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FAQ and Feedback

Random Strangers Jam is committed to providing a welcoming, open space for all musicians to explore new musical ideas and create improvised concepts on the spot - but with it being a unique concept in NYC, it's fair that you may have questions.

 

Answers to some frequently asked questions from attendees and community members are addressed below. If after reviewing the FAQ responses, you still are not clear on a particular point or have an additional question, send an email to skylar@randomstrangersjam.com - questions are reviewed and updated on a monthly basis.

  1. Is everything really improvised? Can I call out a cover song or standard?

    • No cover songs! Random Strangers Jam is all about giving you the space and permission to play "outside the box." Everything is fully improvised - from the music to the groupings of musicians - opening an opportunity to truly and freely explore new ideas in the moment with no expectations other than to have fun and listen to/connect with the other performers on stage. ​

  2. What style of music are the jams? 

    • Experimental/indie/rock/funk/psychedelic/blues are the main vibes but sometimes a little jazz and/or world music gets mixed in.  ​

  3. How do Random Strangers Jam sessions actually work? 

    • The house band kicks off the show with an initial jam as host, Skylar Demetri, explains the concept. Then, every 5-10 minutes, Skylar pauses the jam, checks in to see how many musicians are in the audience, and then substitutes out half the band on stage with random musicians for the next 5-10 minute improvised jam segment. Jammers simply pick a key/chord progression and jump straight in. 

    • We are proud to say every musician who has showed up to jam (on time) has gotten at least 1 jam, usually 2. 

  4. Who attends Random Strangers Jam sessions?

    • Performers range from professional session musicians to hobby players who are pretty new to stage performing, and everyone in between. A large number of our jammers were in bands pre-COVID and struggled to reconnect musically after the pandemic until coming to a Random Strangers Jam. ​

    • Jam band enthusiasts, friends of jammers, and members of the local community come out to listen over drinks and food as well. 

  5. What equipment is provided? 

    • Our residency at Shrine World Music Venue means we have a fully equipped stage and sound system to work with. Drums and keys are provided, along with amps, microphones, and DI/PA.

    • Just bring your instrument, any cables and power supplies (if relevant) and we can get you set up to join the jam.

  6. Is Random Strangers Jam really free?

    • Yes. True randomness and variety are only possible when the barrier to entry is as low as possible for as many different people as possible. No one will be tracking you for a minimum bar spend but....

    • Real talk: our residency does depend on us filling the venue and it being a profitable evening for the restaurant so we highly encourage you to bring friends and indulge in the great food (for real, try it!) and drinks. ​

  7. How do I sign up for a Random Strangers Jam session? Online or in-person? 

    • It is preferred for all musicians to RSVP online ahead of the session. Walk-ins are also welcomed on the day of the show. As shows get more crowded, online advance sign ups will be given preference.

    • Anyone who arrives within 30 minutes before or after the show start is treated on an egalitarian basis so you will each get an equal number of jams (time permitting).

    • We do allow musicians to walk-in throughout the session and we do our best to ensure every musician who shows up in the first 90 minutes gets at least 1 jam, so if you want to jam multiple times, arrive early!​

  8. When should I arrive? Is there a sign up list on the day of the show? 

    • Show up 10 minutes before the show starts. Raise your hand and make yourself heard and you will jam, guaranteed.

    • A sign up list is sometimes used to collect instagrams and contact details on the day of the show, however, a formal in-person sign up list has generally not been useful for these fully improvised sessions since a rotation of "whoever signed up first" ends up with the same people jamming together each rotation. The whole point of Random Strangers Jam is to get to jam with as many different musicians as possible so Skylar mixes up the performers.

  9. Why is there a house band?

    • Turnout varies from session to session, so the house band is there to ensure there is always a crew of musicians comfortable to set the mood and hold down any instrument slots that random jammers don't show up to claim. Since there is no entry fee to pay the band members for this commitment, house band members get a few extra jam slots compared to random jammers.​

    • FWIW: We trialed a few jam slots where the whole band was subbed out with random jammers and the average jam increased to 11-14 minutes in duration, up from our standard 6-10 minutes. Keeping a couple house band members on stage ensures we keep the rotation moving and we end jam segments before they get stale. 

  10. I only got 1 jam, but someone else got 2 ( or some variation of this question ). How is that fair? 

    • On rare occasions we find ourselves without adequate time to allow all performers to get the same number of jams - which on one hand, is great because it means strong turnout, but it can leave some musicians feeling "cheated" when they see others getting to play more than them. Our response? Cheer everyone on, start a chant for Random Strangers Jam to be 3-4 hours or every week so the venue hears you, and come back again making the same demand!

    • We understand everyone who comes out to play is doing so with the expectation of maximum jam time, but we also want to underscore that these are FREE jam sessions in Manhattan and we only have 2 HOURS (as of April 2024)! We do our best to keep playing time equal and are looking into the idea of moving to a weekly schedule or increasing the shows to 3-4 hours, but we need bar and food sales and community enthusiasm to justify that. Help us put the pressure on by bringing your friends and reminding the staff at Shrine how much you wish Random Strangers Jam were longer/more frequent! More jam sessions = more jam slots. ​

  11. Is every jam the same length? Do you set a timer? 

    • Time is loosely tracked and cues are given to house band members to bring jam segments to a close between the 5-10 minute mark.

    • Duration depends on a few factors:

      • Some jams simply come to a natural end sooner than others and we encourage musicians to follow that natural flow - if an idea feels like it has been explored and it has only been 5 minutes, end there - don't let a jam go stale just to keep playing for 10 minutes. By the same token, don't give up on an idea in the first minute, sometimes jams take a few minutes to develop - don't judge, explore it, trust yourself and have fun.

      • Turnout significantly impacts time as well, with jams in the final 30 minutes of the evening generally being kept shorter to accommodate last minute walk-ins and shy first time players who raise their hand later in the evening.

    • Read the room and keep it fun: there is an audience listening so while it may feel like it is all about you and your moment on stage (and it is), this is not a garage or basement jam - so this is ALSO about the people listening over drinks and food out in the audience. If you feel your jam segment losing steam, don't just keep playing for the sake of playing - chances are, you'll get another jam slot later in the night if everyone keeps their jam tight.​​

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