From The Side of the Road… Mr. Bluegrass Manners tells the truth

Mr. Bluegrass Manners has taken time away from his book tour promoting his new bestseller, Jam Session Offenses, Real and Simulated – Navigating bluegrass etiquette in the age of AI, to take the latest burning bluegrass questions from readers. 

As related before, Mr. Bluegrass Manners is too polite to use social media himself, so all questions were handled through my Facebook page, and he chose which ones to answer. He asked me to respectfully thank all who sent in questions, even those there wasn’t space to get to.

Dear Mr. Bluegrass Manners,

Does the Three Second Rule apply to a dropped pick? And what about a pick that falls into the guitar?

— Pick-less in Ohio

Dear Pick-less,

Well I would say the Three Second Rule does not apply in this case, since that rule is generally used to determine if items of food can be safely eaten off the floor, or, if not safely, at least eaten with a minimum of embarrassment. Eating picks is frowned on by most people in the medical and nutritional fields. Even though the Blue Chip is considered to be the richest in micronutrients among popular pick brands (the result of a very unusual research project at the University of Tennessee), it’s still not advisable to actually eat one. One Omaha man was even hospitalized for downing a TPR-50 on a jam session dare (he was paid $100 for the feat, but needed abdominal surgery, which later required a massive GoFundMe campaign).

As for picks falling into a guitar, if this takes place on stage during a performance, the accepted amount of time to try to extract it is 20 seconds. After that, it needs to be accompanied by some kind of entertaining dance routine while doing it. Even then, this should go on for 60 seconds, tops.

Just on a side note, the so-called Three Second Rule has no scientific basis and should only be applied when dining alone. In other words, pick up that dropped grilled cheese sandwich when absolutely no one is looking, and never speak of it or post a video of the incident to TikTok.

Dear Mr. Bluegrass Manners,

What is the proper response to someone who says, “loved your set!,” as you pass them getting on stage while you are exiting, when you’re pretty sure they were in the green room eating all the best cookies the whole time?

— Buttered Up in Kalamazoo County

Dear Buttered,

This is a question that deals with a fairly common form of insincerity among artists and musicians. It’s pretty harmless for the most part, except for the scarfing of the good cookies, but it still requires some form of response, which can feel a little awkward. Really, the most polite approach is to match insincerity with insincerity. This is also easy, fortunately, and just involves saying something like, “Thanks! Have a good show.” If you feel like engaging in some insincere one-upmanship, you can add, “Your new album is great!,” even if you’ve never heard it and aren’t even sure this artist has released anything in three years. If you don’t feel like going the dishonest route, though, just stick with the simple thanks. Remember that the hollow compliment of your show is motivated at least in part by a desire to be friendly and respectful, even if the truly respectful thing would have been to listen to at least part of one of your songs. The artist in question could always have just said nothing or even given you a glare that says, “You just ran five minutes over. Get off our stage!” Try not to use the moment as an occasion to challenge this person or expose the truth. “Ha! I doubt you even heard two notes of our show, you phony cookie hog!,” is the kind of reply that will just lead to bad relations between performers, unnecessarily. 

Dear Mr. Bluegrass Manners,

How many years can a sound crew use their multi-colored windsocks before cleaning them?

— Grossed Out in Nashville

Dear Grossed Out,

Sometimes one look at these road-worn windsocks makes the term “eat the microphone” pretty nauseating. I think the answer depends on some climate and travel environment factors, though. In a hot and humid place (like 90% of outdoor summer bluegrass events) there’s the danger of your colorful lime green windsock developing mold, sometimes within a week or two. A southwestern event can perhaps get away with a longer stretch between cleanings, though then you also have the issue of accumulated dust. That’s still less scary to sing a heartfelt Good Woman’s Love into than a microphone that appears to be growing a blueish fuzz.

Another factor is how these windsocks are transported from one show to another. Are they put in some sort of sealed travel case with the microphones? Or perhaps some special microphone windsock velvet bag with a golden drawstring? They could last months under those circumstances. On the other hand, if they’re just randomly thrown in a crate with a bunch of mic stands, or worse, just left to roll around in the dirty cab of the sound engineer’s truck, along with some empty Wendy’s boxes and the sound company’s Schnauzer mascot who might be sleeping on one of them, then a cleaning between every show would be called for (and we know that isn’t likely to be happening). 

Thanks for your questions.