Bluegrass Jamboree a hit in Germany

We had posted back in October about Bluegrass Jamboree, a package show that toured in Germany during the month of December. This was said to be the first such show of its kind, which included sets from Beverly Smith & Carl Jones, Toy Hearts and Steep Canyon Rangers.

The tour covered 15 cities in 16 days, in halls that held between 80 and 450 people. Promoter Rainer Zellner also served as master of ceremonies, and told us that the response from the audiences were universally enthusiastic, with no fewer than 4 encores at each stop.

It was an ambitious undertaking, not to mention risky, but Rainer said that it was worth the time and effort. I asked if he felt that the tour had been a success.

“It was a success that we did not loose money! To get such a project to tour over here, with a musical style that almost nobody very much has ever heard of, was a high financial risk of course. Thanks to some funding and grants (amongst others by the cultural department of the American consulates in Berlin and Munich) and an overwhelming support by print and radio media (some TV too), we broke even AND had a great time with a great group of people on our wonderful tour bus and very good stages throughout Germany with a stop in Switzerland. What more can you ask? We will definitely go on 2010 with the same concept and other artists.

Sponsoring by American companies connected to the Bluegrass and Acoustic music scene though is something we will have to achieve. So far, none of the players in Bluegrass world have shown interest in expanding to the market in Europe via this amazing live concept that shows what you can do with good instruments and accessories. Funding by IBMA has not yet worked out, but EBMA in Europe at least gave us some coverage within the scene. But there is no way we can make this a reasonable project without reaching audiences outside the bluegrass world. That is why we worked in concert halls, theaters and  art centers that draw audiences from all sorts of music.”

Zellner has brought US bands and artists to Germany for nearly 20 years, including shows and tours for Lynn Morris, Alison Krauss, Infamous Stringdusters, Crooked Still, Peter Rowan and many others. Uncle Earl is due over in May of 2010.

“This continuing work has given us credit with German media, both print and radio, which was of great help for this tour. To raise the profile of Bluegrass music we need high level writers and DJs – both of which we are very well connected to, but who would not support small bar or music club gigs – so we went one step higher. We had press announcements, band portraits, CD reviews, airplay, festival portraits and concert reviews in various national and local media.

The locations we chose needed to have a good standing with local media to promote the event and the style. All of this worked out well in many places.”

He is especially pleased that WDR3 radio in Germany will be doing a special 2 hour broadcast from Bluegrass Jamboree on January 17, featuring both live performances recorded on the tour and interviews with the artists.

“We will see in 2010 if all the promo we did for 2009 and the good shows we had ,will result in higher attendance figures, which we will need definitely.”

The itinerary and artists for the 2010 tour will be announced shortly. Photos and a tour blog from 2009 can be found online.

Here’s a video of the grand finale during the show in Offenburg on December 12.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.