No answers here, or El Presidente’s brain

Chris JonesThe IBMA World of Bluegrass is fast approaching, and if you’re planning to attend, you probably still have plenty of questions you may be asking yourself.

Let me just say up front that I have no informed answers to give, unless your question is “where is Raleigh?”. All I have is more questions (big help, I know). You would think that since I travel down the highways with the Chairman of the Board of the IBMA (Jon “El Presidente” Weisberger and I play in the same band), I would be able to extract a little inside information. No such luck. The man is a walking information vault. I’ve attempted to listen in on his side of conversations while pretending to listen to my iPod, but I don’t get much from that, especially since all IBMA board members speak to each other in a special code that’s similar (but not similar enough) to Pig Latin.

In the end, all I really know is that the IBMA WOB will in fact be held in Raleigh, NC (I feel pretty confident about this one), there are some seminars and things starting Tuesday, an awards show on Thursday, and a big music festival on the weekend.

When it comes to most general information about the WOB, if people feel uninformed at this point, it’s most likely their own fault (I’m guilty as charged), because so much of it is covered on the IBMA’s web site and in IBMA emails.

Being uninformed sometimes leads, sadly, to people just speculating or making up their own information. This “information” then makes the rounds, prefaced by phrases like, “I heard that . . .” or “people are saying that . . .”

So, while I may not know that many details about the coming festivities (I plan to study up this week), I do know that some of the things that “people are saying” about this year’s WOB are simply untrue, so before we move on, let’s dispel a few rumors.

The following statements about the 2014 IBMA World of Bluegrass are completely false:

  • The IBMA has sold the corporate naming rights to the trade show, and the organization itself, to a prominent agricultural chemical company, so we are now supposed to refer to it as the “Monsanto IBMA World of Bluegrass,” or “Mib-ma-wob.”
  • In response to complaints about the “pub crawl” format of showcase venues, forcing attendees to walk from bar to bar last year in the Bluegrass Ramble, WOB attendees are being given the option to rent scooters this year. Those that prefer not to will be required to actually crawl from pub to pub, thereby eliminating the need for anyone to walk.
  • There will be very little real bluegrass featured at the Wide Open Bluegrass Festival this year, with the headliners being Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne (joined by special guest Sonny Osborne).
  • In order to keep the IBMA Awards show from running overtime, all the awards for individual instruments, Gospel recording, and emerging artist will be given out at a special “Awards Breakfast” held Thursday morning from 6:00 a.m. to 7:30 (you’re asked to be in your seats by 5:30 a.m.).

Again, these are nothing but rumors and have no basis in fact.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, I still have some general questions about what will be happening at this year’s WOB. Some questions are my own, some were asked of me by people mistakenly thinking that I knew something:

Will Raleigh maintain the same enthusiasm it had for us in the first year? We were all impressed last year with the contrast between the City of Raleigh’s welcome and the one we were getting in Nashville. Nashville’s welcome could be summed up this way: “IBMA? Oh, was that this week?” Raleigh, on the other hand, actually made us feel like we were important to their city. It went way beyond slinging a banjo over a statue of Sir Walter Raleigh, though that was a nice touch.

Now that the IBMA has renewed its agreement with Raleigh for the next few years, though, will we start to be taken for granted? This second year should be a good indicator.

Will there be significant—or even modest—growth in numbers for this year’s WOB? Last year, a certain number of people said they were going to take a “wait and see” attitude before making the trip to Raleigh. Will those people make the commitment this year after the glowing reports about 2013? Or was the “wait and see” attitude just a standard excuse they use to avoid going to events in general, like bluegrass festivals, weddings, funerals, or doctor’s appointments?

Will people really listen to showcases and the keynote address this year, or just mistake them for another networking or socializing opportunity, as has sometimes happened in years past?

Every touring artist and talent agent’s question: will more talent buyers attend the 2014 WOB, and will they attend showcases?

And now, the really important question, will the catering be as good as it was last year? The special awards luncheon food was outstanding, as were the keynote address hors d’oeuvres. That’s really what I come to the IBMA World of Bluegrass for: the snacks.

Unlike this week’s pass-the-buck, answer-free column, I’ll be spending part of the coming week (20 minutes) consulting trade show etiquette experts who will help provide some actual answers to questions like “how long should I let someone talk to me before it’s okay to interrupt them?” and “how do I address someone whose name I don’t remember if their name tag is turned around?”

Stay tuned, and start packing those bags for Raleigh (a city in the eastern part of North Carolina, which is the state just north of South Carolina).