Author: Campbell, Bruce

Grass Valley 09 - In the books, and in our hearts

Today's column from Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Rick asked me to hold off on last Wednesday’s Welcome Column to present Monte’s Thanks to the Volunteers letter. He said, “Just hold whatever you wrote, and post it next Wednesday.”

So, I’m looking over what I wrote last Tuesday, and right from the start, I knew that wasn’t going to work. My opening line was “I hope we can get TV Pitchman Billy Mays to be one of the emcees for FDF 2010…” – which now seems in poor taste…

Every year, some folks will claim that the latest Father’s Day Festival was the best ever. Kind of like when your kid says every December 25 “This was the bestest Christmas EVER!!”. Easy to say in the warm afterglow of the Monday after they fold the tents, I reckon, year after year. But what about after some time has gone by? Say, 9 or 10 days?

The experience is, of course, completely subjective. If you were suffering from plantar fasciitis, would it still be a good festival? If you injured yourself jumping over a drainage ditch, would it still be a good festival? If the shuttle ran over your foot, would it still be a good festival? Yes, yes and yes.

I myself am not given to fits of hyperbole. Folks know me as level-headed and wise, full of carefully measured sagacious observations and pithy proclamations. But, dang it, I think I had more fun at this year’s Father’s Day Festival than I ever did before. I know I jammed a heck of lot more than ever, with generous portions of time allotted to guitar, banjo and bass.

And the three stage thing is wonderful – you can always find a show if you’re looking for one. It meant you had to do a little planning to time your jams without missing a show you wanted to watch, but it really made for a rich experience, and I hope others feel the same way.

Aside from seeing old friends, meeting new ones, and enjoying excellent performances from three stages (I had never even seen that Pioneers of Bluegrass stage before), homemade ice cream, and my first glimpse of the lake (pond?), there were three events that loom warmly in my thoughts days after the event. If any of these tales come across as name-dropping, I apologize – I just want to recognize some of the individuals who contributed to a really special time.

On Friday afternoon, I joined a jam with bandmates Jeff Ward, Dan Large, Dave Courchaine and John MacFarlane, along with a banjo player from Rainbow, CA. John called a fiddle tune in G, and off we went, and as the solos worked around the circle, he said, “Hey, when it comes back to me, I’ll switch to another tune, in A!”. And so, forewarned, when it came to him, we were ready for a shift and made the modulation and recognized the tune, and away we went again. As it worked its way around the circle, John said, “Now let’s change it again, only this time in Bb!”, and we seamlessly made the change and kept going. We did this through the keys of Bb, C, D, and E, before finally collapsing in F (I don't know why we skipped B natural). We must have played 45 minutes straight, and those fine musicians kept change the tunes and keys without missing a beat (I know, because I was playing bass!). And this also means guitar and banjo were making adjustments and moving capos as they went! Very challenging and very fun!

Later that night, there was a jam session at Rick Cornish’s camp, as a planned get-together for the CBA Website Welcome Columnists. As Rick has mentioned, it probably was a little more loosely wrapped than he originally envisioned it, and some faces were nearly hidden in darkness at the edges of the lantern light. But I met Larue, and Geoff Sargent, and Brooks Judd – no longer are they just mysterious signatures! It was a rollicking good time, and I bumped into my old friend Sean Brennan, whom I don’t see so often since he moved to Jamestown. And of course, the icing on the cake was Cliff Compton. If you ain’t having fun pickin’ with Cliff, there’s something seriously wrong with you. I always feel like a star-struck kid in the presence of Santa Claus when I’m around Cliff!

Finally, (I know I’m running long here), on Saturday afternoon, I was heading back to camp after enjoying some of the shows on the main stage and the Vern’s stage. I planned to grab an instrument and go find a jam. But then who do I meet coming up the path but Yosef Tucker, Jordan Klein and Katie Rexford, and they say “Hey! Grab your bass! Let’s pick!”. I did not have to be asked twice! I got my bass and soon we were joined by John Kornhiser, Gene Tortora, and Ted Silverman. (My apologies to another fine musician who was there whose name I cannot recall.) It was a thrill to be a part of the that circle, believe me!

Folks, any good Bluegrass festival experience hinges on finding the good jams, and some years you find a lot of ‘em, and some years, you just miss ‘em, or else you arrive just as they’re breaking up. This year, I lucked into quite a few very high quality jams with great energy, great talent, and great personalities. It was good for my head, and good for my heart – I felt like a real musician. A musician with no sleep…
Posted:  7/1/2009

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