The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) completed its first ever convention week in Raleigh, North Carolina in the final week of September, having moved on from Nashville. Let’s take a look and see what happened to help you decide whether you might want to go next year.
Business conference. There were three days of seminars, workshops, and related activities, which catered to the needs of those in the business of bluegrass. If you are a radio DJ, a booking agent, an event producer, an association member, a performing band, or otherwise professionally involved in the bluegrass biz there were plenty of top-rate learning opportunities for you.
Bluegrass Ramble. IBMA presents a program of up and coming bands every year called “Official Showcases,” presenting bands that are carefully juried in by experts and selected for their potential. The idea is for these bands to be able to strut their stuff in front of talent buyers as well as fans. Complementing the official showcases is a program of after-hours showcases for myriad other bands. This year, for the first time, this program of showcases was presented simultaneously in seven different venues – one in the Raleigh Convention Center, six in happening town clubs. The Ramble included an international program featuring bluegrass bands from around the world presented at King’s Barcade and at the Tir Na Nog Irish pub venues. No kidding, there was something for everyone as well as an unparalleled chance to her some of your old favorites and many new up and coming bands. The town was literally lit up with great bluegrass!
IBMA Awards Show. Thursday night was buzzing as bluegrass luminaries, dressed to the nines, made their way to the media red carpet for photos and interviews on their way into the Awards Show. Hosted by the Steep Canyon Rangers (North Carolina locals), IBMA awarded the equivalent of Bluegrass Oscars to the top bluegrass performers in 2013. Some highlights: The Gibson Brothers took home the coveted Entertainer of the Year Award. It was an exciting night for this New York State-based band as they also took home awards for Vocal Group of the Year, Bluegrass Songwriter of the Year (Eric Gibson), and Song of the Year (“They Called It Music”). Rob Ickes won Dobro Player of the Year for an unprecedented 15th time, Della Mae was named Emerging Artist of the Year, and the Boxcars took Instrumental Group of the Year. Visit the IBMA website at www.ibma.org to see all the winners.
Wide Open Bluegrass. The final two days of the week featured a premier festival called “Wide Open Bluegrass.” Presented on two stages, one inside the Convention Center and one in the beautiful outdoor Red Hat Amphitheater, both days were sold out to see a stellar lineup on both Friday and Saturday. Steve Martin and Edie Brickell with the Steep Canyon Rangers, the Del McCoury Band, Blue Highway, Junior Sisk, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, the Punch Brothers, Seldom Scene, Della Mae, the Steeldrivers, Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen, the Gibson Brothers, and a seemingly endless lineup of top acts thrilled the audience. There were also one time only special collaborations, including an unforgettable one on Friday featuring a band of: Del McCoury (male vocalist), Jason Carter (fiddle), Sam Bush (mando), Jerry Douglas (dobro), Alison Krauss (female vocalist, out at the last minute due to illness), Mark Schatz (bass, 1991) Tony Rice (guitar)and Bela Fleck (banjo) as the winners of IBMA awards in 1990 – the first year they were given. Wow!
Street Fair. The City of Raleigh sponsored a free street fair on Friday and Saturday, closing the main drag though town and filling it with vendors and 5 music stages, including a youth stage. Crowd estimates ranged between 60,000-140,000 and there were top notch bands on the street fair stages including the Barefoot Movement, Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen, and Red Wine, the hot band from Italy, and many others.
Accommodations. Hotels were beautiful and affordable with special IBMA rates ranging from $139 per night at the Marriott and Sheraton anchor hotels to $60 per night in nearby hotels. The town provides free bus service and free town Wi-Fi, and for the first time there was RV parking and camping conveniently located. What’s not to like? IBMA is contracted to be in Raleigh for two more years. If you have ever considered attending, I highly recommend it!
SDBS St. Mark’s Annual Free Bluegrass Concert. SDBS is presenting a free concert (donations will be solicited for this fundraiser) at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church at 3502 Clairemont Drive in San Diego on Sunday, November 17, at 4:30 pm, with refreshments to follow. Two or three top local bands will be presented featuring a theme of “home” in bluegrass music. Mark your calendars!
Sideline Coming to San Diego December 5th. SDBS will present Sideline in concert on Thursday, December 5, at the First Baptist Church of Pacific Beach at 4747 Soledad Mountain Road. Sideline is a special collaboration of members of IIIrd Tyme Out, Mountain Heart, Darrel Webb of the Darrel Webb Band, and Skip Cherryholmes. Hot pickers all! There will be a 30-minute opening set by local band the Tail Draggers. Show starts at 7pm. Admission is free; donations for the bands solicited.