Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Palatka Bluegrass Festival - February 13 - 15, 2020 - Rodeheaver Boys Ranch

The 16th annual Palatka Bluegrass Festival, held at the Rodeheaver Boys Ranch in Palatka, Fl will run from February 13 - 15, 2020 with the gates opening for campers on Sunday, February 9th. Ernie and Deb Evans and their Evans Media Source have acquired Norman Adams festivals. Although Norman and Judy have retired, look for them at Palatka and thank them for their many years of providing high quality bluegrass festivals.  The changeover has been smooth and festival attendees can expect a high degree of continuity as the transition continues.

The Lineup
In order of appearance - Repeat Bands Only Mentioned Once

Springfield Exit

Springfield Exit was originally a Virginia-based band, coming from near Winchester. Composed of bluegrass veterans David McClaughlin, Tom Adams, and Marshall Wilborn,  formerly members of the well-remembered and revered Johnson Mountain Boys, the band highlights Linda Lay's terrific voice along with husband David, who have recently located to a new farm in northeastern Tennessee. You can count on first rate traditional bluegrass from these veteran performers who have performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and opened for Merle Haggard. 

The Primitive Quartet

The Primitive Quartet has been touring the country with its bluegrass southern gospel music for nearly fifty years. Traveling nearly fifty thousand miles a year, performing around one hundred and fifty dates in churches, festivals, and southern gospel conventions. They have been regulars at Norman Adams festivals. 

The Primitive Quartet - When I Get Home

Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers

Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers were named International Bluegrass Music Association's 2019 Entertainers of the Year at it's annual awards show in Raleigh, NC last September. Their hard work and cheerful adherence to traditional bluegrass music as well as Mullins' Scruggs Style banjo play earned them the honor after years of hard touring by this Southern Ohio-based band. Mullins, the son of radio tycoon and former performer Paul (Moon) Mullins, Joe is also a well-regarded radio personality and station owner in the region. He also currently serves as IBMA's Chairman of the Board. They always present a well-crafted, musical, enjoyable show. 

Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers

Carl Jackson, Larry Cordle and Jerry Salley

Take three of Nashville's most talented, rewarded singer/songwriter/performers and put them on three stools at anywhere from the Bluebird Cafe in Music City to a dusty, tent on the bluegrass trail. Next, invite them to sing and play their own best songs like long time friends sitting around the living room reminiscing, and what do you have? Magic. I can't count the number of Grammy Awards, IBMA, and Dove statues they have between them, but I can guarantee you'll have a wonderful time as they roam through their catalogs telling stories while giving the audience lots of insight into writing and performing. Cordle, Jackson, and Salley can't be beat!

Cordle, Jackson & Salley - Black Diamond Strings

The Malpass Brothers

The Malpass Brothers were a country music duo singing covers of classic country singers while looking for an audience...and then they found bluegrass festivals. The rest is history. With their full country band, including often derided (in bluegrass musc) a drum kit and pedal steel, they have captured bluegrass audiences with their charm, humor, and remarkably sound-alike vocals across the country. Always popular and welcome, their audience has swelled as their confidence has grown. 

Malpass Brothers - Saginaw Michigan

Bandana Rhythm
Nathan Stewart

Rachel Stewart

While only on their second year of touring at bluegrass festivals, Bandana Rhythm has become a popular and winning feature at Ernie Evans festivals while spreading their wings and developing as a fine musical duo augmernted by Rachel's two brothers. Nathan Stewart will be a familiar face to many as the former mandolin player for the Little Roy and Lizzy Show. Make sure you take part of your day to welcome this band and enjoy their show. 

Bandana Rhythm - There Is A Time

Dry Branch Fire Squad

Dry Branch Fire squad has been a feature at Palatka since the beginning, as they have been at festivals like Gettysburg, Strawberry Park, and Grey Fox for many years. Band leader Ron Thomason, who began his professional career with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys nearly fifty years ago, hasn't stoped singing in the old time way while commenting on the contemporary world with humor and gusto. 

Dry Branch Fire Squad - Fifty Miles of Elbow Room

Penny Creek Band

Penny Creek, based in Melbourne, FL began its musical journey, like many flourishing bands do, playing in bars and fast food joints along Florida's east coast near Melbourne. Through dint of hard work and judicious additions to their personel, they have continued to spread their wings while strengthening their performances. Now, while they retain their Florida roots, audiences around the country are beginning to realize that Florida produces fine bluegrass music. This band wins audiences with its fine selection bluegrass standards and music written from within. Be sure to see them!

