Looking back at World of Bluegrass 2016

Chris JonesThe IBMA World of Bluegrass is now in the books (amazing that more than one book chronicles the history of bluegrass trade organization events), and now we can look back on it and take stock, or at least try to remember one or two things that happened.

It’s a bluegrass tradition that after every World of Bluegrass, well-meaning World of Bluegrass attendees offer lots of specific recommendations for how everything could be done much better than it currently is, from showcases, to seminars, to awards presentations.

I’ve paid closer attention than usual to these suggestions, and I thought I’d list some of those that stood out from the usual run-of-the-mill admonishments, complaints, and threats to cancel membership. They’re reprinted below with little or no editing, and with little or no permission. The IBMA staff and board of directors would do well to take heed, after all other pressing issues have been dealt with, that is (pressing issue #1: ignore all recommendations below).

Next year’s IBMA World of Bluegrass would be greatly improved, if only the following measures were taken:

  • Bring in real celebrities to host the IBMA awards. Top suggestions: Lady Gaga, and “the spiky-haired guy who samples all that diner food on TV.”
  • Require all paid attendees to watch every official showcase and the keynote speech. Anyone attempting to leave early should be poked at the door with a cattle prod.
  • Just for a change of pace, someone should deliver a keynote address with the message that bluegrass should have as rigid and narrow a definition as possible, and that anyone who disagrees should start their own organization. Or, just bring the Cracker Barrel guy back.
  • All new IBMA Board members and the board chair should be elected by a voice vote by whoever is in the room during the Town Hall meeting, which should be scheduled at 1:00 a.m. on Thursday and held in the CBA suite on the third floor of the Marriott.
  • There should be more film and other multimedia elements in the Hall of Fame inductions. Use of strobe lights and interpretive dance would help, too.
  • The pace of Hall of Fame inductions should be accelerated so that we admit 25 new people into the Hall of Fame each year. Very quickly, everyone connected to bluegrass music will be in the Hall of Fame, so then in future years, two inductees per year can be kicked out.
  • To streamline the IBMA awards show, especially with 25 Hall of Fame inductees, all awards except Dobro Player of the Year should be given out during the luncheon earlier in the day, with the winners announced (hurriedly) during the nighttime show.
  • For those who would rather not walk from showcase to showcase during the Bluegrass Ramble, the IBMA should provide a scooter, horse, or burro to anyone requesting one for transportation.
  • Alternate suggestion: eliminate the Bluegrass Ramble completely and have all after-hours showcases take place in the same room of the Raleigh convention center simultaneously.
  • Open the event on Monday with the mayor of Raleigh and the governor of North Carolina singing the Louvin Brothers’ You’re Running Wild together.
  • Make all the hotels free.
  • Make all the drinks free.
  • Hold the event in Cozumel.

Counting on even 20% of these measures being put into practice is probably unrealistic, but we can dare to dream, can’t we? I’d be happy with a few burros.