The End of the World (of Bluegrass)

Greetings from Raleigh, NC. I can happily report that I’m sleep-deprived but still breathing, and I consider that a personal victory. Even better news: the world is still turning.

I mentioned last week that people seem to love (perhaps “hate less” would be more accurate) the subject of bluegrass haiku. Perhaps running a close second is any discussion of the end of the world as it relates to bluegrass music. Let’s face it: people can’t get enough of the bluegrass End Times, or “Grandfather’s Clockalypse,” as it’s sometimes called.

I’ve tackled this issue at least a few times in the past, and that’s only because just about every couple of years some preacher, radio host, or random dude predicts that “date X” is going to be The End. These prognosticators have about the same level of credibility as that guy who emails you hoping you’ll pass on your personal banking information so you’ll accept his deposit of unclaimed millions currently sitting in a west African bank. Still, enough people seem to fall for it to generate book sales, and they quickly work on getting their affairs in order (or they just have affairs), or they take up hang gliding.

I return to this topic once again because the latest such prediction of doom called for the world to end last Saturday, September 23rd. This isn’t the first time an apocalyptic prediction like this has fallen around the time of the IBMA World of Bluegrass, and as a supporter of the IBMA and its event, I resent it. It’s clearly a depressor of trade show and awards show sales. Most people, when they think the earth is doomed just three days before a costly convention, will opt to get their money back, cancel the trip, and spend quality time with those they love. After all, in spite of its array of benefits, one thing the IBMA World of Bluegrass isn’t known for is the opportunity to spend quality time with anyone, let alone loved ones. The empty phrase, “let’s get together this week” is usually as far as it goes. Others, upon hearing the world is set to expire in late September, opt to do something adventurous like ride on top of a cross-country train, go snorkeling in Lake Erie, or play Sally Good’n in B flat. Apparently they don’t care as much about their loved ones.

By the time last Sunday had arrived and we all seemed to still be here, most people were not in a position to change plans again and make the trip to Raleigh on short notice. I think there’s no question that September eschatology is bad for our industry (this entire column was a flimsy excuse to work that word in — it means the study of end times, or possibly the study of feces, unless that’s “scatology”; at the moment I’m not 100% sure).

I don’t need to rehash the signs that this September 23rd it really was going to be The End. They tend to be the same every time: “It’s clear the world is ending because we’ve had bad hurricanes, earthquakes, a solar eclipse, and a few key countries are being run by madmen. Also, the Middle East is a mess.” Gee, those things have never happened before. This time, there was a new planet that was going to obliterate us, too, and that’s not particularly new either.

In future years (because apparently there are still going to be a few of those) can we all just relax and hold on to our World of Bluegrass event tickets? On the other hand, if you decide you want to give up your Marriott hotel room on the non-jamming floor, please let me know.

In closing, I’d like to reprint a little parody song I wrote the last time the world didn’t end right before the IBMA World of Bluegrass. It’s sung to the tune of the Skeeter Davis hit The End of the World:

The End of the World (of Bluegrass)

Why does the band go on playing?
Why does this showcase drag on?
Don’t they know it’s the end of the world?
By now I thought we’d all be gone

Why are they still out there schmoozing?
Why do they give out awards?
Don’t they know it’s the end of the world?
A gig fair won’t help us anymore

I woke up at 11:00 with a headache
And the World of Bluegrass still is here it seems
I can’t understand, but mostly I’m tired
I’ll hit the snooze, perhaps it’s all a dream

Why does that fiddle keep screeching?
Is this not a non-jamming floor?
It may be the end of the world
But I’ve still got a seminar at 4:00