Penny Creek - Sunny Side of the Mountain

The Gibson Brothers

I've been writing about The Gibson Brothers for nearly twenty years, now. We first heard them at the Jenny Brook Festival in Vermont, finding ourselves entranced with their song writing, their great vocal blend, and their charm. None of that has slipped as they continue to broaden their repertory, always adding new material while finding new audiences through releasing a country album which uniquely complements their bluegrass. At Palatka, you'll be hearing the Gibson Brothers bluegrass band, and maybe a few of their country offerings, too. With the addition of noted instrumentalist Justin Moses to their band, they have continued to develop a wider range, while always staying uniquely themselves. 

The Gibson Brothers - Fireball

Jimmy Fortune - One Long Set

Jimmy Fortune, long a central voice in the storied Oak Ridge Boys, now tours as a solo act featuring many of his songs known by music lovers around the world. I don't know what configuration he'll have with him at Palatka, but you can bet on his voice delivering songs you have treasured for a generation.  Pure nostalgia!

Jimmy Fortune - Elizabeth

Bluegrass Gospel Sing & Jam

Born Lonesome

Born Lonesome is a new Florida-based band bringing together a group of pickers who are familiar in a variety of settings, but not together as a band. Formed in March of 2019, the band has rapidly picked up steam as they've been heard at local events as well as the Sertoma Thanksgiving Festival. The link above contains a full performance from an Artist Showcase on WMNF, a non-commercial FM radio station located in Tampa. They are rapidly getting their name out within Florida, and will soon be heard in much wider circles. Palatka will be their first national festival, so you can say, "I heard them when....."

Born Lonesome - Apalachee Sky

The Little Roy & Lizzy Show

Little Roy Lewis has been entertaining audiences for over sixty years since he made his debut with the fabled gospel band, The Lewis Family. Now he's been sharing the stage with the talented multi-instrumentalist Lizzy Long for over a decade. Fans will relish hearing again their well-known songs and seeing their routines. I've long viewed them as an important and delightful tie to bluegrass history and its sawdust and vaudeville roots. Little Roy is a national treasure!

Little Roy & Lizzie Show - Travelin On

Lonesome River Band

Some bands are well enough known that their initials suffice to let you know they're coming to a festival near you. LRB has been offering its unique rock-inflected bluegrass to audiences around the world since the 1980's. A look at the list of the names of former members of the band indicates how widely their influence has been felt, and how enduring their sound is. Banjo player Sammy Shelor is known as one of the most important banjo players in the business, as indicated by his IBMA awards as well as his having won the coveted Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. The band has maintained its standard of excellence.

Lonesome River Band - Little Magnolia

Rhonda Vincent and the Rage

Rhonda Vincent has remained a significant draw at bluegrass festivals for at least three decades. She and her band tour widely and have consistently performed at well over a hundred events each year. She is known for her talent and her hard work. At the merchandise table, fans are rewarded with a real sense that they are important to her, as she stays out until the line has finished, providing autographs and pictures while greeting old fans by name and always evincing an interest in each person who has stood in line for picture or a brief word from her. Along with her voice and consistently ourtstanding bandsmanship, she has become one of the most honored and recognized personalities in bluegrass. Rhonda's a fitting person to close the show for another year. 

Rhonda Vincent - Momma Tried

My Spotify Playlist for Palatka 2020

The Details
The Palatka Bluegrass Festival is held as a benefit for the Rodeheaver Boys Ranch, founded in 1950 by evangelist and band leader Homer Rodeaheaver on a large site about fifteen miles south of Palatka, FL along the St. Johns River. Take a look at the Ranch's Web Site for further information about this worthy cause. The Ranch site includes over 500 campsites with electric and water hookups. A local contractor is available to provide pumpouts. A shower room and flush toilets are available along with freqently cleaned and well-placed porta-potties. There are usually campsites availble. For informaiton call: 386-328-1281,

