Author: Campbell, Bruce

Hope Does Spring Eternal

Ah, spring is here! We know this because the Sonoma County Bluegrass and Old Time Festival occurred. We know this because the baseball season has begun – and don’t think Bill Monroe himself wouldn’t be following that action. And we know this because the annual CBA Spring Campout is nearly upon us (April 22-27).

There are a lot of smart people in the CBA, but I think the folks who conceived of the spring and fall campouts are among the smartest. The bluegrass event year is a majestic tapestry of things to do, from festivals, to concerts, to jam sessions and campouts are a very appealing part of the mix.

This is fairly easy to understand. Concerts are fun – it’s always enjoyable to see great bluegrass music being performed right in front of you, and the concert set lengths allow you to get to know a band a bit better than the 50-minute festival sets allow. But they aren’t quite as social or participatory as jams or festivals.

Festivals are terrific – I know I’m stating the obvious here. It’s like Disneyland for bluegrass fans, or a 3 ring circus – with many more rings. There’s a plethoraof things to do, all going on at once. You can watch acts play on stage, sit in other people’s lawn chairs, eat food, jam, attend workshops. The only drawback is, no matter what you do, you’re missing something – there’s just so much going on. (This is a pretty minor drawback, I should mention!)

Jam sessions are fun, of course – they’re at the heart of bluegrass culture and one of the keys to the music’s appeal. I think it’s fair to say that most bluegrass fans also play and/or sing. And bluegrass is very portable – a jam could spring up anywhere at any time (I’m planning on jamming at lunch today, as a matter of fact!).

Jam sessions are so fun that some geniuses at the CBA dreamed up the notion of the organization hosting BIG jams twice a year (or more). These events combine the excitement and broad social appeal of festivals, but eschew the featured entertainment (for the most part). If you go the spring or fall campout, you ARE the entertainment.

The events are located so that a large percentage of members can attend without too long a drive, and camping means you can stretch out the social and music intercourse over several days. You can, in other words, “pick until you drop”, which is the stated intention of many bluegrass jammers.

Of course, the CBA ensures there are other fun things to do at the campouts, like dinners, and impromptu contests, and occasionally a featured musical act or two, but it never gets frantic. This is befitting of the mood for the spring and fall seasons.

In one, you’re winding up towards a season of fun. In the other, the season is winding down. They are both wonderful events – you’ll build up memories in your heart and callouses on your fingers!

Posted:  4/16/2014

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