Group Therapy musicians spread the jam
The stage at the North Star Bar is a home away from home for Patti Kellar, the first singer on stage for last week's Group Therapy jam session.
"I was having a rotten day today," Kellar said, "I hadn't smiled once before I walked in this door, I'll tell you what. It just breathes energy into you. If music is part of your soul, then you need it to breathe."
For the non-professional, musically inclined person such as Kellar, Group Therapy is oxygen. The July 3 session was the second such event.
"This isn't a typical band," said Jeff Lien, the group's guitarist. "Basically it's for all musicians to get up and play. We're kind of like the core element of it, and then we invite everybody, whether they can play guitar, bass, cowbell, sing, can't sing — it's just for everyone to have fun. We call it like a live band karaoke."
Kellar, for example, has involvement with music that stretches back to childhood. She doesn't have any instruments that she plays in front of people, but for her, the casual, supportive environment of a jam session is the perfect outlet.
Attendees chose from a list of songs that ranged from "Possum Kingdom," by The Toadies, to "Shine," by Collective Soul, and from Bryan Adams' "Summer of '69" to Black Sabbath's "Paranoid."
Throughout the night, people filled in on every instrument while the core band kept things on track. A few waffled vocals were heard, thunderous bass lines rippled askew through the North Star Bar's booming sound-system, and one long-haired drum volunteer held most of the bar's attention for his several song reign over the drum kit.
"The best moments are when we have a train-wreck moment and we all look at each other, laugh, and end up getting back on the train and finishing the song," said Lien. "It's about having fun."
Lien and the other members of Group Therapy decided to create the open-jam forum about three months ago. They compiled a list of every song they knew individually, then narrowed it to songs shared between members. Their repertoire is expanding, and they will, if asked, learn requests in advance.
Their shows take place on weeknights, since the members all play in other bands on weekends.
Sure, it's like karaoke, but "the opportunity to get up with a band is so different than karaoke or anything like that," said Amie Morgan, a vocalist who normally sings in a duo called Amie and Carl.
Morgan started singing after taking part in a jam several years ago in Stewartville. Her initial nerves gave way to a full-blown passion as soon as she felt the power of a band backing her.
"As soon as I was up there with a band, it changed everything," she said. "The power that you feel up there with the drums and the bass and everything, it's just invigorating."
Group Therapy isn't Rochester's first open jam session.
"There's a long tradition of open jams like this, and this is how everywhere, all over the country, this is how people get started," Kellar said. "It's just a mingling of a whole bunch of talent that would normally never get together."
"When I moved to Rochester, I came to one of these, and that's how I met everybody," said Lien, who moved to Rochester in 2001.
"A lot of the musicians here, have all played together, like in other bands, so we all know each other pretty well," Lien said. "It's always nice to have someone you don't really know come out, because then it's like they're kind of introduced to the scene, so to speak."
The next Group Therapy will be at 8:30 p.m. Aug. 7 at North Star Bar, 503 N. Broadway, Rochester. More information is on Facebook — search for Group Therapy.