Photo by Kevin Beverly

Tickets and More Information: Palatka has been the largest and most popular traditional bluegrass festival in Florida since its founding sixteen years ago. The festival has a reserve seat policy and most of those slots are held by returning fans. Nevertheless, there's excellent sound no matter where you sit, provided by BlueRidge Sound and video screens help people sitting in remote seats to see as well as hear. There are no  reservations on having fun at Palatka, though. Furthermore, bluegrass customs allow fans to sit in open seats anywhere. When the seat's owner returns, they'll indicate you are sitting in their chair. You should move immediately to another location. Bluegrass people are pleasant and generous, and there's no actual implied or felt ill feeling for your having occupied someone else's seat. So come and enjoy the show, and pre-order your next year's ticket so you can move up the ladder. Ticket prices and further festival informaton can be found here. EMS is a family run business which is extremely customer friendly. For tickets, seats, and additional information, call Deb at (386) 385-3500.

Emcee Sherry Boyd

Sherry Boyd will be keeping events moving (and on time) throughout the festival. One of the most experienced, capable, and popular emcees on the bluegrass circuit, make sure to introduce yourself to her sometime during the weekend. 

John Holder and Blue Ridge Sound

Blue Ridge Sound, one of the best sound companies anywhere, knows bluegrass music and presents it at its best. President and founder John Holder's crew will be providing excellent sound this season.  Count on hearing the music the way it should sound at any festival where they are present. 

Evans Media Source
Ernie Evans

Deb Evans

A look at the Evans Media Source Home Page tells the story of a large "full service production company" promoting festivals, concerts, and cruises along with providing music for weddings, presenting a weekly radio program, and putting together shows for a range of other sponsor organizations. But the story goes back to a young musician from Ohio who became a working musician playing country and bluegrass music around the country and a good piece of the rest of the world, too. Responsible for a growing family, he reluctantly left full-time music to go into the corporate world. After moving to Florida, Ernie began dipping his feet into playing music as well as promoting events along with his wife Deb. Then along came the recession of 2006, when Ernie found himself without a job. In order to support his family, he returned to full-time touring with bluegrass bands along with the regional band he and Deb had formed in Florida. 

The rest of the story is about a hard working couple with a growing family struggling together to rescue, build, and grow new events, while developing new skills as they learned how to host a radio program, organize, and promote events. They know the struggles of working people and that both bluegrass and country music are hard working people's music. Throughout their growth period and continuing even today, they have striven to bring great live music to people who love and appreciate it. Their recent acquisition of Norman Adams festivals has brought them into national attention as major promoters in the southeast. Let them know how much you appreciate theirhard work.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Yee Haw Music Fest 2020 - Preview

The YeeHaw Music Fest will run from January 14 - 19, 2020 at the Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center in Okeechobee, Florida featuring the unique Evans Media Source program of bluegrass and classic country that has become a popular brand throughout the state. With gates opening for campers at noon on Monday, January 13th, the festivities will begin on Tuesday, featuring Eric Ellison as Gordon Lightfoot, and extend through Saturday evening. Camping is nearly sold out, so be sure to get a reservation (call (904) 886-8378 and plan to enjoy all the offerings.

Eric Ellison as Gordon Lightfoot - If I Could Read Your Mind

Eric Ellison's portrayal of Gordon Lightfoot is important in this context because of the huge influence Lightfoot, who turned 81 in November, has had on American music in general and, more specifically, on bluegrass. His songs have been frequently covered by major bluegrass artists from Tony Rice and J.D. Crowe to Dale Ann Bradley and Claire Lynch. This appearance is also intended as a nod to our Canadian visitors who winter in Florida and support bluegrass music. 

These Tuesday evening concerts, free for campers and ticket holders, have become a much-loved feature of Ernie Evans productions, along with the enthusiastic jams, Wednesday's Pot Luck Supper, and the evening production made up of camper bands and jammers. By Thursday. attendees will be wound up and ready for three days of music and fun, emceed by the ever popular Jo Odum.

Jo Odum
Image result for Jo Odum Ted Lehmann

The Lineup
Bands Appearing More Than One Day are Only Previewed Once!
Listed in Order of Appearance

Swinging Bridge

Swinging Bridge comes from southwest Florida, where they have been a popular and welcome band at festivals, concerts, and jams for many years. The membership has shown few changes through the years, and exhibited a remarkable longevity. They obviously enjoy each other on stage and bring their audiences into the show. A strong, reliable band to be opening the festival. 

