We have an annual(ish) tradition here, which is to compile some of bluegrass music’s most uninteresting stories of the past year, after which I try to narrow them down to five that really stand out as yawn-inducers.
Why do we do this, you might justifiably ask? Well, just speaking personally, I take comfort in these dreary news items. We get enough drama between legitimate news stories about downed spy balloons, mass-shootings, and foreign wars, not to mention Facebook and YouTube conspiracy theories that have us all convinced we’re either going to die in six weeks, or be snatched away by government agents in the night and made to work as slaves in secret nickel mines (because we all know what they’re using that nickel for). For me it’s a welcome breath of fresh, if slightly stagnant air to read about a band I’ve never heard of breaking up, or the unorthodox string-changing methods of a woman in Indiana.
It’s a welcome respite from the noise of our news-obsessed culture to comb through various stories from the world of bluegrass, some of which appeared right here in Bluegrass Today, others from the monthly newsletters of various regional bluegrass organizations like the Bluegrass Organization of Utah, Northern Colorado and Environs (BOUNCE).
Here, then, are my picks for the Top Five Boring Stories of 2022. You might want to grab a cup of strong coffee before reading on. I’ve categorized each one for your indexing pleasure:
The recurring event:
Bluegrass Fan Unhappy With Super Bowl Halftime Show:
Clyde Harbinger of Swink, Oklahoma expressed his outrage at the “garbage they call entertainment,” describing this year’s Super Bowl Halftime show. “Leanna, or whatever her name is, looked like she was wearing a sleeping bag or something,” Harbinger said, adding that “they should dispense with all that hype and floating stages and just hire a good bluegrass band to get up there and pick and sing for 20 minutes. People would love it. My band’s available and we’d probably save them a ton of money in the process. Maybe lower those ticket prices.” Mr. Harbinger also wasn’t that keen on the performance of the national anthem. He has posted about this on Facebook.
The personnel change involving the musician we’ve never heard of leaving the band we’ve never heard of:
Dustin Caliber Departs Wystful Wynd:
Dustin Caliber, a three-year veteran of the Wisconsin bluegrass quintet Wystul Wynd has announced his intention to leave the group. The band has held down a weekly show at a Waukesha bar and restaurant, Thirsty Charlie’s, since 2017 and has just released their third CD, Bluegrass Our Way. “I just wanted to spend more time at home with my family,” said Caliber, whose departure surprised his fellow band members and a lot of their fans. He lives alone with his two dogs he named Reno and Smiley.
Stories About Fundraising:
Benefit Concert Planned For Benefit Concert
The annual indoor festival, A Roof Over Their Heads, has been an important fundraising event which provides needed assistance for those with no affordable lodging during the week of the IBMA World of Bluegrass in Raleigh. The past year’s multi-artist concert was less successful than hoped for, however, due to rain, which can be devastating to an indoor festival. For that reason, a benefit concert has been scheduled to help get the fundraiser back in the black. “Several top bands are performing for much less than their usual fee,” said festival producer Arnie Eckhart, “which they do for our regular festival, too. We appreciate that so much, as do the homeless musicians and fans every year in Raleigh.” The benefit show will be held next week. So far, the forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with some scattered showers.
Non-events, part 78:
Bluegrass Band Sells Out House Concert
The progressive bluegrass ensemble Fraught Okra recently had a packed house at the Washington State concert series called Connie and Bob’s House. “It was standing room only for sure,” beamed bandleader Jacob Holz, as the concert’s 12 chairs and three couches were quickly filled by the band’s dedicated following. According to their Instagram post, the band “rocked a full house!” Both Connie and Bob expressed a desire to have the group back.
The incredibly obvious trend:
CD Sales Continue to be Down, Industry Experts Say (note, this has made our list in another form before, making it that much more boring):
Fewer people are purchasing CDs these days, according to Laura Kramer, owner of the Grassfed label group. “It may be because people don’t have CD players anymore, or because of the ready availability of music that’s virtually free,” theorizes Kramer, “but we see this as a longterm trend.” “We still put them out there,” said one prominent bluegrass artist, “but it just doesn’t seem like we’re selling many of them. Things are changing.” He adds, “We still like to talk them up during our shows, though, because what else are we going to say between songs?”