When I first decided to buy a uke it didn’t take long for me to realize I was alone in a big world. I’ve played guitar forever and I’ve always had lots of guitar playing friends and there have always been lots of local resources (guitar stores) for guitar players. I researched and bought my first uke without any mentorship or local test facilities. I was pretty careful, a little lucky and it worked out pretty well but… at the time I vowed to seek out and find like minded others in my area for face to face real time interaction.
I lagged a bit but eventually did some research and found the group – Hau`oli Strummers (Happy Strummers) and I’ve been attending for a few months now. For some reason I had fears of it being all Hawaiian music, or full of weirdos, or lead by one of those overly enthusiastic and sappy people drunk with the power of having their first small following but it’s not that way at all. In fact… I really can’t imagine it being any better.
The group has a great mix of regulars, a great songbook with a good variety of uke music styles and the leadership is organized, and their attitudes and personalities fit this type of group perfectly. They meet once a week at Tio Chino’s on Rosecrans (for the moment). When I first joined they met at a place in Pacific Beach (which I loved) but that place remodeled and it doesn’t really work for the club any more. The club is trying out new locations during the month of January which should be interesting but I don’t think the location is a huge deal. Three nights a month it’s sing along format and the fourth is open mic. During sing along nights anyone can yell out a song from the songbook and everyone plays and sings… along. On open mic nights people or groups get up and perform while everyone else watches. In the summer open mic nights happen at the beach… how cool is that! The group is very welcoming of new people and new players. There are lots of easy songs and someone could even just pretend to sing and play if they wanted (just while they got up to speed of course).
Attending the club has brought me many things I wished I had when buying my first uke felt like a leap of faith. I’ve met lots of, very cool, uke people and had lots of discussions about music and gear. I’ve seen (and played) lots of different ukes including super high end brands I’ve only seen online and insanely cool one of a kind handmade stuff. I’ve gotten to know and love a wide variety of songs and song types, some of I didn’t even know I might like. Including a couple Hawaiian songs and some old drinking songs. I had no idea that being in a bar and singing and drinking and singing drinking songs with 30 other people doing the same was on my bucket list but now I do and it’s checked off.
Naturally being involved with the group has improved my skills. Not only have a learned a bunch of cool new songs, and played a minimum of 2 hours a week even on my busiest weeks but open mic nights have taught me so much about singing that it’s actually getting slightly less terrifying to stand up and do it in front of everyone.
My group research wasn’t easy and I think there are a couple of other groups in town. Being in this group I’ve had a couple conversations about other groups and now I probably know enough to go and check them out. I’m not sure if that’s going to happen though. I’d probably have to skip this group to check out another one and I don’t think that’s going to happen.