It’s Christmas in September at IBMA

Chris JonesThis will be a very brief report from your IBMA World of Bluegrass correspondent (or one of them, anyway).

The reason this will be so brief will be obvious to anyone who’s ever attended this event. For those who haven’t, let me do my best to explain what this week is like:

For people who love bluegrass music, whether or not they have serious professional involvement in it, this week is like Bluegrass Christmas. It has a few things in common with the Christmas season, too: the enjoyment is sometimes intense, yet surprisingly fleeting, while the stress and expense involved in preparing for the enjoyment is always greater than you expected. This is true year after year, in spite of your promises to yourself to reduce the stress, concentrate on “what really matters,” and take time to “smell the roses,” or, in the case of the IBMA WOB, take time to smell the barbeque-in-a-parfait-glass. Still, you look forward to it with great anticipation in the same way every year, resigning yourself to paying the credit cards off in the following months.

As with the Christmas holidays, you get to reunite with people you love. You also reunite with a few people you were hoping had made other holiday plans this year. That’s all part of the experience.

Another thing this week has in common with the Christmas season is a kind of time-warp that is impossible to explain using the laws of science. You know how the holiday season goes by way too fast for adults, yet for children the days of anticipation drag on for what seems like an eternity? Or how Santa Claus can deliver toys to every child in the world in a single night, while still having time to eat cookies at each location? The IBMA WOB time warp is a little different, but no less mysterious: during this week, time disappears into some sort of bluegrass black hole, and no one can explain where it goes.

I spoke to one banjo player with a background in physics (most physics-oriented people are drawn to the banjo for some reason; we’ll explore that topic some other time, say in the very very distant future), who offered this explanation: “As people at the World of Bluegrass try to get from one event to another, they discover that the space of time required to accomplish this task becomes longer and longer as they get closer to the next event, until eventually they can’t ever reach the event at all. They find they can get infinitely closer to it, but the event itself is moving just a little further away in the space-time continuum with each step they take towards it.” This is horrifying to contemplate, because it means that at some point you could get trapped between a seminar and an important meeting you had with an exhibit hall vendor forever. 

Taking this factor into account, I need to sign off and head to my next important IBMA appointment, 19 hours from now. I’m thinking that if I leave right now, walk in a straight line, with a glazed expression on my face, I just might make it.

“Although it’s been said many times, many ways . . .”