By Brittany Rudyck
EDMONTON – Once a week some of Edmonton’s most polished musicians gather to learn each other’s songs and perform simply for the joy of it. The Big Dreamer Jam celebrates its 4th anniversary this month, which host Harry Gregg of Riverdale Recorders didn’t think would ever happen. It began at Big Al’s House of Blues before moving to the Needle Vinyl Tavern and stayed there until its meteoric demise. Now at the Mercury Room, Gregg hopes they have a place to keep going and notes, “Owner Trevor (Belsher) is all about community, and the room has some of the most amazing sound in the city.”
The jam itself is largely focused on original music with a house band consisting of Gregg on bass, Geoffrey O’Brien on drums, Smokey Fennell on pedal steel and Kyle Mosiuk on guitar. Each week they spotlight a different feature artist, learn their tunes and built the night from there. The jam has been a place for artists like Maddie Storvold, Dana Wylie and Lauren Gillis of Lucette to hone their chops and launch their careers.
All genres are welcome at the jam, in fact there have been some eclectic performances throughout the years, which Gregg got into a bit when BeatRoute asked about the ongoing event.
BR: How did the Big Dreamer Jam begin?
Gregg: It’s kind of funny how it got started; Geoff and I were thrust into it almost by mistake. My brother Moses, who doesn’t play much anymore, and Grant Stoval (CKUA) had established the concept for the jam. I had been roped in as a sponsor with my recording studio and then my brother quit after the first week. My dad recommended Geoff and I do it and we did. We didn’t think we would be doing it as long as we have, but it became this great thing for so many people and we decided to keep going.
BR: Has it been challenging to move locations again?
Gregg: Well, we’ve built up a following over the years, but it’s hard to connect with the patrons who would come out to listen to the jam. We aren’t connected on social media, so they might not know where we are. At the Needle we had a bit of a buffer with people coming in off the street or people just stopping in to have a bite to eat. The Mercury Room is a great, central location, but it’s still a bit tucked away and they’re not open for anything other than events. The jam has always been about having a high quality of music and that is highlighted at the Mercury Room. The response so far has been amazing.
BR: What has been the most rewarding part of hosting the jam?
Gregg: Playing with some of these featured artists is really fun. But also getting to witness new artists who are just starting out their careers. It’s amazing to get to see them maybe play with a band for the first time and then watch them develop in the music community and do something bigger. It’s so satisfying and rewarding to see that. It reminds us all of where we began.
BR: What’s one of the most memorable moments you’ve witnessed?
Gregg: The most recent time Guns ‘n’ Roses were in town, the drummer came to the jam and was playing with my dad on stage. That was pretty cool.
The Big Dreamer Jam crew charges no cover to come out and play with the house band or simply be a fly on the wall at the Mercury Room every Tuesday evening. The official anniversary party takes place January 9th with featured artist Ken Stead.Ken Stead, Mercury Room, The Big Dreamer Jam