Southern California brings bright, crisp bluebird days this time of year–perfect for enjoying great bluegrass. Here are three good opportunities:
Julian Family Fiddle Camp. Held at the beautiful Camp Cedar Glen in the mountains of Julian, this annual event takes place April 11 through April 15. The camp offers outstanding instruction on all the bluegrass instruments, workshops, jam sessions, and evening concerts. All ages and abilities are welcome. Campers stay on site with room and board included in your tuition. For more information visit: www. Familyfiddlecamp .
Bluegrass on the Beach. Held at Lake Havasu just across the Arizona border March 2—4 (www.familyfiddlecamp.com), this festival guarantees sunshine and stellar bluegrass with a lineup including the Gibson Brothers and lots more top talent. For info and tickets visit: www.bluegrassonthebeach.com
Temecula Valley Bluegrass Festival. The second annual Temecula Valley Festival will take place March 23—25 in the wine country of Temecula Valley. Featuring top local and regional bands, workshops, vendors, and more, all on tap, and all at an easy drive from San Diego. For info and tickets, visit www.temeculabluegrass.com.
Bluegrass Culture: An Approach to Living a Good Life. Bluegrass music continues to grow in popularity with more than 20 million Americans reporting that they listen or participate. Festivals and concerts, workshops, and music camps continue to thrive. Yet, bluegrass music is as rare as an endangered species on the radio. So, how do we reconcile bluegrass music’s popularity with its lack of presence in the traditional arena where music is marketed? My take is that it is the bluegrass culture, of which the music itself is the central, but not the only component. Here are some of the other aspects of the bluegrass culture that draw folks to bluegrass music:
– It’s participatory. A large majority of bluegrass fans play an instrument, sing, attend workshops or jam sessions, play in a band, or otherwise participate in the music. This isn’t true with many other music genres. Participation is fun!
– It’s family friendly. Bluegrass music cuts across age, income, and other barriers that often separate family members. At a bluegrass concert you are likely to see kids with their parents, if not performing on stage they are listening. Compare how many rock concerts draw teens with their parents to share together.
– It’s under the radar. Bluegrass music–and its culture–is something one needs to discover. It isn’t pushed in your face on the radio or at the mall. Typically, friends introduce it to others, drag you to a concert or festival, and you get hooked and become part of the tribe. That process of discovery gives it appeal at a time where so much of the rest of music, and of the mainstream culture, is relentlessly pushed at us.
– It’s authentic. Bluegrass music has its roots in the working people of Appalachia. It’s often raw and rough around the edges, the exact opposite of the canned popular music dominating the radio today. Bluegrass music features acoustic–as opposed to electric–instruments and values technical ability. Contrast formulaic modern country or rock on the radio, all gussied up in the studio and lacking authenticity. At a time when so much of our culture is not authentic, there is a magnetic appeal radiated by bluegrass authenticity.
– It’s welcoming. Fans can approach even the top bluegrass stars, shake hands, and chat after a concert. Try that with a rock star! Jam sessions and workshops actively recruit and welcome participants of all ages and abilities. One can get involved with an inexpensive instrument and instantly meet folks and make new friends. It’s part of the bluegrass culture to be friendly and respectful to each other.
– The music is great. There is a driving raw appeal to the music that captures almost all who hear it.
All these factors form the cultural glue that makes bluegrass music so enticing and such a rewarding experience. Don’t believe me? Get out to a festival, attend one of the events listed above, and see for yourself!