Swinging Bridge - County Fool

Bandana Rhythm

Bandana Rhythm is a newcomer to the bluegrass stage, merging the talents of Nathan Stewart, veteran mandolin player with The Little Roy and Lizzie Show, and his new wife, Rachel, along with her two brothers, into a tuneful, lively bluegrass band beginning to make waves in the world of bluegrass. You'll enjoy this band, as well as being able to say, "I knew them when!"

Bandana Rhythm - There Is a Time

Nothin' Fancy

Nothin' Fancy performs its novel combination of sparkling originals, Country Gentlemen covers, and lively good humor to bluegrass audiences at festivals across the nation. As they've matured, so has their music. With only two of their original members in the present band, they have, nevertheless, established a brand name which is valued to their huge national fan base. 

Nothin' Fancy - Simon Crutchfield's Grave

Lonesome River Band 

The Lonesome River Band, LRB to its friends, has been a major force in bluegrass since its founding in 1982, before the time when many of its fans were born. The band's leader, banjo great Sammy Shelor, has a pedigree going back to the early twentieth century, when Charlie Poole taught Sammy's grandfather to play the banjo. Shelor received his first banjo at age four, and performed locally by the time he was ten. In 2011 he was awarded the prestigious Steve Martin Prize of Excellence in Bluegrass and Banjo. Sammy joined LRB in 1990 and has led it since 2000. During its forty years in existence, many of bluegrass music's most prominent musicians have moved through the band, adding to its reputation for excellence, before leaving to head their own bands or to reach out in other directions. This is truly a distinguished band with a long and storied history. 

Lonesome River Band - Little Magnolia

Po' Ramblin' Boys

John Lawless, editor of Bluegrass Today, has written, "When I hear The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys I’m taken back to when I first fell in love with this music. Each is a master of their craft, but it’s the special joy they take in playing it “the old time way” that commands your attention. This music hails from a time before people saw bluegrass and country music as separate things, and the band accomplishes that most difficult of musical tasks by capturing the manic energy of their live shows in the studio." The Po' Ramblin Boys, strongly influenced by first generation band The Stanley Brothers, has generated genuine excitement among traditional bluegrass fans for their adherence to tradition, while they continue to write and perform new songs in the traditional sound and manner of presentation.

Po' Ramblin' Boys - Late Last Night

Deeper Shade of Blue

We first saw Deeper Shade of Blue at the Rivertown Bluegrass Society monthly show in Conway, SC, opening for Alan Bibey. This may have been one of their earliest paid gigs. Since then, we've watched the band develop and grow, always learning, improving, becoming more professional, while remaining friendly and fun to see. Their latest iteration can be seen from Florida to Virginia, and west to Kentucky and Tennessee. Deeper Shade of Blue is a professional bluegrass band, and always fun to see and hear. Find out for yourself. 

Deeper Shade of Blue - Peaceful, Easy Feeling

Penny Creek

In the four or five years we've been watching and enjoying Penny Creek, we've seen them develop from a local Melbourne-based bar band into a solid recording and festival band seen as widely away as Tennessee and Georgia. Leader Susan Pounds has consistently improved the band at every position while broadening its repertoire. The recent addition of veteran Florida banjo player John Apfelthaler is a good example. This band can be relied upon to present an entertaining and wide ranging musical performance. 

Penny Creek Band - Ginseng Sullivan

Keith Bass and the Florida Bluegrass Express
Image result for Keith Bass Ted Lehmann

Keith Bass is the real deal, living in Okeechobee and managing a nearby cattle ranch, he's a genuine cowboy who loves the banjo. With his ever-changing band, The Florida Bluegrass Express, he plays at festivals and other events throughout Florida, and is a fixture in the bluegrass community. 

Florida Bluegrass Express - Matterhorn

Zink & Company

Corey Zink has built his career from his beginnings in New England as a country and bluegrass singer with bands like Accoustic Blue more than a decade ago. Gradually, developing the sound and style he was in search of, he began spreading his wings as he built his bluegrass chops, finding his musical core, using his strong baritone voice, always improving fusion of country and bluegrass, and pleasing stage personality. With his recent move to Dollywood, in Pigeon Forge, TN, he has established himself as a strong musical presence, and is making his first appearance at YeeHaw. appears here as Zinc & Company, a band with deep roots in both bluegrass and country music.  Don't miss his performance. 

