Random bluegrass rules for 2018

This column may be shorter than some. This week I made an unplanned visit to see my uncle in Oregon, who recently managed to come back from the dead. He was on life support and when they went to take him off of it, he started breathing on his own, opened his eyes, and promptly asked for a beer. This is absolutely a true story. He’s the banjo player in the family. Interpret that as you wish.

Sometime last year I introduced a set of bluegrass rules that I hoped would lead to less debate than the rules we spend our precious time wrangling over now, like the ones about electric bass, drums, and clawhammer banjo (hey, I think I just formed a band).

I thought it was time for a few additions. Feel free to debate below. If I don’t have time to respond personally, just use this generic response: “I couldn’t disagree more.” 

Bluegrass Rules for 2018:

As with politicians, bluegrass musicians are always much less controversial after they’ve died. Perhaps Jimmy Martin should now be exempted from this rule.

The opening act will always run over their allotted set time (see last week’s column).

Pleading for votes for IBMA awards is like operating a chain saw or loud lawnmower: it’s annoying when other people do it, and perfectly reasonable and necessary when you’re doing it yourself.

Agents and artists who do their own booking agree: the gigs that pay the least require the greatest amount of time and effort to book.

Only in Switzerland will P.A. equipment be completely set up by sound check time.

Except in Switzerland, all sound check times are set with the assumption that the band will be late.

Because of the two rules above, sound checks are never on time. Except in Switzerland.

It’s socially acceptable in bluegrass music for a band to heap praise on itself during the show if it comes in the form of introducing the band members.

It’s socially acceptable in bluegrass music to make plugging band merchandise the primary focus of all stage patter.

With one or two exceptions (thank you, Frankfort Bluegrass Festival), almost no one buys CDs at free festivals.

A rule in reserve for 2021: with one or two exceptions, almost no one buys CDs.

The friends and family members who insist on paying for your CD are the same people who insist on paying admission to your percentage gig. Buy these people nice Christmas presents.

Bluegrass promotional material could be written by the same people who write bottled water descriptions.

With one or two exceptions (like Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock ’n’ Roll), bluegrass music is the only genre which produces songs about the genre itself.

You will sleep exactly the amount that you should at the IBMA World of Bluegrass.

You will get almost no sleep at the IBMA World of Bluegrass.

The executive director and staff members of the IBMA are not personally responsible for the trends in bluegrass music and are therefore unable to make changes in them upon your request. Try not to request those.

Any bluegrass band that has a bus but does not also have a diesel mechanic in the band is making approximately 40% less money than they should be.

Any bluegrass band that has a bus is a band that has somewhere to go when it’s 100 degrees at a bluegrass festival.