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Fifty Five Bar & Lounge

Any effort to put on a regular blues night has got to be welcome, and one that has a jam and at least one decent band night a week is a friend of indeed.

Camdens Fifty Five Bar & Lounge is just such a place and organser Paul Fjelrad has big plans to take things even further. We caught up with him to find out how it's all going so far...


Seems like here's a new venue that's showing some commitment to putting on live blues... How many nights a week are you doing?

That's definitely the plan. We're building things up slowly cause getting cool bands up to play is all well and good but we need time to build up an audience. Right now its Thursday jam nights and bands Fridays and we're experimenting with the Sunday night. In the next week or so we'll also be starting the Open-mic night on Mondays. The intention over the next 6 months is to have free live music every night of the week except Saturdays (which is the private-hire/function night).

So how's it going so far?

Like anything new we've had our ups and downs but Stuart (the owner) has put a lot of investment into this with the house backline and refitting the room which used to be an old, run-down comedy club. The Thursday jam nights are definitely getting some momentum going and the Fridays are getting more popular each week.

Who have you had playing? Any stand out nights?

We've had Sam Hare, Paul Garner, The Velours, Blues Mix, those sort of guys... The Sam Hare band night was an absolute stormer. I'd say his style of playing (original, upbeat, distinctive) is exactly what we are looking and we're trying to focus on those sort of bands who bring in a crowd and can convert the local cocktail, party crowd into blues fans. Blues Mix packed the place out and had it jumping and dancing. They were the first band there and have shown such a level of commitment to helping the place get going. We recently had the Oli Brown Band - he was phenomenal... outrageous to see a player that young playing with that level of passion and maturity,

Paul Fjelrad and the Jam band... Ed Green - drums, Joe Glossop - keysand Big Andy Roberts on bass

What about the weekly jam... Lots of people going? How do the nights work? What sort of standard of playing do you see there?

Jams are something that builds patiently as word gets around and it attracts the jammers who like the atmosphere of the venue and the type of blues being played. Last week we had a record 27 musicians on the list, all of whom got to play, and I seem to be attracting the harp players... The current record is 8 in one night! We're also pulling the punters in which is great. Last week was definitely our best week so far but if you asked me the same question in a months time I'll almost certainly have had a new best week!

The jam is completely open and I start filling the list up at 8pm. We have a house band (myself on guitar and vocals, Ed Green on drums, Joe Glossop on keys and Big Andy Roberts on bass) so there are always quality musicians to play with regardless of the time and I have to admit that playing with musicians the quality of Joe Glossop is definitely something the jam has going for it. The standard of playing is great but I don't feel anyone should be intimidated by that as everyone, particularly the house band, is very supportive of any musician who gets up on stage. Guys like Joe, Andy and Ed make me sound good so I'm sure they can do the same for anyone!

So what's your role? How did you get involved in running these nights? What's in store for the future?

Basically I'm a local, literally only living across the road, and when Stuart took over the bar we got friendly and shared a strong interest in music and specifically guitar. As it happens Stuart is also an amazing guitar player although at the moment work doesn't allow him to join in the jams so often. I offered my services to him to help get things off the ground and to run the blues jam. I mean, what musician wouldn't like their own venue right on their doorstep to play with? The future is all about finding more musicians who like the 55 atmosphere, want to play there and want to help us bring the blues back to Camden. I'm looking forward to the point where we have music on every night and the gig calendar full and I can sit back, relax and enjoy the music... and get a few more gigs there myself of course ;-)

The jam is every Thursday and, and Fridays feature a different top notch band every week, with occasional Saturdays given over to bigger artists. Check our gig listings for details.