Author: Campbell, Bruce

Notes from the 2010 Spring Campout

What a time the 2010 CBA Spring Campout was! The weather, always a dodgy issue in April in northern California, was spectacular. We had been trained to believe that dry but windy was as good as it got. How about bright and sunny all day? Yeah, we’ll take that!

With the specter of worrying about the weather removed from picture, there was nothing left to do but stretch out, enjoy your camping rig’s first trip of the year, and break out the instruments. I saw musical instruments all over the place, enjoying the spring sunshine. As with animals, there are specific terms for groups of instruments – but you know that, right?

There was a mass of Martins, including a dollop of D18s and a pluck of D28s. I saw folks strumming and picking, and their woody tones were everywhere. It wasn’t just a Martin campout though – I heard and saw fine guitars of every make, and there’s nothing like the pleasing sound of acoustic around a sunny campground.

There was a thump of basses, scattered amongst the camps – I played quite a few of them! I brought mine of course, but ended up playing it only at one jam. I think standup basses offer the broadest spectrum of feel and setup of any acoustic instrument. If you play 4 or 5 different basses in a day, the variances in action, neck width, and weight can be pretty challenging.

Of course there was a screech of fiddles, big ones, little ones, left handed ones, and even one that turned out to be a 1/10 size cello! I encountered a motley of mandolins, and was surprised to find out a number of them were homemade – how someone can actually make a mandolin is beyond me. The pinewood derby car I made in Cub Scouts pretty much exhausted my woodworking skills.

It just ain’t bluegrass without banjos, and this campout featured a veritable twang of banjos. I heard some mighty fine picking in the jams I was in, including the smooth, seemingly effortless playing of Jonathan Bluemel and the startling power of Victor Skidanenko, whose playing I hadn’t heard in quite a while. Frankly, the whole world seems to have passed me by – clearly banjo lessons are in the future for me.

But this weekend wasn’t really about the wood and the wires – it was about the people. I have written about how the Grass Valley Festival is like a town that springs up every year – well, this campout was like a village of really good friends. Good vibes sprouted in the spring sunshine like daisies. Smiles were plentiful, sincere and relaxed. And why not? A combination of adroit planning by the CBA, hard work by some wonderful volunteers, and perfect weather launched the 2010 outdoor bluegrass scene beautifully.

It was just impossible not to have a great time. This village was a temporary island where we enjoyed just a few days of respite from life’s normal pressures. It did me a world of good, and judging from the happy people I spoke with, most everybody else got the same benefit.
Posted:  4/21/2010

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