Author: Alvira, Marco

That Warm Blue Glow

It is dubious whether Mark Twain ever said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Whether the quote is actually attributable to him or not is irrelevant once one has spent a July day at Ocean Beach in the City. What is not in doubt is that the actual author of the quote never spent a December day in the great Central Valley. There are three winter weather patterns this time of year down Merced way: rain, fog, or clear sky with a face freezing wind sweeping down form the Sierra.

For as many people that lament the coming gloom and dampness of the winter months, there are at least as many that look forward to warm fires, hot, spiced beverages, a good book, and some cozy time curled up to the bluish glow emitted form the LCD panel of their favorite tablet or laptop. There’s nothing like the warm underside of a laptop against my quadriceps to take the chill out of a Valley winter night. The danger of traveling slick, icy, Valley back roads for a visit with friends and family are eliminated with a quick few keystrokes. In the blink of an eye, via Facebook and other social media, I can safely –and in the comfort of my own living room—have meaningful conversations with a dozen loved ones, download pictures of adorable family pets, and all the while catch up on missed episodes of Downton Abbey before the new season begins. Of course, less time on the road provides my wife and myself with more quality time together on those long dark nights. With our matching laptops and jogging suits, we share the living room—she gets the easy chair and I the couch (She’s doesn’t like to sit next to me when I’m on the laptop. She says my elbows stick out when I type).

Admittedly, I do enjoy the bluegrass scene during the late autumn and winter months more than any other time of the year. Those dank months make for the hottest picking. I figure autumn picking starts with the Kings River festival, then there’s the Fall Campout, Jonathon Bluemel’s Pick-o-Ween (which I have never made because due to gigs both times he’s had it!) November 23 provided me with three post Thanksgiving picking opportunities. By the time this column is posted, I will have spent a wonderful evening with friends at the Nolans’ annual Christmas potluck. There was a wonderful jam with Jimmy B., Alex and Michael S., Prairie Flower and Cactus Bob and others in Columbia. If one looks carefully, you’ll find great bands that you pay bucks to see at summer festivals playing for practically nothing at intimate venues like pubs and house concerts. I could go on for quite a while about picking and listening opportunities, but that just might be grist for another column.

The spirit of Holiday gatherings and small warm venues makes the fall and winter months my favorite bluegrass season. Of course, this seasonal solstice falls directly in Bakersfield at the Great 48. This even has truly evolved into one of the greatest gatherings of musicians from across the state. In fact, it is my favorite CBA event with non-stop picking for what really amounts to 72 hours, host suites providing refreshments and the opportunity to rub elbows with folks from cities and communities from every corner of California. Over the course of four or fie years, I’ve overcome a personal prejudice and have become well acquainted with quite few nice people from the southern half of the state, despite their wayward allegiance to a ball club donning the blue and white.

Yup, I love winter: great picking, bands in great venues, great food and spirits, cross country skiing, …and February, the greatest of all months…the beginning of spring training.

Posted:  12/2/2012

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email