Zink & Company - Yellow Roses

IIIrd Tyme Out

Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out is one of the most storied and awarded bands in bluegrass history. Founded in 1991, two original members remain, Russell Moore and Wayne Benson. Nearly three decades of almost ceaseless touring and constant building have resulted in seven IBMA Vocal Group of the Year awards for the band, and three Male Vocalist of the Year awards for Moore. Benson is recognized as one of bluegrass music's great mandolin stylists as well as a fine teacher, often teaching via Skype around the world. From their award winning "Erase the Miles" to their Cracker Barrel album, which won them a new and wider audience, they have consistently been a standout band.

IIIrd Tyme Out - Poison Cove

Urban Cowboy Reunion

Mickey Gilley, a cousin of Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart, grew up in Mississippi, becoming a professional singer when Lewis began getting major hits. Gilley came to prominence when his bar, in Pasadena, TX, became famous because it was featured in the John Travolta film Urban Cowboy. Popular in rock, pop, and country, he has charted 42 singles on the US Country chart. Johnny Lee, emerged with his song Lookin' for Love, which charted on the Country, Pop, and Adult Contemporary charts. Now, Gilley and Lee have combined to offer a reunion show in major venues across the country. Gilley commented, "I am thrilled to have the opportunity to tour once again with my good friend. The Urban Cowboy craze kept my career alive for all of these years, and every night when I go to bed, I thank John Travolta for my amazing career. At 81, I am still rockin’.”

Urban Cowboy Reunion with Mickey Gilley & Johnny Lee

Sunday Gospel Sing with Jan Ladd

Spotify Playlist of Bands at YeeHaw Music Fest

The Details

The Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center is conveniently located on the north-eastern edge of the agricultural and retirement town of Okeechobee, Florida, just off the Route 70 highway across south-central Florida. This modern facility offers extensive camping facilities for large and small rigs, hot showers and flush toilets, and a covered amphitheater with plenty of seating spaces. Attendees should bring their own folding chairs, although there's also plenty of grandstand seating. The entire space is enclosed with many vendors under cover, as well as at convenient exits. Attendees should remember that the vendors pay fees that help to keep festival prices low, and consider patronizing them.

Tickets: Three day tickets cost $75.00 in advance or $85.00 at the gate. 
               Daily Tickets:
                               Thursday: $30.00
                                Friday:     $35.00
                                Saturday:  $35.00
                                Children 12 and under are free with a paying adult

Remember: No high back chairs or rocking chairs are permitted.

Camping: There's a limited number of electric/water camping sights, so be sure to sign up soon.  
                   Primitive Camping:                   $15,00 per night
                   20 Amp Electric                         $20.00 per night
                   30 Amp Electric                         $30.00 per night
                   50 Amp Electric                         $35.00 per night 

To arrange for campsites and/or reserved seating call: (386)385-3500

How to Get There:
Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center
Okeechobee, FL
4601 FL 710
Okeechobee, FL 34974

Deb & Ernie Evans - Promoters

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

IBMA 2019: How to Survive and Thrive - Sept. 24 - 28 - Preview

Sir Walter Raleigh Welcomes IBMA

IBMA’s World of Bluegrass, the Award Show and Wide Open Bluegrass present a feast for anyone interested in bluegrass music. The week is filled with music, learning, meeting, greeting, picking, buying, selling...and more music. It justly earns its nickname, I’ve Been Mostly Awake. Getting through the week to the end, should you decide to attend all three of the events, is both a marathon and a sprint. Setting goals and making a plan will determine your ability to enjoy your week while reaching your goals to increase your bluegrass income and enjoyment of the scene. The correct question to ask about attending IBMA is not "What has IBMA ever done for me?" but always "What have I done to make IBMA the best experience I can have to maximize my professional life in music or enjoy the week the best I can?" This blog is written to help you achieve your goals for the IBMA experience.

How to Get Around and Resources for You: Your foremost resource for planning your time effectively and preparing for the IBMA Trade Show is IBMA's Web Site. It's a large and complex document, but includes sections on every part of the event plus order forms for getting your tickets to World of Bluegrass and Wide Open Bluegrass. This preview simply acts as a shortcut to specific resources you can use, as well as providing insights to how to manage it. 

