Days -1, 0 -- Wednesday, Oct. 13 and Thursday, Oct 14, 2004
Did things a little differently this time, all around. I was heading for Jamstock, not so much a formal class as a music marathon. I packed up the whole shebang this time, 7 guitars, three amps, my multi-track, laptop, printer, and just about anything else that wasn't nailed down. I usually leave early Thursday morning, which is a pain since I don't want to leave the guitars in the car overnight there's a lot of last-minute packing that goes on in the morning and I never quite get on the road before the morning's rush. This time I located a hotel in Chambersburg PA and reserved a room for Wednesday night. I rented a car Wednesday afternoon, packed, and was on the road by three. Had a pleasant (though wet) drive and arrived in Chambersburg somewhere between 6 and 7. Dinner, some guitar practice, then sleep.  Waking up Thursday morning, time for a leisurely breakfast, a few things to pack, then on the road by 10. What a difference. Only 5 hours or so of driving, and I pull into the Meigs parking lot with a lot more energy then I usually have. Fully intended to hit the steakhouse in Pomery but, on the way in, had a craving for chicken nuggets and stopped what I think was a Burger King, if I remember right. Oh well, next time it'll be steak! Maybe.
Then, back to the Meigs Motel. Unpack the essentials, check the tuning on the guitars, change some strings, play little then, sleep......


Days 1-4  -- Friday, Oct 15,  thru Monday Oct 18, 2004
Since I haven't gotten around to writing this until several months afterwards, my sense of chronology is somewhat screwed up. Even more so than normal... so I'm not going to give a day-by-day description of things, just hit the hilights as I remember them.
I wake up early, and feeling rested. I head into Pomeroy and McDonalds. My last taste of junk food before three days of healthy cuisine.Then, off to the ranch.
The first time I came here I was hit by a sense of deja-vu, caused by 'touring' the ranch online so many times. Now, on my fourth trip here, it's like coming home. Got my cabin assignment, staked out my bunk, and searched out some coffee. While I'm pretty much cuilinarily-impaired when it comes to food, I can say that the coffee here is out-of-this world. It's from Equal Exchange, their 'Body and Soul' blend, and it puts anything Starbucks can come up with to shame. My roommate this weekend was Jeff Bjorgo, another repeat offender, who was taking Emily's guitar class. He's from Minnesota and it showed when, on a morning which held the first frost of the year, he walked shirtless from cabin to the showers while the rest of us huddled around the coffee pot for warmth!
Vanessa let on that though there wasn't a concert at the FP Station that Saturday, on Sunday PBS's Mountain Stage was in Athens doing a show at the college with Leo Kottke headlining and that Jorma would be opening for him. She had gone out and bought tickets for all campers and their guests, so we'd have the first FPR Road Trip! Later, when she found out that some of the students had brought guests withot telling her, she drove up to Athens and purchased additional tickets so no one would be left out.  I just can't adequately describe the effort and care that Vanessa, Ginger,John, and all the others put into making this place what it is, a little piece of heaven on earth!
I always love getting here early on Friday, feeling the emptiness slowly fill and come alive with people. This feeling is getting enhanced by the fact that I now know many of the people that arrive. Don Hindenach pulls in and greets me. He was on Geoff's class with me in May and did a beautiful song by Josh Woodard called 'Spirit World' in the student performance. He said he probably outdid me this time, bringing 6 guitars and 2 amps. I laughed and said I still had him beat, as I brought 7 and 3! As I was setting up my gear in the workshop Mike Falzarano came in and began arranging the class. He said hello and said I looked familiar, as he was teaching a class when I took my first class with Jorma, back in May of 2003.  Mike Sharp, from GE's class also came in. Mike is from Long Island, but originally from England. Or, at least, he's got one hell of an English accent; I never really asked him where he's from. He's got a real good feel for the blues and a nice touch on his Strat. Mark Horowitz also came in. He's a bass player who's taken a number of Jack's classes. I first met him back in June. He was one of two bass players this weekend in Jamstock and I was looking forwards to playing with him, as he really captures Jack's style in his playing.  The other bass player was Kathy, who is Hot Tuna's road manager. I knew of her from Ellie Kohler, who had taken a Box Set class with her last year. They had been working on a song together, but never got to perform it in the student performance. Ellie finally did it in the last Box Set class in June, and I had the mp3's of those performances with my on the laptop so Kathy got to hear how Ellie finally did it, as well has her rendition of the 'Irish Ballad'.
Orientation, then lunch, then, time to get ready for the first workshop. Mike had set up a vocal mike through the PA in the workshop. This worked well, as he supplied most of the vocals during the workshops, but really came in handy reigning in 11 electric guitars! As this was the first time Mike was trying out the Jamstock idea, he didn't have any one 'formula' in mind for the class, but started with a concept and watched where it went. I should add that Mike really took this seriously. He always answered our questions, no matter what they were, and was always open to suggestions and definitely open to pushing our musical bounds. The basic format was that he would put the chord structure of a song up on the whiteboard, we would all play until it sounded reasonably coherent, then we'd start to take turns soloing. For someone like myself, who doesn't get to play with other musicions, this was what I needed. I found (when in GE's class) that I get this 'deer in the headlights' feeling whenever someone nods at me break out of the rhythm section and do a solo. I still had it at the end of the weekend but to a lesser degree, and listening to the recordings of the classes I think I gained a bit more confidence and can do better, the next opportunity.
