Just got back from the Rockwood Nature Center old time jam, held the 4th Wednesday of the month. This was my first time attending. I was feeling pretty good going in, having played well on Saturday at the Station Cafe, but never could really get in sync or let loose and feel comfortable. I was tense and always felt like my timing was off - like I was always on the verge of getting ahead of or behind the group. It's funny but I don't have this problem when playing along with recordings. So I wouldn't say I enjoyed it. I hate to play when my body is tense like that because then your muscles and subliminal mind could begin to associate that feeling with holding/playing your instrument. I'm much more relaxed when playing around the house or with a smaller group who matches my sense of timing. I think the next time I go I'll record playing along so I can better determine what I'm actually sounding like, because it always feels like it's sucking to me.
Some of the tunes I played that sounded OK were Girl I Left Behind Me, Barlow Knife, Golden Slippers, Whiskey Before Breakfast, Over the Waterfall, John Ryan's Polka, Soldier's Joy, Arkansas Traveler, Kitchen Girl (kind of), Liberty (kind of), Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss (sort of), Sandy Boys (sort of), Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine, Mississippi Sawyer, Old Joe Clark, Hop High Ladies (almost), Forked Deer (chords only). Granted, for the majority of these I had to use the tablature. I'm still a long, long, way off from playing by ear or even hearing when the chords change and/or what chord they change to. This could be a skill that always eludes me.
I don't mind the people at these jams, and they seem to be very encouraging and complimentary, I'm just not always enjoying it for whatever reason. I'm constantly critiquing my playing and never relaxing or just grooving. I need to permit myself to flub or not care at all if it sounds bad. Chances are it doesn't sound as bad as I think it does.