Sunday, October 6, 2013

IBMA…I Been Mostly Awake! 2013

When I was a kid my Nana, who lived to be 88 years old, would say: “The older you get the faster time goes.”  I think I must be getting older because time is not slowing down.

We have been traveling a good bit lately so the work shop has been pretty quiet.  The Stelling banjo project is completed and Lonnie is very pleased.  So much so he purchased a new blue chip thumb pick to keep permanently in the case.  The banjo is 100% set up and ready to go.  Now he has a choice to play his very bright, treble Stanleytone or the bassier, warm, woody sound of the Stelling.  Choices are good.

We recently returned home from the International Bluegrass Music Association week long convention in Raleigh, NC.  We have wanted to attend this event for many years but could not get enough time off work to make the 13 hour drive to Nashville.  This year the event relocated to Raleigh, NC and provided an easy 6 hour drive that was manageable after a full days work. 

Our travels were exceptional as we had no traffic around Washington, DC which has NEVER happen before.  Driving straight through after work put us at the host Marriott Hotel just after midnight.  We checked into our room with out any problems.  By 2:00 am we were sitting outside enjoying a cold beer and watching folks stroll in from the Bluegrass Ramble.  The Ramble was a new attraction this year.  It was $150 for a five night pass to “ramble around” to six different venues (dive bars) to watch your favorite bluegrass performers in a small setting.  We chose not to buy the pass as we are not much for a bar scene for bluegrass and we are not city savvy.  Rambling around at 2:00 am in a large downtown city was something we did not feel comfortable doing.  After making the “ramble walk” in the day light we were happy with our decision…a city is still a city, not something we necessarily enjoy.

As we were sitting outside enjoying a cold beer in strolls (ramble) our old friend Dave Gooding from the California Bluegrass Association.  Dave is a wonderful person and the owner of our number one child (bass) named Mollykay.  Dave purchased the 1943 Kay M-1 bass from us over 6 years ago and is still sings her praises.  He loves that bass and I am so pleased that she remains in his care today.  Dave plays his Kay bass frequently with his band The Central Valley Boys of California.  After talking with Dave other bluegrass notables began to ramble into the hotel…Bela Fleck, Nomi Pikelny and others.  It was good bluegrass star gazing at this early hour.

Lonnie standing with the iconic IBMA statue of Sir Walter Raleigh...with a banjo.  Note the matching beards. 

The next two days were slow for us as we expected more jamming around the hotel.  By Thursday afternoon the hotel exploded with activity.  The big IBMA awards show was Thursday evening the crowd was beginning to swell in lobby of the hotel.  A jam formed outside the hotel by the Starbucks.  It was a small group with three outstanding younger players.  The young (tween) fiddle player in orange pants was just as cute as a button and I complimented him on his fashion sense.  After a few songs I gave Lonnie the wink to go fetch my bass…I think I can hang with this group.  We played a few unfamiliar songs and pretty much I was NOT able to hang very well but they politely tolerated my bass playing anyway.  As the crowd began to build and the IBMA award show attendees paraded down the sidewalk in their finest attire, who do I see…none other then your 2013 Bass Player of the year Barry Bales…and there I am playing bass.  Kind of a cool moment.  We saw Jason Carter and Ronnie McCoury from the Del McCoury band and many, many others bluegrass performers. 

As the jam ended after a few songs everyone says good bye and we parted ways.  I never found my groove in this jam, lots of good music, but stuff I was not familiar with.   After the jam was over I heard the three young players talking and much to my surprise I had just been playing bass with the Sleepy Man Banjo brothers…who knew!

Sleepy Man banjo player, Jonny 

The Moore Brothers with the Sleepy Man Banjo Boys and others

As the evening progressed we tried to watch the IBMA award show streaming live on our smart phone but kept losing the connection.  We decided listen to the award show on Sirius radio setting in the van, inside the parking garage.  It felt like Saturday night on the Grand Ole Opry as we stared at the radio listening to the award show.  One of the highlights (in addition to Tony Rice speaking) for us was hearing Mike Munford named as the 2013 Banjo player of the years.  We squealed and hollered like two little kids.  One of our home town boys has been recognized after 40 years of banjo playing.  Another moment was Tom Adams won for Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year: “Foggy Mountain Rock;” by Tom Adams, DanTyminski, Ron Stewart, Dennis Crouch, Clay Hess and Randy Kohrs.  Marshall Wilborn accepted the award on Tom’s behalf and gave his acceptance speech.  Just a week prior we had talked with Tom and knew that he could not be in attendance for the awards show.  In his words, IBMA was too cost prohibitive…agreed; it is an expensive event to attend.

