Denver is rich with venues where local musicians strut their stuff. But over the past couple of years, some jam bands and improvisers have played a different kind of venue, called Camera Jams. This one’s virtual.
Musician Logan Firth produces the show, an online live stream of concerts that take place in his own living room.
The stream can be found on YouTube and at camerajams.com each Wednesday, beginning at about 7:30 p.m. The show runs for about two hours, and includes either a complete set from a band or an improv session from various local musicians stitched together by Firth.
Not only is the stream an opportunity for fans — the channel currently has 313 subscribers — to hear and see performances from musicians without leaving home or paying, but the bands get something out of it, too.
“It’s an opportunity for them to get a free studio session,” says Firth, who uses studio-quality recording equipment, allowing bands like Denver’s Chompers to use the recordings on albums.
“Some of these bands may not be able to afford studio time, and they can also share this content to get gigs,” Firth notes. The audio and visual, which Firth points out is of much higher quality than the cell-phone footage that bands often use to showcase their talents, is worth between 300 and 400 dollars.
Firth started the channel about two years ago as an opportunity for musicians to get together and improvise.
There’s only one rule: no covers.
“[Musicians] get to play with other people they’re not used to playing with,” Firth says. “Then they can look back at the video and hear how their skills are developing.”
He began Camera Jams after collecting high-quality equipment for his own rehearsals, and because he was becoming tired of the limitations of many jam sessions around Denver.
“Open jams can be frustrating, because you have to wait on a list to play two Phish songs that you’ve played a thousand times,” says Firth. “You’re not getting much out of it; it’s not very organic.”
He added a camera to his studio setup, and Camera Jams was born. Since then, Firth’s network of musicians has grown, allowing him to host a jam nearly every week since September 2017. Some musicians, such as Karl Summers of Legato and Envy Alo, credit Firth with making big waves in town.
“Logan’s doing a lot of things to help foster the scene here in Denver,” Summers says. “He’s providing musicians with a place to perform on a high-definition camera...running it through nice soundboards and getting crisp recordings. And he’s doing that out of the goodness of his heart.”
Summers’s band Envy Alo found notable success after its initial stream on Camera Jams. Originally, the band was just a trio, but following a surge in interest, the group added three more members and then recorded its first full-length album.
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Some musicians say the show has strengthened their playing.
“I’ve watched all of my streams,” says Bert Cheshire, a guitarist featured on Camera Jams many times now. “I use them as tools to critique and fine-tune my playing, and I also listen back for enjoyment.”
Cheshire also appreciates the opportunity to flex his improv muscles, improve his skills, build community and make memories.
“It’s amazing how many musicians it’s brought together,” notes Cheshire. “My favorite experiences [on Camera Jams] have been playing with people for the first time.”