After 36 years and hundreds of memorable blues jams, an Ithaca tradition is coming to an end this Monday night as the Nines hosts one final Blue Monday Jam, the longest-running blues jam under the same roof and management.
“Bittersweet would be an understatement,” says drummer Taz Cannon of the end of a longstanding tradition at the Collegetown eatery and music venue. Fewer regulars have come to the jams, which moved from weekly to monthly, though “the audience has remained unchanged and multigenerational,” says Cannon. “Unfortunately, the turnout has diminished greatly over the years.” He blames the changes in drinking age from 18 to 19 and then to 21, among other factors.
The audience has always been a combination of locals and students, the latter in town for just a few years. “The students come and graduate, then return later in life,” though.
“Bring your own axe and plug in,” said the Blue Monday Jam posters, giving musicians of all stripes the chance to jam alongside hosts Pete Panek and the Blue Cats. They’ve had quite a variety. “Our second anniversary Blue Monday featured the Allman Brothers,” Taz tells us. “They had played Ithaca College the night before.”
“The Blue Monday Jam played an important role in bringing new musicians, young and not-so-young, into the Ithaca musical community,” says Alan Rose, an Ithaca musician and music scene contributor to 14850 Magazine. “Pete’s emphasis on playing well together — not just playing well as an individual player — was a key lesson for many of the participants and a reason for the jam’s longevity.”
Guests have included “many a memorable blues artist” over the years, including Jimmy Hall, Butch Trucks, Dickey Betts, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, James Cotton, Harry Hypolite, Big Dave and the Ultrasonics, and Eddie Shaw and the Wolfgang.
Guitarist Bruce Lockwood moved to Chicago about twenty years ago after many years as part of the Blue Cats and the Blue Monday Jam, then on to Bloomington, Indiana, but he returned for a packed 25th anniversary show at the Nines. Bruce passed away in 2014, but Taz says Bruce’s wife, Julie, and son, Eddie, came out to Ithaca for the 35th anniversary show last year. “Eddie’s 17 now, and plays a mean guitar,” he says.
“We’ve still got a couple of jazz jams and a funk jam in town,” says Alan Rose, “but I’ll miss being able to refer younger players to Blue Monday.”
The final Blue Monday Jam will start at 9pm on Monday, December 5th at the Nines at 311 College Avenue in Collegetown. It’ll run until midnight, or beyond. “At the start we kept the cover charge at $1 for over ten years. Even now, it’s still only $4,” says Taz.