August 17-19 brings the 10th anniversary of the Summergrass Bluegrass Festival to San Diego. Check out the cover story on pages 8-9 for all the details. Here are my personal tips for having the best time possible at Summergrass:
2. Get your tickets in advance and save $$ off the gate price. Get your tickets here: www.summergrass.net.
3. Take your instrument – there will be lots of informal jamming opportunities you can join whatever your level of skill or experience. Follow these simple rules:
(1) Listen first. If the jam seems appropriate to your level then ask, “May I join you?” Unless you have stumbled upon a band practicing for a stage performance the answer will be yes.
(2) Tune your instrument beforehand.
(3) Join the circle playing rhythm, and be prepared to play a solo or to “pass” when the tune comes around to you. If you are going to pass let the person next to you know in advance so they can be prepared.
(4) Think in advance of a tune you can play and or sing confidently, which is not too complicated, and be prepared to call this tune when it comes your turn, or to pass.
(5) Remember, one bass per jam is the rule, but multiples of other instruments are welcome if played tastefully.
(6) Don’t play too loud! A simple rule is: if you can’t hear the lead, then you are playing or singing too loudly.
4. If you are not an experienced bluegrass jammer, plan to attend the Jamming 101 seminar taught by Sid Lewis. It’s free, offered each day. It’s a great experience.
5. If you have an RV, consider spending the weekend in the campground. You’ll be sure to meet lots of great new people and will maximize your jamming and listening opportunities.
6. Take a folding chair and set it up in the main stage viewing area when you arrive. Leave it there for the festival. The festival rule is that anyone may sit in any chair that is empty, but when you return to your chair it is yours. Look for a spot under the “green jelly fish” (the parachute shade structure) if you want shade. There are no bad seats at Summergrass. If you do not have a chair, or if you forget your chair and don’t want to sit on the lawn, there are bleachers in the back that have some shade and provide a comfortable viewing experience.
7. A wonderful breakfast is served every morning in one of the on-site buildings at a great price. Don’t miss it. There’s also other food on site, including barbecue, Mexican, hamburgers, and the like.
8. Take a hat and sunscreen, and if you’re there in the evening, mosquito repellent is a good idea, especially in the main campground.
9. Visit the many interesting exhibits, including the working blacksmith shop, the historic schoolhouse, grist mill, model railroad, and other artifacts of the past. Especially if there are those in your party not that interested in the music, these artifacts and exhibits may keep these folks happy while you enjoy jamming or a stage performance. There are also daily tours of the adjacent historic Adobe for those who might prefer this to listening to bluegrass.
10. Consider signing up for the Adult Boot Camp for a chance to experience some intensive training from top professionals. The boot camp is targeted at adults who are intermediate players or better and offers four hours of instruction on Friday and one optional hour on Saturday. Learn more here: http://summergrass.org/boot-camp.htm.
11. If you have kids, or grandkids, or know someone who does, consider enrolling them in the Summergrass Kids Camp. Learn more here: http://summergrass.org/kids-camp.htm.
12. Pick up a program when you enter the festival and look to see when and where free workshops are held. If you are a musician they can put you in close contact with some of the top performing musicians in an informal instructional setting. Look also for the “meet the band” sessions (also free) with Blue Highway and the Lonesome River Band.
13. Stop by the band/record table to meet each band after its stage performance and to pick up a CD or two. You can chat with your favorites and get an autographed CD while you are at it. Remember, buying a CD directly from the band benefits the band more than if you download it or buy online.
14. Buy as many raffle tickets as you can afford. Summergrass will be raffling instruments from Martin Guitars, Deering Banjos, and a variety of other valuable prizes.
15. Take some time to wander through the vendor section and visit the music stores and other purveyors of a variety of interesting goods. You can find some great stuff at great prices.
16. Attend the Kids Camp on-stage performance on Sunday. Whether or not you know a young person in the show you will find this an interesting and moving experience.
17. Take your camera. You’ll find much to photograph and many memories worth preserving.
If traveling is something you are willing to consider, why not attend this year’s World of Bluegrass held September 24-30, presented by the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) in Nashville? There is a four-day business conference with incredibly good seminars and instructional opportunities, official band showcases, unofficial after-hours showcases, and lots of jamming and networking opportunities. The conference is followed by a three-day Fan Fest Festival, arguably the best bluegrass festival there is. This is IBMA’s last year in Nashville, as IBMA’s World of Bluergass will be moving to Raleigh, North Carolina next year, although the business office will remain in Nashville. So, if you have always meant to attend IBMA’s signature fall event in Nashville, walk down Broadway, visit the Country Music Hall of fame, see the IBMA Awards Show in the historic Ryman Auditorium (original home of the Grand Ole Opry), and experience what is one incredible week, this is your last chance to do so in Nashville. Visit: www.ibma.org for information.
Wunderkind John Mailander is home for the summer from his junior year at Berklee School of Music in Boston. He will be teaching a workshop at New Expression Music on Saturday, August 4. In addition you can see him play with his new quartet, which includes Molly Tuttle, Brittany Karlson, and Matt Witler at Summergrass and elsewhere. Check the calendar on page 14 for dates.
See you at Summergrass, at regular meetings on Tuesdays, and at World of Bluegrass in Nashville!