When the world reopened in 2021, open mics and jam sessions became a prime space for musicians and music lovers to reconnect — and one of those hubs is the recurring series Mixed Bag.

The journey of Mixed Bag started in 2021 at Leda’s Cocktail Lounge thanks to organizer DJ Royale, with the help of photographer William Harper who brought the aesthetics to stage and handles the Instagram page. After the second jam session, Funkitorium drummer Cam and guitarist Zavetis, and New Jersey bass player KYG joined the crew and helped create a vibe that attracted musicians and music artists in the Philadelphia region like drummer Kito and soul singers Sinnia Brown and Seriah Nicole. Mixed Bag has introduced me to different musicians like drummer Treyway Lambert, the all-woman soul band Black Canvas, and Mobbluz bass player Dok.

Whether at Leda, Audeoboi Studios or West Philly’s Ethiopian restaurant Dahlak, Mixed Bag is a dope event of a melting pot of different types of local music artists. While they prepare to take their talents to their new location at The Shaking Crab, I was able to sit down with Zavetis, KYG and Cam about their humble beginnings, their perspective of Philly’s local music community, and Mixed Bag’s future.

Rahman Wortman: You all play different instruments, but when was the moment for you all when you knew the drums, guitar, and bass was going to be your signature instrument?

Zavetis: I started following the footsteps of my older brother who’s a singer/songwriter. I immediately got on the same acoustic my dad bought for us and I was singing and playing songs, but then I started getting better at guitar solos and scales part of it. So I decided to just focus on the guitar.

KYG: It was going to be my signature when my older cousin played the bass. I just loved the impact he had on the bass and I just loved it because at first I did want to play the guitar.

Cam: For me, I knew drums were gonna be my primary instrument when I was 5. I come from a pretty musical family and would always gravitate towards my brother’s drums and the rest is history as they say.

RW: Zavetis, you told me that you saw the guy who taught you how to play guitar at World Cafe Live last year when the Funkitorium, Omar’s Hat, and Ryan and Devon Gifillion show. What was the biggest lesson that you learned from him that still resonates with you?

Z: The biggest lesson was the first time I performed. Craig Davids taught me by love and excitement. He coached through my first talent show and I was going back to do a simple song, “Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones. I was nervous because everyone before me were better musicians and played longer, but I got my little garage band of homies together to play the song. My teacher was like “Go a cappella with the kick drums going and sing ‘Aye oh let’s go,’ and I guarantee the crowd will sing along with you.” I was nervous and didn’t think it was going to work but by the time I got on stage, I wasn’t nervous anymore. I even decided to do the fist bump thing in the end!

RW: Cam, what can you tell us about the Philadelphia Clef Club play and its role it plays in your growth as a drummer?

C: I most likely wouldn’t be the drummer I am today without the Clef Club. The environment and genuine willingness to mold young minds and help them create meaningful relationships is something beautiful. Most of my longtime friends I met at the Clef Club, now we’re all doing our thing on stages both in the states and abroad. I’m honored to be apart of that legacy.

RW: Who are some musicians that play your instruments that you guys look to as the blueprint?

Z: My teacher instilled in me that Jimi Hendrix pioneered the guitar. For me, Jimi Hendrix is the GOAT and there are a couple of jazz guitarists, who are influential, Wes Montgomery, Pat Metheny, and Bill Frisell. He was like Clapton but with jazz, he just didn’t really do much, it was very subtle. I like people who don’t just have a good playing but also have a very good stage presence and vocal quality. Like Prince and Carlos Santana have an amazing melodic way you hear them and you know it’s them immediately.

C: This is always a difficult question for me, but I can say without a doubt Chris Dave, Questlove, Spanky for feel, I’m currently studying these Chicago cats (Clemons and his brother Jermaine, Varo, Calvin, Tony Taylor etc) because there chops are ridiculous.

KYG: I like Thaddeus Tribbett, Derrick Hodge, Sharay Reed, Fred Hammond, and Andrew Gouche. Bass wise there a lot of guys who set the tone.

RW: I’ve seen each of you do covers on IG. What was the most difficult song that you guys have covered?

C: The most difficult song I’ve played has not been posted! My mind is outlandish, I normally pick songs with crazy hits and sections and what not. Then I mess around with them but never really take the time to learn them because I have other more important music to learn. I give y’all the stuff to make ya dance and vibe too.

KYG: On bass, it’s pretty easy for me to learn a cover. It’s singing where I have to learn the lyrics that’s tough for me. Singing is where I have to put the most effort. Once I learn the loop, covering a song on bass is pretty simple. A lot of songs from the 90s are hard to cover, because the range of the singers are crazy.

