Bluegrass Olympics in 2014?

Chris JonesAfter events of the past week, I’ve been asked numerous questions and have tried to respond to various rumors about my position with Bluegrass Today, and any possible changes to my schedule here. Unfortunately, the extremely restrictive contract I signed two years ago (my attorney, Archibald “The Pen” MacGowan was on vacation at the time) prevents me from commenting about anything at all related to Bluegrass Today, or its other well-known media outlets, Modern Bluegrass Drummer and their latest venture, Holistic Banjo Quarterly (HBQ). The company has even required me to seek permission before using the word “today” in any of my writing.

Given those circumstances, I have no comment on the matter whatsoever. If rumors continue to circulate, I can do nothing to stop them, and I take no responsibility for them.

The Winter Olympics have begun, and even people who have no idea what a “triple lutz” in figure skating is, or what it means to “bury the rock behind the corner guard to sit for second shot” in curling, get a little excited about winter sports for the next few weeks.

Several years ago, the IBMA, in a burst of competitive spirit, organized the “Bluegrass Triathlon” in which musicians would race each other in trying to complete the tasks of reading a station ID, singing the verse and chorus of a song (after setting up the microphone), and then changing a string. It was an ingenious idea.

The event quickly became dominated by the Swiss team, headed up by Jens Krüger. The doping accusations that followed were found to just be sour grapes on the part of the losers, however it was later revealed that the Krüger Brothers did prepare extensively for the competition at a hidden training camp in Yancey County, North Carolina.

I competed myself, and lost badly, after I chose a plodding version of Legend of the Rebel Soldier as my song, while everyone else was doing Kentucky Thunder – speed renditions of Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms. Jens had his string changed by the time I had gotten to “Oh parson tell me quickly . . .”

I think we need more events like this in which we can compete with each other in an amateur way. It would be a nice break from competing with each other professionally (in an amateur way).

Here are a few suggestions that might be considered by the IBMA, or by bluegrass festivals looking for new ways to over-schedule their performers:

The 5K Bass Haul: Upright bass players are forced to park in the far end of a festival parking lot (which occasionally happens in real life, when they encounter an overzealous parking volunteer) and haul their instrument all the way to the backstage area.

Winter Olympics/Jack Cooke Biathlon variation on the above: haul the bass 5 kilometers to the backstage area, carry the bass up a flight of stairs to the stage, then sing Let Me Rest at the End of My Journey.

The Banjo Shot Put: Exactly what it sounds like. I think this is the punch line to a joke that hasn’t been written yet.

The 60 Second Band Pitch: Competitors are given 60 seconds to pitch their band to an event producer over the phone, cramming as much information and selling points in as possible before being told they have the wrong number. Points given for creative hyping, and for understandable speech. Points deducted for breathing.

Synchronized Foot Stomping: A five-piece band will be judged on coordination, volume, and artistic expression, when stomping their feet to songs or tunes of their choice. There is a compulsory uptempo breakdown or song, and one slow song, e.g. Angel Band for more sensitive and/or reverent stomping.

The 3k Airport Sprint: A musician must race from gate A35 to gate E93 in a major airport to make a flight that is already boarding, dodging children, baggage carts, and people who are texting while walking, all while carrying two instruments (one of which must be a banjo) and a diva-sized suitcase.

I realize these are not specifically winter bluegrass sports, but many of the above events  can be done while wearing speed skates, cross country skis, or at least while wearing the loud pants favored by the Norwegian curling team.