The return home from the IBMA World of Bluegrass can be challenging, and it affects different people in different ways. Some feel a great sense of relief that they can go back to a normal routine, which may include getting to bed before 5:30 a.m. and eating something other than hospitality suite chips and salsa. Others, though, feel that sad, empty, last-day-of-summer-camp sort of feeling, as they go back to a life filled with people who laugh at them when they explain reverently that there’s a song they really like called The Little Girl and the Dreadful Snake. In other words, they’re back to being stuck with people who just don’t get it.
If you’re a professional musician who attended the IBMA World of Bluegrass, there’s no such thing as a normal routine, so there isn’t much lifestyle adaptation involved. Still, there can be a feeling of withdrawal as you say goodbye to people you may only see once a year, and you have to adjust to the end of what seemed like five straight days of round-the-clock self-promotion (and I say “round-the-clock” because some attendees were still promoting themselves while they slept, mumbling phrases like, “do you have our latest release?” while tossing and turning in their Raleigh hotel room).
What’s the best strategy for “coming down” from this kind of intense, bluegrass-saturated experience?
Usually there are two distinct approaches: one is the gradual reentry method. Using this strategy, you start sleeping a little more every night, eating at least one normal meal a day, and playing Cherokee Shuffle only 12 times through, instead of the 35 times you did on Thursday night at the Marriott. If you’re a songwriter, you pitch your songs to fewer people every day, until you eventually go an entire day without thrusting your songs on a single human being. In about ten days, you should be back to the lifestyle you were used to before you arrived in Raleigh.
I prefer the alternative coming-down method, which is the strict, cold turkey, cold shower, total abstinence, 7-day fast kind of approach. Here’s what 24 hours of that reentry system might look like:
7:00 a.m. – Get up, work out for 30 minutes, eat a healthy breakfast, high in fiber and low in leftover Domino’s pizza.
8:00 a.m. – Shower and dress, not caring at all who will see you or what kind of impression you’ll make. An appropriate choice might be sweatpants and a grease-stained Blake Shelton T-shirt.
9:00 a.m. – Listen to your iPod with a mix of music heavy on Frank Zappa, Franz Liszt, and Cardi B.
10:00 – Hand business cards out to no one.
11:00 – Drink some tea, and watch a football game between two colleges you’ve never heard of.
12:00 – Have lunch by yourself, while no one presents awards to anyone for anything.
1:00 – Take a nap to supplement the nine hours of sleep you got the night before.
2:00 – Go to the post office, run into someone you haven’t seen for a while; don’t stop to talk.
3:00 – Listen to a “lite rock” radio station that urges you to listen to them “at home, at work, and in the car.” They’ve just played a song by America with a lot of major 7th chords in it.
4:00 – Someone calls, interested in booking your band for an event next year. You reply, “whatever.”
5:00 – Open up your desk calendar, stare blankly at it, attempt a rough drawing of a horse on the June page, then close it again.
6:00 – Eat something freakishly healthy, like a turnip sautéed in coconut oil.
7:00 – Walk a mile outside, stopping for nothing and encountering no one.
8:00 – Field a phone call from someone asking if you have any songs you want to pitch to them. You reply, “not really.”
9:00 – Have a non-alcoholic beverage and go to bed early.
Note: this is not a program for the faint of heart. if sweating and/or fits of trembling occur and last more than four hours, eat one cube of room temperature cheese, drink one shot of moonshine from a questionable source, and listen to the original 1947 recording of Bill Monroe’s It’s Mighty Dark to Travel.