This year I had the chance to attend the Banjojamboree, in Essen (Belgium, not to be confused with the German one), for the first time. The event is, in essence – in Essen-ce, get it? – a jam, and although it is mostly focused on banjos, everyone with an instrument is very welcome to join it.
We arrived there in the middle of the afternoon, on Saturday. We parked the car and paid our entrance – 15€ for camping, with breakfast on Sunday morning included.
Setting the tent in the rain was not difficult, but it was a bit of a challenge to set up our new mattress, which had incorporated a foot pump and I stubbornly refused to pump it up with anything other than the foot pump (I would have saved time and trouble by just letting it be pumped up with the electric car pump, but I was so pumped up about it having a foot pump that I was having none of the electric car pump nonsense).
It was cold, and it rained the whole weekend, but that didn’t stop the fun. The accommodations were really nice: party tents were set outside so that people could gather under them and jam together. There was also plenty of place inside to do the same, both by the bar, and by the improvised instruments’ store, where people would sit and try what was for sale, which eventually ended up in jams happening here and there. There was also a bbq, which we were free to use, the toilet/shower facilities were impeccable, and they made beds available inside, for those who had rather rest away from the cold and the rain.
There was a banjo display by Danny Adams, widow to the late Derroll Adams (the instruments in exposition were his). I hadn’t met her before, but she is a very sweet lady with wonderful stories to tell, and I had a lot of fun talking to her that afternoon.
I brought my guitar along and after setting everything up for the night, we started to mingle with the crowd. We chatted, we checked instruments we had no money to buy – I really liked a tiny four-stringed banjo, but grew out of it when I learned it cost €500; nothing like a price tag to muffle any love at first sight – and eventually, we sat down and we jammed. We jammed until 2h30 AM, with friends and strangers alike, after everyone else had gone to sleep.
It was a very relaxed environment which, apart from the lack of actual concerts and bands, felt a lot like a festival.
On Sunday we got up late and they were kind enough to still cook some breakfast for us; the jams were still going strong, and we left the site a bit after 16h00, to visit Roosendaal, a town in The Netherlands not too far from where we were.
I really enjoyed the weekend, and I’m sure to be back next year. After all, banjos are the best, anyway.