After a two-year hiatus, Thursday jam night returns to Taipei


Fri, May 30, 2008 - Page 14

Aspiring musicians, rock stars and singers, rejoice. Last night was the first in what will be ongoing Thursday night open-stage jams at the Diner’s recently opened second branch.

The tradition of a jam night hosted by expats in Taipei had its glory years from 2004 to 2006 at Citizen Cain (大國民), where bands like Public Radio, Johnny Fatstacks, Creepy Susan, Billy James and Big Brass Balls Band got their start.

Due to noise complaints and frequent police visits, the Cain’s Thursday Live Jam was discontinued, and a lot of people have had a big, black hole in their week since then. So Jesse Morden-Green, of alt-country band Johnny Fatstacks, decided it was time to recreate the experience.

“For a lot of people, jam night was a coming of age music-wise. People got comfortable playing in front of other people there,” he said, somewhat wistfully, in an interview at the Diner on Tuesday night. “All it takes is that one song where you get the response, you hear someone say ‘that was really good.’ There’s that feeling when you get a positive response and it’s honest.”

Though the music is central, Morden-Green said the social aspect is equally important: “It’s the one night where everyone gets together and plays music, listens to music, drinks, laughs and hangs out. It’s totally not pretentious.”

He decided to hold jam night at the Diner after meeting with the owners, who he said “are the warmest, friendliest, most amazing people — they have so much faith and confidence in this night.”

For Morden-Green, it’s important that this time the night be hosted by a Taiwanese-run establishment.

“The main focus is on a blend of foreign and Taiwanese musicians. I want local people to feel comfortable singing a Chinese song. Before [at Canadian-owned Citizen Cain] it was all whiteys singing English songs, and the crux of this place [the Diner] is the blending of both cultures,” he said.

He encourages anyone who wants to make music to come and sign up for a three-song, 15-minute set. “Don’t be shy. Come expecting a really good group of people, both performers and the audience. Whether you want to play or listen, have great food, a chat, a few drinks — it’s just a really great place where foreigners and Taiwanese can come together. Music is bigger than culture. It breaks down the boundaries.”