While the Marriott Hotel and The Sheraton Raleigh are most convenient to all the action, numerous alternatives are available for those attending. For years we stayed at the campground located on the  State Fairgrounds, about six miles from downtown, where over 100 full service sites are set aside for IBMA. A free shuttle service to the Convention Center is provided. This year, we've found an Airbnb near the capitol, a short Uber ride from the Convention Center, but there are over 300 places listed in Raleigh. Many other accomodations are available. Consult the visitors bureau

For most people attending The World of Bluegrass, the interactive map below shows the part of downtown Raleigh where World of Bluegrass takes place. Familiarize yourself with the area from the Duke Energy Center to the Sate Capitol Building. Fayetteville Street is the major street.  The embedded Google Map below is an active map which can be contracted and expanded to use for all sites around Raleigh:

A crucial resource for those attending World of Bluegrass is the desk of the Greater Raleigh Visitors and Convention Bureau, located in the lobby of the Marriott Center City Hotel, where you can get maps of the downtown area as well as good advice on how to see Raleigh. You can download the IBMA Schedule to both your computer and your phone. Schedule events and send your personal schedule to your phone to plan each day. Another important resource which will save you time and lots of walking is the R Bus, a free shuttle serving up a special route during the event to various venues where showcase bands featured in the the Bluegrass Ramble are held. Your ticket to the Business Conference includes admission to all these venues, while you can also buy Ramble tickets or pay at the door. Our favorite ramble venue is the Vintage Church on Moore Park, a short ride on the R Bus. Another prime showcase location is within the Convention Center itself.  

The R Bus In Front of the Convention Center

Bluegrass Ramble Site

The Business Conference: It’s never too early to start deciding how you’re going to use your valuable time at the IBMA Business Conference. Comprising three days and lasting from 9:00 AM until 2:00 AM, you’ll find that you still don’t have enough time nor energy to accomplish all you wish to do. It’s too easy to become distracted, to forget where you wanted to be, who you wanted to hear, what you wanted to learn, because you’ve been captured by the moment: a friend, a tune you hear, a booth you have to visit right now, a call you must take, etc. Your best friend is the Schedule, which you can download to your computer, link to your phone, and use as a planning guide. Use the schedule linked above! Before I started this paragraph, I already had a conflict between two business sessions I want to attend. 

Workshop or Seminar Meeting with the Experts

I’ve heard musicians mutter complaints with something like “What has IBMA ever done for me?” I take that to mean that they simply haven’t been offered the gigs they thought would materialize from showcasing or performing at one or more events. Meanwhile they wander around hallways with a briefcase handing out copies of their latest recording to any person they perceive to have influence or who might be able to help them find more work. Such short range thinking rarely results in very much new work coming their way. 

Gig Fair - Meet the Promoters
and Follow Up

Instead, they should plan their attendance at IBMA as if it were a military campaign, employing their resources and links found throughout this preview to garner the greatest amount of event coverage by deploying members of their band to cover specific events, seminars, meet & greets, and other events. Every member of the band, including non-performing components, should view themselves as members of a team devoted to finding a maximum amount of work and finding out about new, advanced, or untried approaches that might be useful for the team. Meeting people, making contacts, and following up is crucial to success. Hanging out with your friends can mean wasting your valuable time. 

A Good Place to Meet Friends & Do Business

Each day your team should meetfd to share insights they had, new ideas they heard about, ways they could employ the ideas or adapt them to the band’s specific needs.  After the conference is over, the band should meet with their leader to consider ways to follow up, assign responsibilities to each person, and proceed to follow up with each person they contacted during the week. They should work to broaden their own comfort areas to expand their repertoire of new ideas to use in building the business. Each person should keep a small note-book to record names of people for later contact. Making contacts for later development is the name of the game. 

At the end of IBMA week, the team should plan a day-long retreat to do an analysis of what they learned and how it can be applied to their business. It’s worth remembering that band leadership and membership consist of more than getting to a gig and performing your sets. Like any work week at any job, there are highs, in the case of music, performing, and their are necessary chores and low points along the trail, but most time should be allocated for working to help the band succeed.

