Utah isn’t known for its blues-music scene — but the Green Pig Pub is trying to change that.
The bar hosts Open Blues Jam on Mondays beginning at 9 p.m. and ending at 1 a.m. The idea for the event came from local bass player Ray Rosales, who plays in The West Temple Taildraggers, Rage Against the Supremes and Los Hellcaminos.
Two years ago, Rosales asked if the bar would be willing to host his blues group on a Monday night. That first night was so successful it became an every-Monday event, said Green Pig Pub owner Bridget Gordon.
Open Blues Jam night provides an opportunity for local blues musicians to come together and jam in front of an audience hungry for the music, while serving as a workshop for younger and more inexperienced musicians. “The 12-bar blues form is a real basic musical idea. It’s like learning a universal language. Once you learn 12-bar blues, you can play with a lot of musicians,” Rosales said.
Musicians should be aware of the simple rules of blues etiquette, which will help them sit in on jams in other cities, as well. “Know what key you want to play in so you can communicate with other musicians, know the tempo and have your instrument in tune,” Rosales said. “When we call you up, be prepared to play.”
Not knowing the 12-bar form can get you kicked out of a jam. “We take the time to pull newbies aside and go through this with them,” Rosales said. “That serves you well. If you know those things, you will be able to play with any blues musician in the world.”
The Taildraggers — each of whom has at least 20 years of musical experience — start off the jam every Monday night with a set. While they’re playing, musicians can sign up to play with them.
The band is regularly joined by local talents such as Talia Keys from Marinade, and musicians from Triggers & Slips and Sofa Sly. Local radio listeners may catch a glimpse of KRCL DJ Bad Brad Wheeler, of The Legendary Porch Pounders, who frequently drops by to play harmonica with the Taildraggers.
In addition, touring musicians in town for other gigs often stop by. “We have had famous people come in, such as Bill Kirchen and Shorty Gilbert,” Gordon said.
Gordon credits much of the event’s success to the fact that it happens on a Monday. “A lot of other musicians are off on Monday nights, so this is a good night for them to come in and showcase.”
Early risers may be hesitant to attend, but since the music begins at the fairly reasonable hour of 9 p.m., you’re likely to find yourself swept away by the talent a good hour or so in.
A Monday night at the Green Pig Pub means that most of the tables will be full with patrons dining and waiting for the music to start. The bar offers $3 tall boys, $3 Cuervo Silver tequila, $2.50 drafts and $3 Seagrams every day of the week, as well as great pub food.
If you know how to shake your tailfeather to blues music, you can join the patrons who occupy the small space between the stage and the tables. Swing dancers twirling each other around are often joined by local photographer Lynn Carlson, who Gordon says is a regular on Monday nights and can often be found “asking pretty girls to dance,” while wearing a spectacular gold jacket layered in sparkling sequins.
If you’re a musician who wants to join the jam, learn the etiquette and then show up early to get your name on the list and to meet the members of the Taildraggers.
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Green Pig Pub, 31 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City; 801-532-7441