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PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2013 2:39 pm 
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Location: menlo park
The other night, the mother of all jam circles broke out when I played Artie Shaw's "Man from Mars". As the song neared its end, there still seemed to be a lot of couples eager to jump in, and I would have liked to continue with a second song.

Jam circles don't happen much around here (SF Bay Area), so I wasn't sure what to do. I queued up a 1935 Goodman version of "Bugle Call Rag", but the end of "Man from Mars" was drowned in applause, and people drifted apart quickly.

If you have successfully kept a jam alive, I would appreciate your advice. (Not that this will happen again around here for at least a year, but, you know, be prepared and all that.)


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2013 7:47 pm 
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Location: Perth, Australia
I tend to gauge how much interest is in a second jam song by the volume of the crowd and number of couples who look eager to jump in.

If the jam started mid-song and gradually built in intensity (i.e.: a loud crowd gathered), and ready-to-go couples are eyeballing me as the song draws to a close, then I'll play another one.

but if it was a great jam and lots of couples got a turn and they're not chanting for more, then I put on a lower tempo tune. It's better, in my opinion to have a second "social" song that makes use of everyone's high to fill the dance floor, than a second (or third) jam song that feels forced.

On occasion, if the crowed is amped and they ask for another, I'll call out "you want another?" or "Faster?" and you can use that to gauge enthusiasm.

I never ever, play 3 "jam songs" in a row. Best to end on a high.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2013 4:58 pm 
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Oh, this is a hard one. And Trev and I have had this conversation a few times.

I usually set jams up by:
- building energy in the room, playing a lot of songs that build anticipation but don't 'climax', so people feel really pent up and crazy.
- I watch for the signs (lots of fierce, energetic dancing, lots of people talking really loudly and excitedly, lots of wide eyes and jiggly bodies). Jams work best in an exchange crowd, or at an event where people are feeling really crazy and excited.
- I play a really good, high energy song that makes people feel excited (this usually something happens purely by chance) and this sets things up for the following jam song.
- I follow up with something faster, but probably familiar, and with lots of high energy. Big band usually works best, but not always.

Then I set up another good song, just in case. I either choose a second song that is a bit faster and super familiar, or one that has more energy and is slightly slower (because people get tired).


The most important part for me is to watch the _entire_ crowd during a jam. The people who are going into the jam have a great time, and tend not to be aware of what's happening in the rest of the room.
I watch the people in the circle, at the back and around the edges. If they're drifting away, or dancing at the back or looking kind of uninterested, the jam is DONE after that song. Because for every song that 70% of the crowd isn't dancing or engaged, that's another song where I'm losing them. And I really don't like pandering to the 'good dancers' who often aren't representative of the crowd as a whole.

I usually don't play more than 2 songs for a jam, and it has to be one awesome jam to play a second song.
Occasionally dancers will come up afterwards and say "Why didn't you keep it going?" and I'll think 'Dood, even if you were riding your adrenaline, 80% of the people in the room were bored.' I'd rather people thought I was a hardarse than to flog a dead horse. I'm also quite conservative and play it quite safe when I'm DJing because #chickenshit


...but then, there's no reason you can't build up to another jam later in the night or in another set. Sometimes it's even better to do the first set of the night, building the room from nothing to a state of frenzy, so the next DJ can step and use the natural break between DJs to just PUMP it and rock a jam. The dancers mightn't remember your set as _as_ awesome as the following DJ, but it's very satisfying.

And it's always better to leave people wanting more, than to lose your crowd. There's nothing better than taking the energy from one pumping jam song and then shoveling it into a really fun follow-up mid-tempo song where everyone can jump in and crowd up the floor and go nuts. That's a win for everyone.



The best jams: happen to a live band, and happen because someone or a couple are just rocking something, the floor clears a bit around them as people stop to stare and cheer, and then people feel inspired and jump in as well and the band plays, and then the band is done and it's done and everyone feels amazing. That's the best.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 01, 2013 9:15 am 
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I don't have much experience of starting 'jams' let alone keeping them going. (Maybe I play slower tempos, or maybe dancers I am DJing for are older or less advanced?). It sounds as though you were getting signs that people wanted to carry on with the jam, but when Man from Mars finished, it was obvious they didn't want to (I'm guessing you didn't actually play 'Bugle Call Rag'). It was probably a good idea that you waited until Man from Mars had finished and confirming the reaction before deciding what to do - gauging the reaction gave you the chance to decide what to do.