Every meeting with a person the band members think could help the band achieve its goals should be followed up soon after the conference, and the relationships developed at IBMA should be cultivated and grown over the succeeding year, or years. Time in the van or the bus can be well spent in this effort. Both conferring and following up by phone can be accomplished on the road. Assignments should be discussed, reports can be made, plans for further discussions with influencers like radio dj’s, writers, promoters, publications, and more. Using the Business Conference and following up on what you learned is essential. Don't wait to stroll in on your day to perform. Involve yourself in your own career rather than waiting for it to happen to you. 

Photo: Bluegrass Today

Awards Shows: There are actually two awards shows at IBMA, both held on Thursday, as the Business Conference winds down and transitions into Wide Open Bluegrass, the musical extravaganza mixed with infotainment, for want of a better term, that runs on Friday and Saturday. More about that later. The Awards consists of two events, a luncheon and awards presentation, along with several bands playing, where industry awards are presented, and the Thursday evening Awards Show in the large theater at the Duke Energy Center, a short walk from the Marriott Hotel. 

I’m told by two very reliable sources that when IBMA was founded, Pete Kuykendahl, founder and editor of BluegrassUnlimited magazine, sought to avoid having an awards show, thinking that the hullabaloo of such an event would overshadow the importance of the Business Conference. Despite the fact that he was probably correct regarding where the emphasis should be, the evening of major awards is well-attended. Held at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, the show gives bluegrass glitterati a chance to dress up and celebrate what the membership has voted to be the “best” in a number of categories. If only honorees could observe the rules about how to accept awards, the show would even finish within the three hour time limit it seeks to meet. Nevertheless, the Awards Show is lots of fun, while representing a great opportunity to transition into the final two days of celebration and music called Wide Open Bluegrass.

Probably of more interest to the active membership of IBMA is the luncheon held earlier in the day in a large meeting hall in the Raleigh Convention Center. The Industry Awards celebrate the nuts and bolts of bluegrass, while also highlighting the Distinguished Achievements of important movers and shakers within the industry. The industry awards luncheon is one of the scheduled events of your IBMA Business Conference registration. It also includes performances by featured bluegrass artists. It’s an engaging celebration
of the often lesser recognized but essential roles, while also highlighing emerging people through the Momentum Awards

Wide Open Bluegrass: Claims by the City of Raleigh of overall attendance exceeding 250,00 over the five days of World of Bluegrass and Wide Open bluegrass should not allow you to believe that you can’t have a great time during the Wide Open Bluegrass portion, held in three large venues: The Red Hat Amphitheater, The Raleigh Convention Center, and TheStreet Fair running down Fayetteville Street for five blocks from Lenoir Street to Morgan Street, in front of the State Capitol Building.  The city estimates are an agregate number of tourist and business days for the entire week, but, while the streets are crowded, it is not a mob. Rather, a large, family crowd strolls up and down the street, enjoying music at six different stages located on side streets. They can also stroll between the stages enjoying art, clothing, and, especially, North Carolina food specialities along with free samples. There are also food vendors selling a wide range of edibles as well as several beer trucks along the way. In our five years of attending Wide Open Bluegrass, I've never encountered a drunk on the streets.

A Show at the City Plaza Stage

In addition to the open air Street Fair running down Fayetteville Street and including sound stages on several different side streets, all closed to traffic for this Friday and Saturday event, you will find performances, free seminars, and Exhibit Hall to be available in the Raleigh Convention Center. Behind the Convention Center and across the street lies the Red Hat Amphitheater, where live music from some Bluegrass Music's biggest stars is held. This year, a large portion of the Red Hat been opened free to the public. while ticketed premium seats are still available. The huge JumboTron makes viewing possible from a distance, and the sound is superb.

The Red Hat Amphitheater

For fans, Wide Open Bluegrass, filling the final two days of IBMA, is a musical and cultural feast celebrating the music and the regional culture of North Carolina. For musicians, bands chosen for the various stages are now paid for their performances. By the time the last show closes on Saturday night with a fireworks display, those attending will be both exhausted and happily fulfilled.

The entire World of Bluegrass and Wide Open Bluegrass is simply too large to encompass in a single blog. Your willingness to do some serious planning, attend the conference with discipline, and spend some serious time processing the event after its over, making sure you follow up with the contacts you meet there, will assure that you don't need to ask "What has IBMA ever done for me." Rather, it will allow you to learn new strategies, make new contacts, and improve your competitiveness in the difficult world of making bluegrass music work to help you meet your goals. It's all up to you!