This “power of bluegrass story” comes from Kimberly Williams, bluegrass publicist to the stars, about what she saw during this past weekend’s Bluegrass On The Plains festival. Or should we say, a “no power of bluegrass story?”
On Friday, June 3rd, the large crowd at Bluegrass On The Plains in Auburn, Alabama was patiently waiting with great anticipation, the performance of arguably one of the most talked about bands in bluegrass – the Earls of Leicester. They were scheduled to close the day’s stage performances with one long show that night.
About 30 minutes prior to the band’s scheduled performance, Mathan Holt, promoter of Bluegrass On The Plains, noticed a transformer near the stage was smoking. He immediately called the power company who sent someone out. Upon arrival, the electrician told Mathan the transformer must be turned off immediately.
Balsam Range was finishing up their set with only two songs left to perform. Knowing that he had a spectacular fireworks display already scheduled immediately following Balsam Range and prior to the Earls of Leicester, Mathan convinced the electrician to hold off for just 10 more minutes to coordinate the turning off of the power with the kickoff of the fireworks. Thankfully, the electrician agreed.
The audience had absolutely no idea that any of this was taking place so when the power went off and the fireworks started, it all appeared to be part of the show! The power company immediately went to work replacing the transformer but unfortunately, were unable to get it fixed in time for the Earls of Leicester’s show. After a few minutes of delay, the band decided to move down to the concrete pad directly in front of the audience where they began their performance without any lights and without any sound.
Jerry Douglas said that it was a quick, spur-of-the-moment call.
“We were really looking forward to playing to a great crowd of people the other night in Auburn. Just as our show was to begin, a transformer that powered all the lights and stage failed. As everybody wondered what we should do, Camp said to me, ‘why don’t we just play a couple of tunes down front without the system?’ I agreed with him completely. So down front we went with the help of some flash lights and cell phone lights, and we did what ended up being a whole show.
I think we enjoyed it just as much as if we had a perfect stage to perform on. I apologize to those too far back to hear us clearly, in a perfect world, these things wouldn’t happen. But this one just isn’t perfect. We are acoustic musicians so we were able to do this. Good idea Camp! The show must go on.”
What one might think would be a disaster, turned out to be one of the most magical nights I’ve seen in bluegrass music in a very long time. The audience of a couple thousand gathered in close and a few of us used the flashlight feature on our cell phones to illuminate the band. Blake Williams, who was the MC for the festival, said it was almost as if the ghosts of Flatt & Scruggs were performing. It was unbelievable!! And the crowd was eating it up!! The band seemed to be having a great time, too. They were very relaxed and jovial while delivering some of the most amazing music our genre has heard in years.
About 30 minutes into their set, the power company had fixed the transformer and had the stage power up and running! But the Earls of Leicester and the crowd were having such an amazing time, that Jerry decided the band would stay where they were. So with that decision, one microphone was placed in front of the band and a few floor lights were brought down front. The audience cheered and were entertained like never before. It was truly a night none of us who were blessed to be there, will ever forget!