I think Sam's given some great feedback about this - about considering the whole crowd, not just the super-advance high-energy whooping jam circle fans. (A promoter once gave me some great advice: "Don't look at the people dancing, look at the people NOT dancing"). So I think it's probably ONLY a good idea to keep the jam circle going for more than one song if you're pretty sure that most of the crowd are excited by it (whether dancing or watching). Are most people there thinking 'this is fantastic, I hope it carries on', or are they thinking 'I hope this doesn't go on too long, I'm getting bored'. I'd say better not to try to force it, and better to end one song too early than one song too late.

I think the best (most exciting/inspiring/crowd-drawing) jam circles I've seen are the ones on the Boogie Woogie floor at Herrang - there are probably some clips on Youtube. Even there they don't always seem to work that well, but the best ones really stick in my memory - there's that buzz and rush of the crowd to see what's going on. Boogie Woogie attracts a young crowd who love dancing fast and showing off (a lot of people do Boogie to compete rather than social dance), so it kind of suits a jam circle. because the competition side of Boogie Woogie is all about performing. I just remember watching some of those jams go on for about 20 minutes, thinking 'I don't want this to stop'. Thinking about it, the best jam circles are where the crowd watching have a great time too.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2013 7:14 pm 
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Location: Hong Kong
The age of the crowd will clearly determine wether a jam will occur. In Hong Kong our crowd is not so young so we rarely get spontaneous jams although our growing university student crowd is now growing .
I agree with Haydn in Herrang that Boogie Woogie in week 1 has the best jams because there are so many teenagers , these 14 to 20 year olds are really full of energy and like any teenagers just want to show off . Many of these kids also Lindyhop and are a pleasure to watch in weeks 1 and 2 .


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 04, 2013 6:07 pm 
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Location: menlo park
Thanks for the responses.

Haydn wrote:
It sounds as though you were getting signs that people wanted to carry on with the jam, but when Man from Mars finished, it was obvious they didn't want to (I'm guessing you didn't actually play 'Bugle Call Rag'). It was probably a good idea that you waited until Man from Mars had finished and confirming the reaction before deciding what to do - gauging the reaction gave you the chance to decide what to do.


I actually *did* play "Bugle Call Rag", and lots of people did dance to it (just not in a jam circle). I still don't know whether I misjudged the desire of most people in the room, or whether the applause and cheering drowning out the beginning of "Bugle Call Rag" caused enough of a break for a continuation of the jam to be unnatural. I suspect the latter, but I am not sure.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 05, 2013 11:44 am 
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lipi wrote:
I actually *did* play "Bugle Call Rag", and lots of people did dance to it (just not in a jam circle). I still don't know whether I misjudged the desire of most people in the room, or whether the applause and cheering drowning out the beginning of "Bugle Call Rag" caused enough of a break for a continuation of the jam to be unnatural. I suspect the latter, but I am not sure.

I'm guessing if there really was that collective energy that wanted to keep the jam going, people would have kept going. Maybe if they're not used to jams, some people just thought that was it after one song? I suppose another time you could even shout out 'Want to keep the jam going?' and make a quick decision based on the response - I guess you'd have to tell them to make it clear - 'OK, let's keep it going' or 'OK, back to social dancing - everyone, take a partner'. One of the worst things is when people don't know what's going on - is it a jam or not? - so if in doubt, I think it's best for the DJ to make it really clear.

If it's not too late, you could even ask someone you know who was there for feedback about the Man From Mars jam, to get a view from the floor.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 2:55 am 
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Sometimes, depending on where you play there are planned jams in the middle of the night to suck in beginners and give them folks who come in for a night something to remember and talk about later. I Never keep these going for more than one song and usually a short one.
I like the more spontaneous ones but its a bit harder to make them happen. So what I do is, I play a great song to have a jam, lets say that wonderful version of Flying Home by Mr. Hampton. I would then come out of the lovely sanctuary that is the DJ booth and start clapping! I clap on over towards a couple I see cutting a rug. Motion for a few other bystanders to come around me and then more start coming. ALL of SUDDEN jam circle( or sometimes half-circle)!! wooot!
in the midst of the hoopla I go back to my sanctuary and watch the shenanigans unfold. it works more times then its fails but I almost never play another song after that though...I just bring them back with another uptempo albeit slower then before track....Also, the feeling you get when you go back to the booth and see what you have created is AWESOME!


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