Author: Varner, Mark

IBMA 2012 Report

Dear Friends,

I was unable to file my IBMA report for last month’s 1st Monday Welcome Column, so at the risk of offering up ancient history I will unburden myself herewith. There’s much to say about the biggest event of the bluegrass year, but I think it is most incumbent on me to describe the California Bluegrass Association’s participation at the International House of Pickin’ and Singin’s big do.

The IBMA divides Bluegrass Week into two parts. The trade show, IBMA’s World of Bluegrass, began on Monday September 24th and ran through Thursday. Without missing a beat the conference turns into a festival, IBMA’s FanFest, on Friday through Sunday.

This was the last year the event will be held in Nashville for the foreseeable future. IBMA will move the whole shebang to Raleigh, NC in 2013. Nashville is an interesting place. I have to admit I find it kind of raggedy, but the history cannot be denied. Our hotel is around the corner from all the Music Row bars, but also Ernest Tubb’s Record Shop and Gruhn Guitars. The streets are full of beggars and the bars are full of tourists paying way too much for drinks, being entertained by singers and bands. Some of the music is pretty good and some is just loud. Of course surrounding this core of art and vice is a normal southern American city with regular folks leading regular lives. One hopes Raleigh will be a bluegrass-friendly environment and the party will just move down the road from its home in recent years in Nashville.

The CBA sends a team headed up by official IBMA coordinator Larry Kuhn. It’s a big job and Larry has got the task down after years of managing our presence there. Larry is in charge of putting together a team of CA volunteers to act as a hospitality army. The association takes the 18th floor of the hotel and turns it into Bear Flag Republic East, with two hospitality suites and rooms and a jammin’ hallway full of folks you’d recognize from Grass Valley. The IBMA recognizes the CBA’s presence as a semi-formal feature of World of Bluegrass/ Fanfest.

If you are thinking that the CBA members are picking up the bill for our presence at IBMA, Larry Kuhn will set you straight. Larry says, “Very little if any of the funding is derived from CBA membership dues. Funding comes from cash and material donations from individuals and the business world, the host team members' contributions, and the CBA's instrument raffle.”

This year the team was Larry Kuhn, Caroline Kuhn, Frank Solivan, Morgan Hanniford, Scott Miller, Elida Miller, Bill Hunt, Tom Conary, and li’l ole me. Each of these folks provided their own transportation, and meal expenses, and paid for part of their event registration and lodging. In return this team worked its collective posterior off to show the world what California hospitality and jamming is all about. I cannot over state the quality of this group. They were energetic, fun and smart. We had some great times and I will call these individuals wonderful new friends. Some other CA folks came and spent quality time with us, like Maria Nadauld, Lucy Smith, Jon McNeil, Whit Washburn, Dave Gooding, Joe Weed and others.

The labor of play is hard work. Our two hospitality suites were open (at least) from 6PM till 3AM every night of our week’s stay. Everyone came by for snacks and refreshments. I mean EVERYONE, from Nashville locals to the biggest stars in bluegrass. The jamming was ferocious and when we weren’t hosting jamming we presented informal showcases for many bands.

We saw some fantastic talent in our suite:
James King Band
Dennis Cash (Performing Carter Family tunes)
Hot Mustard (From Vermont and New Hampshire)
Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen (2012 IBMA Emerging Artist nominee)

Betse Ellis (Appalachian fiddle tunes, formerly of The Wilders)
The Steel Drivers
Cumberland Gap Connection (From Eastern Kentucky)

Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road
Blue Canyon Boys (From Colorado)
Greg Cahill and Special Consensus (CBA Father’s Day 2013 artist)
The Hard Road Trio with Bill Evans (Americana music from Los Cruces, NM)

Get Down Boys (Fine traditional bluegrass from southern California area)
I Draw Slow (Cool young band from Ireland)
Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers (Winner of IBMA 2012 Emerging Artist Award)

Junior Sisk and Ramblers Choice (Winner of both IBMA 2012 Best CD and IBMA 2012 Best Single)
Brad Folk and the Bluegrass Playboys (Brad was principal singer/songwriter with Open Road Band)
Northern Departure (CBA 2010 Emerging Artist band from Washington)

Della Mae (CBA 2013 Emerging Artist band!)
Old Tire Swingers (High Energy string band from central California)
Nu Blu (National touring band from Missouri)
Flatt Lonesome (CBA's 2011 Emerging Artist band)

We saw some fine talent in the formal showcase suites and the main stage, too. I have to say that of all the acts I saw no one rocked harder than Audie Blaylock and Redline, which now features the great Jesse Brock on mando, simply putting them over the top in the picking and energy department. Electric!

You simply can’t see everything. Too many bands on too many stages. I made time to see some bluegrass heroes, though. I thought Bobby Osborne & the Rocky Top X-Press was fun. Always been a big Osborne fan. Probably my favorite set was that of J.D. Crowe and the New South. J.D. is retiring his band and this may be the last time many of us will see them play as a unit. Very sad! Such a great act. When they lit into Rock Salt and Nails I just about lost it.

Our CBA Emerging Artist for 2013, Della Mae was very, very well received on the main stage, getting two standing O’s. You are simply going to fall in love with this band. They really know how to entertain and can connect with an audience so well. I’m excited to have them in Grass Valley!

Another performer we need to brag on is young Josh Gooding. My young pal came, mandolin axe in hand, to lay down some old school bluegrass vibes there in the heart of the South. He was part of Kim Fox’s version of CBA’s Kids On Bluegrass this year and really kicked it. Josh was surprised to find that back east they do not embrace traditional bluegrass in the same manner as we Californians do. He was ready to bang out Pike County Breakdown at warp speed, with a hearty WSM right hand, only to find adherents to the latest pop-stylings version of bluegrass among the other young people in Kim’s program needed to be taught the tune.

California performers Old Tire Swingers and the Get Down Boys were part of the scene and played for us in our suite when they weren’t jamming their keesters off.

It was nice seeing great friends like Bobby Lundy, Brad Folk, Tom Kingsley and many others there, but it sure is always a treat just to hang out with my hero Carl Pagter, who was very kind to me on this trip, allowing me to share his room and sharing hours of conversation and friendship. Carl will tell you how much our involvement means to the bluegrass and old-time world. The CBA is probably the most respected association in existence. I was very proud to see folks from all over the world pick up our Bluegrass Breakdown to learn more about us. The whole event is nothing but a big win-win, since we raise funds for our presence there primarily through the CBA instrument raffle and the monetary contributions of those who attend as the host crew, costing the association next to nada.

It is literally too much fun and it took me about a week at home to recover. “You can sleep when you’re dead” is the motto at IBMA. Be forewarned, but not forestalled when considering a trip next fall to Raleigh for IBMA 2013.

Your pal,
Mark Varner

Posted:  11/5/2012

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