Are you ready for World of Bluegrass?

The IBMA World of Bluegrass is fast approaching, and there are lots of things to consider when preparing for this sometimes overwhelming event. Do you have enough business cards? Do you have any business cards at all? Do you have any business?

In past years I’ve advocated different and often conflicting ways to prepare yourself, such as adhering to special diets, lowering your expectations for the week, raising expectations, etc. To be honest, none of this has ever worked very well for me. You’ve probably had a similar disappointing experience. I hereby disavow everything I’ve ever said on the subject. 

It has occurred to me that what is really needed is an IBMA “boot camp,” a truly rigorous program that attempts to simulate some of the more stressful and even dangerous aspects of the week. I would suggest that this program be made available to attendees on the Saturday before the start of the event on Tuesday, as a few days will be required to recover both physically and emotionally from the program.

Here is a suggested schedule and a description of some of the events (note: the IBMA will not be held responsible for any trauma, injury, or death, either physical or emotional, that may result from participation in this program):

5:30 a.m. – Boring early morning seminar survival: For three straight hours, bootcamp participants will be made to sit through a seminar about event insurance legal issues and effective web site code-writing, not necessarily in that order. From time to time, an assistant moderator will come around and jab any sleepy attendees with a cattle prod.

8:30-11:00 a.m. – Name-dropping endurance test: participants will be pinned to a wall in the Raleigh convention center, while someone they’ve never seen before will tell a seemingly endless story about his experiences with “J. D.,” “Earl,” “Rhonda,” “Alan,” “Larry,” “John,” “Barry,” and “Wilma Lee,” additionally talking about how broken up he was when “Red” died. Participants will be left to guess which “Red” that is.

11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. – DJ Blitz (for WOB participants in the broadcasters’ constituency) While attempting to walk across the room, bluegrass broadcasters will be stopped and handed CDs and promotional packages, and be subjected to a series of solicitations for airplay, growing gradually more intense as the two-hour session continues, culminating in the DJ being wrestled to the ground and shouted at by a bluegrass artist he or she has never heard of.

1:00 – 3:00 p.m. – Jam session: participants will play one song only for two straight hours, choosing only one of the following: Will the Circle Be Unbroken, (only two verses may be sung and repeated over and over) Sally Good’n, Wagon Wheel, Little Rock Getaway (played with three chords), or I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby.

3:00 – 6:00 p.m. – Failed attempts to meet friends and business associates: For three hours participants will attempt to round up a group of four people to meet, and then deal with the frustration of being unable to do so.

6:00 – 6:05 p.m. – Exhibit hall scramble: Realizing that the exhibit hall closes in five minutes, participants will run through the exhibit hall as quickly as possible with the goal of buying musical accessories, meeting with an agency, and trying out a banjo they’re interested in, all while politely avoiding conversations with old friends. No booths will be where they appear to be on the map.

6:15 – 7:15 p.m. – Simulated awards show and artist humiliation: Over a period of an hour, participants will take on the role of nominees and will watch as the awards are given out to everyone but them. In acceptance speeches (which will be longer than usual), the winners will acknowledge every other nominee but them.

7:15 p.m. – 5:30 a.m. – General lifestyle challenge: boot camp attendees will agree not to sleep, attempting to reach 24 sleepless hours. Fresh air and full meals will be avoided. Instead a diet will consist strictly of alcohol, coffee, M&Ms, Fritos (gluten free), and gummy bears. At 5:00 a.m., after being awake for 23.5 hours, each participant will have to answer complex questions about the Bill Monroe banjo player line of succession, recite all the words to The Ballad of Jed Clampett in Pig Latin, and scat-sing Fisher’s Hornpipe.

Those who complete the program will be fully prepared to face the World of Bluegrass Week with ease and poise, and they’ll feel grateful for the luxurious three to five hours of sleep they’re likely to get.