Really? I thought they had moved last year

Chris JonesGenerally, when I write these around the week of the IBMA World of Bluegrass, I like to keep them extremely short, to match the nights of sleep I’ve had, and the attention span I have as a result.

I guess that about does it, then. Please check back next Wednesday.

Seriously though, I did find a little time in between the Momentum Awards luncheon, and a seminar on finding DJs’ homes on Google Earth and using helicopters to drop CDs down their chimneys, to reflect for a few minutes on the first WOB in Raleigh.

I personally loved the new location for its facilities and numerous venues for concerts, and the enthusiasm of the host city and its residents was really gratifying. Not having my car broken into at the end of the week was also a plus. Let’s admit it: they had us at the statue of Sir Walter Raleigh playing the banjo.

I was easily able to meet the annual goals I set for myself at the WOB too: connect with some promoters, play a showcase, go to my constituency meeting, sleep less than 5 hours a night, and lose a different special award.

And, it was just fun catching up with old friends from around the world in a brand new place. When I asked where room 305B was, the usual answer was, “I was about to ask you the same thing.” We all shared the common bond of being lost.

This year I also found a new way to combat IBMA name-dropping, which can be a tiresome component of the World of Bluegrass experience, no matter where it’s held. For example, whenever anyone decided to drop Steve Martin’s name by just calling him “Steve” or “Stevie,” rather than ask “Steve who?” as I have in years past, I simply pretended they were referring to banjo maker and player Steve Huber, and responded accordingly. It made for some interesting conversations.

Still, it wouldn’t be the World of Bluegrass if we didn’t disagree, so there were dissenting voices too, and I thought it would be fair and worthwhile to share a few of the complaints I heard last week:

Some felt the bar atmosphere of the Bluegrass Ramble was inappropriate and noisy (for those who weren’t there, the after hours showcases were in the form of a bluegrass pub crawl); it seems they missed the quiet serenity of seeing bands performing in convention center seminar rooms under stark florescent light to under 15 people. Nashville showcases had more of a private concert atmosphere, and when talking through a band’s entire performance, it wasn’t necessary to shout.

The commitment to musical diversity in the Wide Open Bluegrass festival went too far. Many felt their ears just weren’t ready for Friday night’s lineup of James King, Tony Bennett, and Miley Cyrus (unplugged) performing back-to-back (though I have to say their trio on Mother’s Only Sleeping in the closing jam was outstanding).

This wasn’t specifically related to the new location, but I did hear some grumbling that the new Momentum Awards (introduced prior to this year) and an Emerging Artist award were redundant, and that what was really needed was a “Stagnation” or “Inertia” award, honoring those whose careers and industry contributions were most at a standstill or gradually heading downhill. Aren’t these the people most in need of recognition?

By the way, I did get a chance to talk to Steve on Saturday, and he said things were a little slow at the trade show at first (you know Steve; he’s such a card!), but they picked up on the last day. He also added that it was already much more successful for him than Nashville had been. I asked him to give my best to Heidi and the kids.

Finally, some disgruntled attendees I spoke to felt that the City of Raleigh was too welcoming; some felt smothered by all the attention. There was a longing for Nashville’s easy-going indifference to us.

In a related story, one Nashville tourism official, after being told that the IBMA had moved to another city this year, commented: “Really? I thought they had moved last year.”

  • Bill “Doc” Roberts

    Another fine article. I swear I heard the City of Louisville say the same thing a few years back.

  • Emory Shover

    The folks who don’t like the “bar” atmosphere are the same ones who park their $800,000 motorhomes, catch a stage show and go to bed at 10:00 p.m. then bitch because “some band” was jamming too close to their behemoth coach!
    PS – I have been to Raleigh many times and have friends there. I love this city! I have never had any interest in going to IBMA in Nashville (nothing personal against Music City), but now that it’s in Raleigh, my wife and I, my brother and his girl friend and possibly his son and wife are all planning on attending next year! GO RALEIGH!!

  • Dick Bowden

    Touched all the issues in a light hearted way Chris!

  • Alisha-Bear

    On a serious note, the under-aged fan base will suffer significantly from the new location of the after-hour showcases. Just something to keep in mind.

  • Herbie Beasley

    We certainly enjoyed hosting the IBMA and am already looking forward to next year. We (wife and I) only got to attend a couple of things this year but will be taking off the whole week next year if at all possible, to attend more than just WOB.

    Biggest shock of the week to us: Flatt Lonesome being in the freebie concerts on Saturday. Really? Those fine folks should’ve been in Red Hat Amphitheater with the big dogs IMO. But I’m glad they weren’t, because would couldn’t make it to that particular venue this time around due to other commitments. And they sounded great on Fayetteville Street and and I heard they killed it again over by the convention center later that evening.

    For those that are mad that it isn’t in Nashville for a few years – my apologies. I get the long and storied history of that town and The Ryman as a greatly historic venue in particular, but just know that a LOT of us North Carolinians are very happy that it’s here for a while and will treat it and its attendees as best we can.