Tuesday, July 28, 2009

MACC - Saturday and Final Assessment

Saturday at The MACC provided a wonderful series of experiences in what showed signs of deteriorating into serious weather problems. The day opened warm and overcast with the annual MACC Children's Band providing, as usual, a reinforcement of the idea that the future of bluegrass music is alive and well so long as we continue to invest in and believe in our children's future. Then, just as Bradley Walker and his band had completed a few minutes of their set, the skies opened up and the operation had to close down as lightning and thunder surrounded the area. As the storm passed, the sound was turned back on and the schedule resumed, although bands had to abbreviate their shows. By dark, when it came time for the Classic Performances created and orchestrated by promoter Darrel Adkins, the sky was clear, stars could be seen, and it remained warm into the evening as Musicians Against Childhood Cancer came to a rousing and successful end with a tribute to the music of Tony Rice. On Monday, while driving home, we learned that Randy Kohrs had had a number of instruments stolen from his van at the nearby motel where many of the musicians and volunteers had stayed. This outrageous theft failed to dampen the overall effect of the festival as a trimphant musical event that each year provides significant contributions to St. Jude Children's Reasearch Hospital.

MACC Children's Band

The MACC Children's Band is an important element of the festival. The Children begin meeting to rehearse twice daily on Thursday and work hard all weekend. Their performance is a highlight of early Saturday morning, when they perform from the stage. They range in age from age three to about seventeen and in ability from rank beginner to highly skilled contest winnder. I've posted a web album of pictures of the MACC Children's Band. Here's the key:

Key to Web Album

Darrel Adkins isn't much of a speech maker. The festival is about commememorating his daughter Mandy's tragic loss to cancer through providing support to St. Jude and about the music. While he is very much in charge of the festival, he generally keeps to the background, letting the music and the spirit it builds speek for themselves. In his words, though, he linked the appearance of the Children's Band to the future of bluegrass music. He spoke about change and people's resistance to it, emphasizing the changes that had occurred in the early days as Bill Monroe worked to achieve the sound he imagined. He asked whether bands now considered to be standard bearers like the Country Gentlemen, Seldom Scene, Jim & Jesse, The Osborne Brothers and others would have emerged had they not brought something new and different to bluegrass. He also suggested that every band at a bluegrass festival didn't have to appeal to every individual's taste or idea of what constituted bluegrass music. People, he maintained, could use bands that weren't to their taste as an opportunity to stretch their legs, get something to eat, take a nap, or even listen to a new and different sound to see whether they might like it. He argued that someone new to bluegrass music might hear a new and unusual band, like it, and become interested in what led the band to the music it was creating, and through that insight begin to seek out the roots. In such a process, he maintained, the future of bluegrass music could be assured. Throughout the day, fans came up to him and thanked him for his message.

Bradley Walker Band
Bradley Walker

Patton Wages

Shane Blackwell

Nick Keen

David Babb


Randy Kohrs & the Lites

Randy Kohrs

Ashley Brown

Elio Giordano

Chris Woods

Mike Sumner

Josh Williams

Josh and Randy

Larry Cordle and Lonesome Standard Time

Jody King

Kim Gardner

Booie Beech

Chris Harris

Larry Cordle

Darrel Adkins Presents Prize Guitar

Mathew & Debbie Hubbard

Ronnie Bowman Band

Ronnie Bowman

Garnet Imes Bowman

Patton Wages

Greg Martin

Chris Harris

Ronnie Bowman

Was Dr. Tom Bibey at MACC?

The Gibson Brothers
MACC Debut

Eric Gibson

Leigh Gibson

Mike Barber

Clayton Campbell

Joe Walsh

Eric & Leigh

Carl Jackson, Larry Cordle, Jerry Salley

Carl Jackson

Larry Cordle

Jerry Salley

The Church Sisters
Jackson, Cordle and Salley

What'll We Sing Today?
Carl Jackson and Jerry Salley

Jerry Salley, Phyllis Adkins, Tami Adkins Lee

Blue Highway

Jason Burleson

Shawn Lane

Wayne Taylor

Tim Stafford

Rob Ickes

Darrel Adkins Auctions Quilt Made by his Mother

And the Todd Sams Guitar

Darrel even sold his cap to raise money for St. Jude. There's more than one way to bring in the money for the hospital. Unless you've been around him for a while, there's almost no way to understand how deep and genuine his and Phyllis' commitment to this cause is. Someone asked me during the weekend whether they take a cut. The answer is "NO!" They don't even take their personal expenses. The beneficiary is St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and everything above the costs of putting on the festival goes to them. If you want to donate, send your checks here:
Musicians Against Childhood Cancer®
1434 S. 3B's & K Rd.
Galena, OH 43021

The final two events of The MACC were what the festival calls "Classic Performances." On Saturday night, two entirely different groups of musicians played and sang quite different music with participants you might never see together again. Dudley Connell spearheaded a group of musicians who love and cherish traditional bluegrass. Their set list was filled with songs by the Stanley Brothers, the Louvin Brothers, Reno and Smiley, Bill Monroe, and Flatt & Scruggs. Connell brings such an infectious enthusiasm to his performance, and his band mates were so involved and with him in the effort, that no one could resist the work. If every band calling itself traditional could bring such life and power to the music, there might never again be a question about the future of traditional bluegrass. Here's some pictures from that set:

Dudley Connell

Aubrey Haynie

Don Rigsby was obviously ill, but wouldn't miss the event.

Randy Kohrs

Joe Mullins

Randy Barnes

Junior Sisk Guests with his Idol from Johnson Mt. Boys Days

Sally Love Connell

Dudley Connell

The Tony Rice Tribute

Josh Williams hosted the Tony Rice Tribute with grace, charm, and dignity. Josh, 2008 IBMA Guitar Player of the Year, is well recognized as a disciple of Rice who has managed to forge a guitar style of his own. During the more than an hour long final set of the weekend, Williams worked closely with the great Tony Rice to reprise a number of his best known songs with a band well suited to playing with the master. Rice was in excellent form, playing his unique and haunting solos as well as frequently breaking into a broad smile that I haven't been privileged to see much of before. The familiar tunes came one after the other: Blue Railroad Train, Ginseng Sullivan, Freeborn Man, Manzanita, Roll on Buddy, Old Train, and many more. The set was truly a feast for Rice fans and music lovers. What a rare treat!

Tony Rice

Josh Williams

Aaron Ramsay

Randy Barnes
Don Rigsby

Aubrey Haynie

Rob Ickes

Aaron Ramsay

In the end Musicians Against Childhood Cancer is more than a bluegrass festival, but it begins with a family who love bluegrass music and have promoted it for thirty years and grew from the loss of a daughter, Mandy, who was known and loved by many of the musicians who perform here. During its four days, the meaning of the event encompasses and, finally, overwhelms the quality of the music. This is a don't miss event for the music and the spirit generated by it. Next year's MACC will be held at Hoover Y Park in Columbus, Ohio from July 21 - 24.