We set up right on the dance floor of the 8x10 and make it our job to loosen up people and make them feel welcome and comfortable," said Ben Armiger, who sings and plays guitar and banjo for Chester River Runoff. "The nature of bluegrass music is very social and friendly, and pickin' parties like the Second Sunday Social are the best way for people to learn about bluegrass music firsthand."

Also featured at the Second Sunday Social is a headlining bluegrass band that performs from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. This month, the headlining band is the Patuxent Partners, which performed bluegrass music throughout the Mid-Atlantic region since 1975.

"The 8x10 is trying to make the Second Sunday Social as close to a traditional bluegrass pickin' party as possible," Shupe said. "It is not uncommon at bluegrass socials and festivals to have more people playing music in the parking lot than on the stage. People will just walk around the parking lot, and before you know it, five people who don't know each other will bump into each other and just start playing. This is the kind of atmosphere we want at The 8x10 - people gathering together with others and making music."

One of the main goals of the 8x10's Second Sunday Social is to foster learning through the jam sessions and to inspire musicians by having a well-established bluegrass band perform after the jam sessions.

"The Second Sunday Social is beginning to create a new scene here in Baltimore," Armiger said. "There is not nearly as much bluegrass music in the area as there should be, and it is well worth it to spend a Sunday afternoon introducing people to the music and sitting around and playing music together."

Another main goal of the Second Sunday Social is to help preserve bluegrass music by making it available to anyone.

"Bluegrass is one of America's true art forms," Shupe said. "Bluegrass is an American musical legacy that is a huge part of our tapestry of American music, and it is so important to have this music readily available to everyone."


The Second Sunday Social begins at 2 p.m. every second Sunday of the month at the 8x10, 10 E. Cross St. Admission is free this week, though there is occasionally a fee for the headlining show. The event features free barbecue from Rub. Information: call 410-625-2000 or go to the8x10.com.

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