There are three types of musician events that I see when I go out to see music. As the title suggests, they are gigs, jams and a mix. These are the one I see in the Detroit jazz music scene. The jams in the dulcimer community are quite different but gigs are the same.
The gig is and event where a band is playing s for the evening. A jam is usually a house band for one set than other musicians who are at the bar are on a list to play and whoever is running the jam sets up musicians to play with each other and they play.
The best part of a gig is that I get to see a group of professional musicians play some numbers competently. This is the kind of music it is so easy for me to just lose myself and go with the music. For me, this is the best way to check out people I have not heard before and get a sense of who they are as musicians. Sometimes at gigs, a musician in the audience may be asked to play but usually in an extemporaneous way.
Then, there is the jam which is more unpredictable. It usually starts with a house band for one set and then other musicians rotate through the band on stage for the rest of the evening. Some jams have lists and some have a person who set up who will play when. Some allow many musicians to play on one song. The jam can be great when extraordinary musicians show up to play and they can be dreadful when musicians and vocalists who are not very good show up and try to dominate. Also, the jam is where young student musicians get on stage and learn how to play in public. I like the part where I can hear the young, raw talent and see them improve over time. The jam also relies on curtains standards because they are in everyone’s repertoire.
Now that I know the format of each, I can pick and choose whichever fits my mood. This is a realization I have come to over quite a bit of time. When I go out now, I have a much better time of it than at the beginning.