Mega-Uke to rock out Procter Arts Fest

By Nikki Talotta on August 4, 2012

Slowly yet surely, the South Sound is coming around to the lifting sounds of the ukulele. Eddie Vedder threw the stringed instrument into the spotlight last year and since then it seems ukuleles have been popping up everywhere.

A prime example is the Mega-Uke Ukulele Jam at the Procter Arts Fest this Saturday. Expected to be the biggest Ukulele Jam in Pierce County, the event runs from 9 to 11 a.m. and includes an instructional session for any beginners interested in playing, culminating in a jam session with at least 30 and maybe more than 100 players, both experienced and new.

The event is hosted by Washington Association of South Sound Ukulele Players, (cutely making the acronym WASSUP) which has an enthusiastic group of about 80 players.

Chris Neil, a member of WASSUP, has been playing ukulele for about nine months.

 "The ukulele has become so popular lately, and it's because it's easy and to learn quickly and it's fun," Neil says.

Tom Brooks, the man behind WASSUP and the Mega-Uke Jam agrees with that sentiment, and while the group has regular jam sessions, Brooks decided to kick it up a notch with this event, inviting newbies to the joys of playing the uke.

"I had the crazy idea to see how many people we could get to play," Brooks says. "My goal is over 100."

"The market may get a little chaotic," he adds with a laugh, "Every time you turn around, you'll run into a ukulele."

WASSUP will provide lender ukes for those who don't have one, and Brooks has made poster-size song sheets of easy to play, recognizable songs like Sinatra's "Yes Sir, That's My Baby" and Art Landry's "Five Foot Two and Eyes of Blue." Songs for the young and young at heart include, "How Much is that Doggy in the Window?" and "Rubber Ducky," the Sesame Street favorite.

"There are only two chords, so it's accessible," he says.

The schedule is as follows:

9 - 9:30: WASSUP Performance

10 - 10:30: Instruction for beginners, two-chord jam

10:30 to 11: Jam with  WASSUP

"The ukulele is making a revival," says Brooks. "It's such a personable little instrument, you can carry it around with you and it has a real joyful sound."

(Proctor Arts Fest, Mega-Uke Jam, 9 to 11 a.m., 2702 North Proctor Street, Tacoma)