Author: Alvira, Marco

In the Rear View Mirror

I think my wife was sick of it, as were my colleagues at work…or any one else who came into contact with me on a regular basis. Through the three or so weeks leading up to the Hobbs Grove Bluegrass Festival, I had developed a one-track mind, obsessed with the leviathan in front of me. I’m sure even my esteemed and efficient Co-Director, Kelly Broyles but have begun to weary from my daily phone calls and e-mails, asking those “Are we there yet” type of questions. I was dreading the type of moment one always seems to experience at the onset of the big trip—the experience when you’re out the front door and a half mile down the road and you realize you forgot your reading glasses or flight tickets. As the final week closed in before the festival, Kelly would reassure me with each phone call, “Naw, we’ve got it covered and good to go.” What I didn’t realize was that once the festival begins, it isn’t the annoying feeling that you forgot something that is so bothersome; it’s the metaphorical blow-out or radiator overheating that is so problematic—that is, the dozens of unforeseen crisis that can and do pop-up. I’m sure that all the great folks behind the Father’s Day Festival are chuckling and say to them selves, “Brother, you haven’t even seen the worse of it.” But for this wide-eyed rookie on his maiden voyage as Co-Director, everything seemed big!

Once people start arriving in the campground, the festival takes on a life of its own. There was freshness to this festival that I hadn’t experienced in a while. I suspect that it was attributable to the many new faces that that were at Hobbs for the first time bringing electric energy to the jams and audience. Of course, maybe the line-up had a little something to do with all the fun. Kelvin and Highway 65 opened the festival on Friday afternoon with a set of blistering, high-octane bluegrass. That set the tone. By the time the evening arrived, Snap Jackson and the Knock on Wood Players came out and just set the stage on fire with their brand of entertainment. Poor Dalton Mountain, I thought…I’d hate to follow that. I didn’t need to worry, I could see by the expression on the Gang’s faces that they were going to finish the demolition job that the SJ&TKOWP had begun…and boy, did they. When they finished, the audience was on their feet whooping, whistling, and clapping their hands raw, demanding more. And more is what they got: 49 Special, from the Bay Area, came on the stage and with high energy and incredible musical acumen, brought the house down. And that was just Friday night. The big night was still to come. Saturday night, the Tuttles with A.J. Lee and the raucous Belle Monroe and her Brewglass Boys were added to that fiery line-up. I had been looking forward to seeing our Saturday night line-up for months. It was Friday night all over, multiplied by two.

Much of the charm of the Hobbs Grove Bluegrass Festival not only lies in its rustic setting, but also in the local flavor added by the strong stable of regional bands playing the venue and the ample local volunteers who are eager to make guests welcome to our Valley home. The bands ranged from the smooth gospel of the Kings River Gospelaires to the old time/mountain sounds of Uncle Ephus. The Smiley Mountain Band and Red Dog Ash provided hard driving traditional bluegrass. A high point of the Saturday show was the presentation of an award to Sam Criswell for all his contributions to traditional music in the Valley. Of course Sam and Mildred with their band, Groundspeed, provided a heck of a show as well. My favorite among the regional bands is Red Rag Andy, an old time band that plays the music as it was meant to be. Front man Berry, with his great story telling, seems like he stepped out of 1910. When one has the chance to sit and pick with him awhile, you realize that his persona is not an act all –he is completely imbued with the spirit of his music. A remarkable musician indeed.

A long time tradition of Hobbs is our Sunday morning bluegrass church followed the by the sweet gospel tunes of the Kings River Gospelaires. This year, church was held under the trees on the lawn in the crisp morning air. Pastor Don Hamilton and Rich and Debibie Ferguson led services. Jeanie Ramos and Alex Sharp added their voices and instruments to provide a deep, spiritual service. More folks than I’ve ever seen before attended the service. It was a good morning for that old time religion. That afternoon, the audience was treated to another top-notch performance by Frank Solivan’s Kids on Bluegrass. I was extremely proud that one of my students traveled down from Merced to join the KOB and our bluegrass family.

I cannot end this final account of the festival without thanking all the wonderful volunteers: the incredible Candy Sponhaltz; the indefatigable Earl and Laura Taylor; Kent Kinney and Jack for keeping the grounds clean; Mona Anacleto for all her donations to the raffle; stalwarts Stan Allen and Ann Munson, Barbara Grey, her charming family, and Jany and Annie Alvira for watching the gate; Bob Ratliff and his incredible backstage hospitality; Julie Broyles and Sandy for their wonderful stage decorations; emcees extraordinaires Annie Alvira, Steve Tilden, Brooks Judd, Rick Cornish, and Steve Allen; Terry Ramos for his immeasurable help on a multitude of technical issues, and Steve and Mary Tilden for keeping track of all the campers that arrived early. A special thank you is extended to Jerry Turner for donating his labor and wonderful Hobbs tee shirts to the Kids on Bluegrass and many of our volunteers. And how can I forget to thank Java Joe Machado, our coffee vendor, for chipping in and helping out with a host of things far beyond his role of entrepreneur. Of course, a million thanks to all our generous sponsors.

I’m supposing that I’ll receive a few e-mails reminding me of a few folks that I may have forgotten to mention. If so, I offer my apologies and most profound thanks. Kelly and I have received many e-mails and phone calls from people telling us how wonderful the festival was. The festival is nothing without a great audience of festival-goers. It truly was one of the most gratifying experiences of my life. While this festival is just barely in our rear view mirror, I can promise that Kelly and I are already at work trying to plan a festival that will be even better next year…I can hardly wait. Are we there yet?

Posted:  10/3/2010

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