Author: Campbell, Bruce

A Tale of Two Jams
I was over at my mother’s house recently, helping her set up a new computer. So, I’m digging through her computer CDs, to see what programs she owns that I can add to her new system, and came across one that was marked Brookdale in green writing – and it looked like my writing. “Brookdale?”, I thought. “Like the Bluegrass festival?”

In early 2003, I played the Brookdale festival with the Alhambra Valley Band, and it was my first gigs with this band, and my very first festival gig. I was still feeling like a Bluegrass imposter, and my confidence was not helped by the news that the band had arranged to be critiqued by Pete Wernick. We arrived in the afternoon, and checked into our rooms – one for the guys, and one for the girls, and our appointment with Mr. Wernick was a terrifying ordeal – at first. Either I played bass OK, or I was so useless at it that it didn’t warrant any comment at all. Whew!

The show went fine, and I really discovered how fun my bandmates were to hang out with. Once the show was over, the festival routine became more familiar: find a jam. We jammed in the lobby a while, and then things moved to our room (Room 5), and then things went pretty kooky. Within a very short span of time, there seemed to be about 25 people in that room, and the pickin’ and singin’ was raucous! So raucous, a matter of fact, the hotel manager pounded on the door and said he was gonna call the cops if we didn’t break it up. So we did, reluctantly, and every filed out, sadly.

Figuring the night was over, the AVB boys settled down to sleep. This lasted maybe 20 minutes, and then there was a pounding on the door again. “Pete Wernick wants to jam!” a voice shouted, so we got up, got dressed and opened the door to find Pete and some friends at the door. “Come on in!” we said, and we began picking again. Within 20 minutes, the room was full again! When the manager came by, a few words from Pete convinced him to leave and the jam picked up in intensity. Imagine having the room next to room 5. There are about 20+ people playing guitars, fiddles, banjos, bass, even a snare drum and a high hat! Eventually, the Sheriff came and announced that those who continued to jam would be jailed, and thing broke up again – about 4AM!

I knew VERY few of the people at the festival, and this is the cool thing about discovering that CD almost 6 years later. When I popped the CD in and saw the pictures, I was shocked at how many faces I recognized! At the time, they were almost ALL strangers, and now I know these people!

At the time, I didn’t know the bearded gentlemen who played the fiddle left-handed, but I recognized Rick Cornish immediately seeing that picture again. And I didn’t know the colorful couple on bass and fiddle were Prairie Flower and Cactus Bob, and I had never met Pam Brandon before that night. I certainly didn’t know Pete Wernick before that night. But I had a GREAT time! I keep a picture from that night on my desk at work ever since then.

This is what festivals do for you – they build memories, and build friendships, that will last a lifetime. Over time, those friendships are enriched with shared experiences, and until recently, I didn’t realize how those memories can be even further enhanced when you can take a look back, and match up those fuzzy recollections with up-to-date contexts, which makes them even better!

Posted:  1/28/2009

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