Z: I agree with that. Some songs that are kind of harsh are real fluid songs like a song from D’Angelo or George Clinton because they seem easy but they are little inflections that you have to catch like a random cord here and there. “Untitled” by D’Angelo is hard to get down, “Optimistic”by Sounds of Blackness is actually another hard tune to figure out. My vocal song that is a challenge of my life to sing is “Overjoyed” by Stevie Wonder.

RW: Mixed Bag is a good description of your jam session because it is often a mixture of different musicians rocking out together. How did this event come together?

Z: I look up to Luke O’Riley and his soul sessions at Time back in the day, and he used to say that I was welcome to his jam sessions back when I was young. He was a real father figure to the music scene and I felt a void of that when he left. I like how we before said some jam sessions can be cliquey and only focus on a certain genre I wanted something where everyone feels welcomed. Name came from me and Jordan [DJ Royale] who was the booker for Leda and the Swan, and I through him some ideas, and the name mixed bag came from a Richie Havens album and I think in his album, it meant “Here’s a sort meant of songs.” Jordan love the idea of the event being a melting pot of different music.

RW: Cam and KYG, what made you decide to be a part of the event?

C: At first it was a favor. Then mixed bag became this whole thing and now we’re here. The goal is to just bring people together to vibe and create together.

KYG: I got love for the guys involved. Cam is amazing to play with, and Nate always has good energy. It makes it a cool pleasant experience there is not a whole lot of ego. A lot of the music scene, there’s a whole lot of ego, which makes it difficult to be a part of because everybody wants to be the big shot…you know the politics.

RW: That actually leads to another question I have: how would you all describe the Philly region’s current community of musicians? Like I know Philly can sometimes be very hesitant to try to enjoy something if it’s not something they’re familiar with.

KYG: I mean, music in general can be very cliquey. I’ve been in the church scene and even that can be very cliquey. So I won’t say Philly, but music in general can be like that where like “If you do what I do then you end up with me.”

Z: I agree it’s definitely like that in every city. Like I was at Ryan Gifflian’s ladies night with Black Canvas and I met a guitarist from New Orleans and it was interesting to hear him say he feels like it was refreshing to see a jam session with Black Canvas play all different types of genres and different types of singers and instrumentalists and putting their sauce in the mix. He even compared us to New York, saying New York is a little more elite, whereas Philly is this brotherly love city. One thing that is amazing about Philly is we are a big city for tour musicians. Every touring band has at least two or three musicians from Philly. It really has a high quality of musicians.

C: The musician community, I can say it’s satisfying to see us in a place of full on supporting each other. Sharing each others events, pulling up even if it’s just for a quick hello. It’s dope to see that the unity in the community is getting stronger.

RW: You guys once did a Beyoncé night at Mixed Bag last year. Is there another artist who has a catalog that you would love to tackle an do a dedicated night for?

Z: The tricky thing was, it was a lot of work. Next time we want to make sure that it’s better promoted and the band is in agreement to know all the songs we play. It still worked out. Girls came out and sang the songs that we posted and it was an enlightening experience for me to learn Beyoncé’s repertoire. I have a newfound respect for her, she’s right up there with the people I would pick like Michael Jackson and Prince. Other people I would pick I don’t think a lot of people would know their catalog like D’Angelo or Usher night.

RW: I beg to differ! You may be surprised how many people know their catalog. [laughs]

C: Yeah, the original plan was to do an Usher night after Beyoncé night. We’ll see what this year brings!

KYG: Definitely a Michael Jackson and Prince night.

RW: You all are not only musicians but you also are music artists too, especially KYG who has 3 projects (Fact or Fiction, I Do What I Want, and Reflection). If you had to perform one song from each of those projects what would they be and what four musicians who have performed at Mixed Bag would you hit up to perform those songs?

KYG: Yikes! I got to go back myself. [laughs] “Cozy” was some people’s favorite, “Can’t Let Go,” and “Favorite” because of the musicianship. I definitely gotta go with the founder Nate, Cam, for bass I gotta go with my boy Dok and Jizz on keys.

RW: You three have started the new year off by getting the jam session to Shakin Crab. What does 2023 look like for Mixed Bag?

KYG: I want to see it keep growing up, especially the energy amongst good musicians.

C: I think we’ll all find that out together, I know it’ll be a dope year.

Z: The higher level we get the more we could share that energy. But for me, I want to add more dimensions to it, have a different featured painter and have a special guest that’s not music. Like a dancer, a comedian, or a poet to show that this event is the heart of the Philly renaissance.

Mixed Bag returns to The Shaking Crab, 43 E. Snyder Street in South Philadelphia, this Sunday and every Sunday from 8 p.m. to midnight.