World of Bluegrass 2021 has, through Wednesday, elicited a mixture of emotions and responses. In the main, the fact that the organization has managed to hold a convention this year in the face of steady headwinds is remarkable, and they deserve credit for pulling it off. But it is also true that attendance is dramatically lower than 2019 and earlier years, with many of the most defining and enjoyable aspects missing this time around.
Seeing both seminar participants and entertainers piped in virtually demonstrates the versatility and immediateness of modern digital communication, but it allows for neither the intensity of being in the room where music is happening, nor allows the performers to connect with an audience as best befits their status as selected showcase acts. One supposes that it does beat not participating at all, but having witnessed the success showcase artists have achieved in the past from their presence at WOB, those “phoning it in” are at a disadvantage. And unsurprisingly, those who are here in person are reaping the benefits.
Speaking mostly for myself, though I have heard this sentiment shared by many others, the closing off of late night unofficial showcases in the Marriott meeting rooms is a huge loss. These “low-fi” sets offered a great chance to find bands and artists just below the national radar, but completely worthy of note. It also diminishes the experience for those not interested in heading out from the hotel-convention center nexus at the heart of the event to see sponsored showcases at area watering holes.
Again, this beats not getting together at all as an industry, but conversations seem largely centered on who’s not here, and why they couldn’t or didn’t make it.
Bill Reaves did venture out last night, to The Pour Hose, where he captured images of several performers there.