Thursday evening after the awards show the hotel filled with jams.  There was jamming everywhere…this is what we expected.  This is the IBMA.  One of our bluegrass friends from the northeast found us hanging in a hallway watching some young’ins jam.  (Boy!  How do they get this good, this young.)  When our friend Rick saw us he told me they needed a bass player for the young all star jammers around the corner.  I handed over my bass and watched him walk out of view.  Later we went around the corner and found the Bluegrass All Star kids jam group.  Rick’s son Korey was nominated to participate in this group which got to perform at the awards show.  Huge honor for Korey, Daddy Rick was beyond proud of his son.  Rick played bass and the kids gave him a good work out by hanging in the key of B for several songs.

Kids Bluegrass All Stars, Owen and Samantha Snyder bottom left.  Korey on guitar and Dad Rick on bass.

Hanging in the key of B song after song...nice!

Kids Bluegrass All Stars on Saturday for the BBQ festival cook off.  Dave Gooding's sons on bass and mandolin.  The blond bass belongs to Dave Morris.  It is his beautiful Kay S-9 that we repaired last year right before the IBMA's.  The bass was very popular with  the kids.  Note the two Engelhardt's in the background that did not get played.

By now night has turned into early morning.  We thought we were done jamming for the evening and heading back through the lobby. Who arrives but our three young friends from western North Carolina. I love these kids, three nice young men (all around 18 years old) who are outstanding musician but even nicer young men. Jacob Jones on banjo (Raymond Fairchild protégé), Will Howell on guitar and mandolin and Mike Morgan on guitar. Their band is called Lonesome Sound. 

The guys were just arriving from their 5 hour drive and were primed to jam. They ended up in a hot jam in the business conference center, the bass player told me to jump into the jam, he was done for the evening. By this time it was 1:00 am…Lonnie gave me that look like we need to get some sleep but I begged like a 2 year old that did not want to go to bed. Me and my bass jumped into the jam and OMG…what fun! They just tore it up and played me out. My eyes did not close until 4:00 am. We had players rotate in and out of the jam. At one point the mandolin player for “The Roy's” jumped in for a few songs.

Friday was pretty much a repeat of Thursday with jamming and great music.  We were able to track down the very busy Dave Morris, Bluegrass Today reporter by looking for his neon hi-top sneakers. We had a short visit with him and then on to the expo where “Big Mike” Ramsey picked us out from the crowd. What a delight to meet him in person after so many years. A gentleman in every way. We talked about basses and his multi talented son Aaron Ramsey of Mountain Heart. 

Candy store...Eldery Music had a grand display of fine vintage instruments

I'll take this one...1935 Martin D-18, $45,000.  A vintage bass is a bargain compared to a guitar!

The best set of music we heard was Friday night at the Red Hat Theater of the Del McCoury set followed by the all star jam of DEL, SAM, BELA, JERRY, TONY, Jason Carter and Mark Schatz. The outdoor venue was very nice, very large and VERY full of patrons.  Raleigh had great participation of music lovers other then the normal bluegrass crowd.

Del singing his heart out.  He sounded awesome!

By Saturday we were getting our fill of music, jamming and sleep deprivation  We skipped the last two sets of music at the Red Hat outdoor theater so we could listen to the jams at the hotel.  Saturday night was definitely the last BIG bang before it was all over.  We found our friends from NC and listen to them jam by the fourth floor elevator until 3:00 am.  It was AWESOME.  I love my bluegrass live, up close, acoustics and with drive.  This jam group was all that and more.  A really great end to a great week of music, friends and good weather.

It’s truly is a need to pace yourself. I now fully understand what IBMA means...I Been Mostly Awake. 

Sunset from the 16th floor over looking the IBMA convention was a good day!


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