This post is a contribution from Jim Gabehart, one of our 2010 IBMA correspondents. He will report all week about his experiences at IBMA as he tries to promote his new group, Jim & Valerie Gabehart. You can see his profile here.
Here I am again, at 3:30 central time, typing in a dark hotel room as my prima donna lead vocalist/wife (just kidding, honey) Valerie, is dreaming of sugar plums (or large bluegrass festival audiences).
This day was what we’ve been working toward for months – an opportunity to connect with, and be viewed as a serious and committed member of, the professional bluegrass community. We taped a radio interview and performance for broadcast on a syndicated show which airs on 60 stations across the country. We then began moving our booth materials down for setup, which was accomplished by the assistance of a helpful member of the Renaissance Hotel bell staff. We hung a 42” X 8’ photo banner which features a near life size photo of Valerie and me superimposed over a scenic West Virginia backdrop, and began arranging an array of CDs, T-shirts, publicity photos, performance schedule for the year, and promo packs which include a photo, business card, group member bios, and a listing of references and past engagements, all for the purpose of attracting attention, informing anyone who may be interested about us and what we do, and demonstrating that we’re organized, active, and eager to travel on a bigger scale with our music.
After the exhibit hall opened at noon, the greatest thing happened — people came. For nearly three hours, I hardly sat down for more than a minute. The traffic was much better than I expected (I had been told it would be “dead”), and before it slowed down in the late afternoon, around 4:00 p.m., Valerie and I had the pleasure of personally talking to, and placing our new CD in the hands of, more than a hundred bluegrass broadcasters, promoters, publishers, and other conference attendees. Many of them commented that they had “been hearing about” us, or had received an introductory email that we had sent last week, and most indicated that they would attempt to attend our after hours showcase tomorrow (tonight, I’m losing track of my days and nights). If even half of the persons who we spoke with actually come, our showcase room will be standing room only, a fantastic result for a new, relatively unknown group.
The icing on the cake was getting to meet (or get re-acquainted with) some of our favorite musicians like Jimmy Gaudreau (we met when a group I was playing with performed on a double bill in 1980 with Spectrum), Carl Jackson, Adam Steffey, and Ron Stewart. After our day in the Exhibit Hall, we jammed for several hours, out where we could be seen, of course, with our former bass player and current member of Quicksilver, Corey Hensley, and former Quicksilver member Carl White.
Capping off the evening (or actually morning), we spent some time on Sadie, Doyle’s bus, being entertained by the comedy stylings of Corey and Carl. If we did nothing else but pack up and go home right now, the experience has been positive and worthwhile, but we have two more full days of exhibiting, our showcase, which because of our work in preparing and promoting I really expect to be a big success, followed by four shows we have booked for this coming weekend which we’re looking for to performing.
Of course, all of the “self-promoting” and attention is for one purpose ultimately — to get performance opportunities (“work”). Notoriety for sake of our egos is not what we’re after. We love playing the music, and want to increase our opportunities to do so. Whether all this attention produces the desired result remains to be seen, but we’re certainly optimistic at this point. Good night, I mean morning — time to collapse.