In-between classes smaller jams tended to break out. I remember one time I started strumming Paul Kanter's opening riffs to "Wooden Ships". Another student began soloing over it and laid down an absolutely beautiful track. Unfortunately that was one of the sessions where I screwed up and recorded an hour or so of silence on the multi-track! I wound up only getting about half of our sessions down, for reasons I can only describe as technical incompetence on my part. At least I did get the student performances, my biggest fear is flubbing that as those who know me know that they'll get a recording of it out of the deal. 
We also got some spill-over from the other classes. Jeff came in Saturday night during some jams and laid down some vocals and slide guitar. During the next day he apologised during the Student Performance for frying his voice the night before, but he sounded good to me.
I met Idj, who runs a Hot Tuna website and has THE best Hot Tuna tab on the web. He's from France, and I gathered that this was his first trip to the US, just for a session at the Ranch. There's a link to his site on the previous page, as well as on my Music page.
During an informal session on Saturday, Mike Sharp, Kathy, and Sean were jamming to  an Albert King song, Cross Cut Saw, and I sat down to watch and listen to what they were doing. Mike invited me to join the jam, which I did, and at the end we decided to do that as an ensemble during the Student Performance.  Somewhere along the line I was practicing my version of 'I See The Light' and had a few listeners who offered some compliments. I decided to give that a try, solo, as well. Later I was talking with Kathy and invited her to accompany me on bass. She was interested but not familiar with the song. I gave a brief run-thru of it and realized that my version was a bit different from any of Jorma's. I had arrived at it by listening to about 5 or 6 versions of it from Jorma and basically picked out the bits that I could figure out and play and pasted them together into a 'medley' of the song. Kathy was in demand from several others for her services and Mark was working up a number with the Cantrells, so I wound up doing it solo.
Unfortunately, it being autumn and somewhat dry and windy, there were no campfires this weekend. We made up for it by jamming indoors well into the night.
On Sunday afternoon, of course, was the Student Performance Workshop. Jorma couldn't make this one, as he had to get into Athens to do the soundcheck for the Moutain Stage show, so Mike was the 'Master of Ceremonies' for the day. Our class would be going on last, as we figured everyone would be deaf by the time we got through. I'm always left in awe of some of the students' numbers. My personal favorite from this one is Jeff's rendition of his original song 'No Surprise', an absolutely beautiful 'ode to long-distance love'. The ranch now has a CD out (available through the FPR Store) called "I Found Myself A Star" which consists of original songs by FPR alumni. Jeff's recording of this song was chosen to be on this CD. Mark wanted to do a Jefferson Airplane song with the Cantrell's backing him, but wound up doing "California Dreamin'", with himself playing acoustic guitar and singing. I have to admire him, as he's been playing acoustic guitar for less than a year and managed to put this together.  When we ran out of acoustic players, I was all set to go up solo but Mike got up before I could and motioned for us to join him.  We set up set out. While I wasn't that thrilled with the settings I had on my amp, and started out my solo in the wrong key, I think I recovered fairly quickly and finished it off well. Mike, of course, played and sang superbly, Sean did a nice solo, Kathy laid down the foundation, and I think it came off well.
Mike F. then asked if there were any more takers and, since I was already up there, said "Yes". This always seems to surprise my instructors, hopefully because I kind of lay back in class and not because of their perception of my talent, or lack thereof... Anyway, I tweaked the amp a little but, as I started playing, I realized that it was still not what I wanted to hear. Oh, well, "don't break the groove" and all that so I just plowed on through. I really should have done it on acoustic but, my Ibanez acoustic-electric just doesn't sound that great unless it's plugged in and I was exhausted from carrying my electric stuff, plus setting up the multi-track to record it all and didn't feel like making another trip between the workshop and the FP Station to bring my acoustic amp and guitar. So, I went electric which, at least, helped drown out my voice.
After the show there was an early dinner followed by everyone heading into Athens for the Mountain Stage show. As I was heading towards my car I passed Don and he invited me to navigate for him in his car. He was familiar with the area (his daughter lives in Athens) but wasn't exactly sure where we were going and wanted me to read the instructions that Ginger had printed.  This was good as the instructions were only for how to get there, not how to get back. This wouldn't be a problem except that a lot of the "how to get there" part was on one-way streets, so you couldn't just reverse them to get back.
We got there all right and found a parking garage. We waited a few minutes while a car ahead of us tried to get the machine to accept his bill for the parking fee when I noticed a sign indicating that parking was free on Sundays. Don beeped at him and either he heard us regarding the free parking or he just gave up and drove in.  We parked, made our way to the hall, and found our seats. What a great show! There were a number of opening acts, none of which I can remember their names, then Jorma, then Leo. Barry Mitterhoff came in to join Jorma for his set. It was the first time I had actually seen Leo in concert. It's amazing what he can do with a 12-string. After the show, back to the ranch and, surprise surprise, more jamming.
Monday was one last session, then packing, then the good-byes. It's taken this long (6 months!) to really figure this weekend out. As I play alone, I look for opportunities to play with others as part of a group. Yet I'm hesitant to do so as I lack the experience and most people near my age have been playing since they were teenagers, vs. my 3 years of playing. This class gave me a bit more confidence, both in what I can do as well as in what others have problems with doing. I still have to get over my 'deer in the headlights' feelings, but I think I've definitely made some improvements in that area. Michael definitely takes the class concept seriously and has some good ideas for next year's Jamstock. One which I really like will be to have us break up into smaller groups, giving us more time to really explore a song.
Leaving was harder than usual because the status of my job was up in the air and I couldn't commit at that time to any classes in 2005. But now, six months later, things are a little firmer and I've signed up for three classes.... can't wait to be back!
They say the third time's a charm.... but the fourth really rocked!


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10/15/2004 for Jamstock 2004.
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Fall foiliage, and frost on the ground.
Vanessa, Ginger, and John.