Author: Brandli, Darby

World of Bluegrass 2007-Not for the Weak Week
The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) knows how to produce a convention and throw a party and Bruno and I registered early in the year to attend. We did not know at the time of registration our daughter would be producing a grandchild in October, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival would be held on the same weekend as Fan Fest and a Strike would occur at my place of work the following week. We held a family conference about birth plans, instructed our daughter to stay on the couch, checked with the airlines to see if we could book an emergency flight home and made certain everyone had contact numbers and took off for our third annual Nashville vacation.

We serendipitously flew out with Bruce Campbell who was attending his first World of Bluegrass (WOB) and told him to stick with us until he was oriented and independent. We arrived Saturday evening, rented a car, checked into a motel and headed off to the Station Inn for our bluegrass kickoff and our first high fat, high calorie meal. Sunday we ate a 1500 calorie breakfast at Shoney’s and headed out on a road trip to Rosine, Kentucky (birthplace of Bill Monroe). There is a drought this summer in Tennessee and Kentucky but the landscape is still greener than California ever is in the summer and Bruno marveled at how many people it must take to mow all the grass alongside every highway and home.

We drove into Kentucky toward Bowling Green and turned off on a beautiful roadway on a gorgeous Kentucky day with signs every ten miles or so warning us that bridges freeze before highways (or vice versa). An hour or so later we exited to Bill Monroe Boulevard, passed a Dairy Queen where burgers are “dressed” with lettuce and tomato upon request, turned again onto the Blue Moon of Kentucky Highway (no kidding) and drove another several rural miles into a very small Rosine. We were directed to the cemetery where Bill and Uncle Pen are buried and happened upon a group of people attending a graveside service on that beautiful Kentucky Sunday. None of the three of us expected the wave of emotion we felt in Rosine and knew our next stop must be Jerusalem Ridge. There was a festival on Jerusalem Ridge that weekend and we all paid our day rate ($20) and drove up the winding road past the home (from the 1950’s) of Charlie Monroe and on up to the site of the newly restored Monroe homestead. We all had to telephone California to report exactly where we were standing “Jerusalem Ridge” because it felt so unworldly that we needed to have a reality check.

We checked into the host hotel late Sunday afternoon, connected with other CBA members and walked past the Ryman Auditorium to Broadway for another high fat high calorie delicious carnivorous meal. The weather was gorgeous and Broadway and the hotel were filling up with familiar faces and the sounds of those acoustic instruments that make up bluegrass. We went to bed at midnight (the earliest time of the entire week) to be prepared for the week. Bruno and I did more sightseeing in Nashville on Monday knowing that it might be our last chance before the convention got into full swing Monday afternoon.

The first four days of WOB consists of the Business Conference, four days filled with seminars and opportunities to meet others engaged in the same sort of bluegrass “business” (associations, DJs, artists, festival producers, agents, etc etc). This is the only opportunity for Californians to personally touch bases with others outside of Northern California committed to what is the CBA mission. The IBMA supports the “business” of bluegrass and differs from a “fan based” membership and nonprofit like the CBA in that it focuses on the worldwide bluegrass community: fans, artists, music business (agents, promoters, record companies, media, etc), luthiers, merchandisers and associations. The IBMA is very important to the CBA as a resource. As an example of the IBMA as a resource our fledgling Bluegrass in the Schools program utilizes personnel and materials developed by the IBMA, there is help for organizations to learn about sponsorships and grant writing, about how to book acts and write contracts, how to deal with licensing issues and many other areas of interest. There are “constituency” meetings and I attend the Association Constituency as a representative of the California Bluegrass Association.

And of course there IS the music itself, the raison d’etre we all belong to the IBMA and attend the conference. There were so many more young people and families this year as fans and pickers. Children not large enough to stand and play the full size banjo and guitar sitting in chairs with those very instruments playing all the standard tunes and just ripping them. Our own California younger generation playing on stages: Molly Tuttle, Angelica Grim, Aissa (AJ) Lee, Marty Varner, Austin and Christian Ward, Scott Gates. The slightly older but learned-the-craft-in-California musicians making waves in the music business: Mike Tatar Jr., Tom Kingsley, Megan Lynch, Tristan and Tashina Clarridge, Brittany Haas, Jim Nunally, Rob Ickes (won his Ninth Dobro Player of the Year Award). The music is everywhere and lasts about twenty hours a day during the WOB and is heard in the lobbies and streets and suites and stages and clubs in town.

The California Bluegrass Association is a well respected and a well loved organization thanks to the participation over the years by our member-number-one, Carl Pagter, and the years of attendance by many of our members. Everyone (and I mean everyone) makes at least one visit to the CBA Suite to “check in” with the team from California. Californians are big players in the bluegrass world: Chris Stuart, Yvonne Tatar and Jon Hartley Fox are big named writers; Bill Evans just wrote the Banjo for Dummies book; Dwight Worden and John Stiernberg are present and past IBMA Board members; Betty Wheeler puts on Dobro events; Peter Thompson has a show on satellite radio; Warren Hellman and our own Bluegrass Breakdown won Distinguished Achievement Awards this year; Carl Pagter is on the Board of Directors of the International Bluegrass Music Museum. We must attend the WOB because the other 51 weeks of the year we cannot meet face to face with the rest of the bluegrass world.

The biggest disappointment for me this year was our financial inability to produce CBA Showcases where we always present California bands and introduce those bands and the member musicians to the larger bluegrass community. The business of bluegrass is mostly located on the other side of the continent or continents away from California and there are few opportunities for those bands looking for exposure outside of their own regional area except through the CBA at the WOB.

The Awards Show and Fan Fest and the after hour showcases and official IBMA Showcases are what most people think the WOB is about. Those events are, of course, fabulous and well attended and I look forward to the mad dash to hear and see every single band which is absolutely not possible. There is “official” music offered from 10A to 3A every single day and the WOB is total bluegrass immersion. We either presented last year or will present this year every single bluegrass award winner except for three and that would not have been possible without our attendance at the WOB and our exposure to some of the new talent presented there. Our ability to partner with other West Coast event producers allows us to bring bands to our audience that they would never be able to otherwise see live. Those partnerships are a direct result of our ability to meet each year at the bluegrass summit called World of Bluegrass and our audience and membership are rewarded because of it.

We loved our vacation in Nashville, we loved seeing all our old and new friends and acquaintances, we each ate about 125,000 calories of delicious breaded, sauced, fried and baked goods, we hit a<
Posted:  11/3/2007

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