Thursday, August 31, 2017

World of Bluegrass - How to Plan, Prepare & Enjoy - Raleigh, NC - 2017

Downtown Raleigh

The International Bluegrass Music Association's World of Bluegrass and Wide Open Bluegrass will return to Raleigh, NC for its fifth year from September 26 - 30, 2017. Including a Business Conference, the Awards Show, and a two day Street Festival called Wide Open Bluegrass. Here we go!

From the time you arrive in Raleigh during IBMA's World of Bluegrass until you leave town, your world will almost entirely be circumscribed by the view you see above. The Duke Energy Center lies just off camera to the right, and across the street from the Convention Center, with its glimmer wall is the Red Hat Amphitheater. You can see the Marriott hotel behind the Convention Center with the Sheraton to its left. Fayetteville street runs from the Duke Energy Center to the State Capital. The City Market park, surrounded by the venues for night action, is a few blocks further. That's it. You'll be so busy and having so much fun, there won't be time to go any further, yet the area is sufficiently compact to allow most people to walk between sites. This blog entry is designed to help you make the most of your time and energy. 

Raleigh Convention Center

Lobby of Raleigh Convention Center

The Business Conference

PLAN! PLAN!PLAN! - The World of Bluegrass and Wide Open Bluegrass together offer five days of opportunities for you to have a wonderful experience or to come out the other side feeling you've wasted your time and money. Your first job in preparing to attend is to decide what your priorities are and then figure out how to meet them. Fortunately, IBMA has stepped up its game to provide you with plenty of resources to help you make decisions and to meet your needs.

Questions to ask yourself. "When I go to IBMA in Raleigh, do I want to....
     Learn more about my business?
     Meet people who can help me grow my band?
     Hear lots of new bands to consider booking them?
     Connect with others in my constituency - Broadcasting, Media, Promoters, Agents, others?
     Do I want to learn more about the legal issues in music?
     Do I want to stay up all night jamming and enjoying the party?
Whatever choices you make are completely up to you.

Online Schedule: Your most important resource is the World of Bluegrass Full Week Schedule which permits you to view through a number of lenses the activities for each day and hour of the full event. You can choose to follow special interest tracks or take a more eclectic and broad approach to scheduling your activities, enabling you to arrive in Raleigh with a full schedule of events you wish to attend. REMEMBER: As you walk the halls of the Convention Center, you will run into people you know from all over the country. You have to decide if meeting and greeting, socializing, networking, and catching up is more important the hewing to your schedule. You can look at a specific event to determine what the topic covers and who the speakers are. You can click on the "Add to My Sched." link to place the particular event in your schedule. In other words, you can arrive in Raleigh with every minute planned. Then it will all fall apart!

Schedule Sample

How to Build My Schedule: When you download the online schedule, you will see a link to "create a profile." By building your own profile on this page (and perhaps adding a photo of yourself), you will be able to click on events on the schedule you wish to attend. They will then appear on your profile when you search yourself. The list you have generated can be sent to your mobile phone, print your schedule, or email it to yourself. By doing this during the next month as you study the schedule, you will be able to set goals and schedule yourself. The rest, i.e. keeping to your schedule, is up to you!

While you stay in the downtown area of Raleigh you can always be connected. The city provides free Wi-Fi with easy access. Between using that access and the walking setting on your phone's GPS, there's no reason not to be able to find your way around.

There are three other kinds of schedules available, each of which has its own usefulness. There are two cell phone apps, one for the World of Bluegrass and One for Wide Open Bluegrass. These are not yet available, but will be posted a couple of weeks before the event begins. Once you start, these will become one of your go-to tools, since you won't be carrying your lap top. They are available through the usual outlets.

IBMA publishes a comprehensive program. This is large, contains lots of advertisements, maps, and the entire schedule. I usually give up on using it because it's cumbersome, although it would be very useful to have as a planning document a couple of weeks before you arrive, or to keep in your hotel room for study about the next day.

Finally, two tri-fold guides with maps included, are available all over the Convention Center, grab a few early and don't lose them. They become scarce as WOB moves along, and they stand as one of the most useful "how-to-get-around" tools available.

However: Stuff keeps popping up, and you need to stay alert. Lots of new activity or late scheduled events get announced by email, social media, and people posting on bulletin boards and walls all over the Convention Center and in the Hotels. Somehow, you need to keep track of this. I can't determine, at this time, how many of these newly scheduled events make their way to the Official Full Week Schedule, but my guess is that not all of it does or can. I can't emphasize strongly enough how important it is to download the schedule and register as an attendee.

Wi-Fi Map & Downtown Area

Tickets: IBMA's World of Bluegrass contains three components that must be addressed separately, and within each component there are multiple options. The Business Conference runs from Tuesday through Thursday (September 26 - 28), the Awards Show takes place on Thursday evening (September 28), and Wide Open Bluegrass (September 29 - 30) is a two day bluegrass festival and street fair which is mostly free except for the ticketed event in the Red Hat Amphitheater featuring major acts from noon 'til eleven each day. As with most events, the best buys are available to people who purchase comprehensive tickets during early bird periods. Early bird is long past, but Full Registration for the Business Conference is your best buy, as it includes several banquet style meals as well as admission to all Bluegrass Ramble showcases.. Here's a link to the ticketing options.

Where to Stay: 

Convention Hotels: The Raleigh Marriott City Center and the Sheraton Raleigh Hotel stand directly across the street from the Convention Center and convenient to the Red Hat Amphitheater and the Duke Energy Center. The both offer special IBMA prices, but were fully booked early in the ticket buying process. HOWEVER, there are always unforeseen cancellations, so it won't hurt to give them a call.

Air BnB in Raleigh - Air Bed and Breakfast accommodations have become popular recently. Here's a list of Air BnB's available in Raleigh for the dates of IBMA as of the end of August.

Hotels Near Raleigh Convention Center: While the two official hotels for IBMA are the Marriott and the Sheraton across the street from the Convention Center, there are a number of other hotels and motels nearby. Here's a map and list of convenient hotels  that might represent a saving.

Camping: The North Carolina State Fair Grounds offer a large, full hook-up campground with free Wi-Fi just a fifteen minute drive from the Convention Center, where there is plenty of parking available. During the event, a shuttle runs regularly. Several hot shower locations are a short drive from the site if you don't use your own rig. Here's information about reservations and the check-in process. Campus security will come to you to collect your fees. Last year a block of 100 sites was set aside for World of Bluegrass.

State Fair Campground

Leaving Our Site for the Day

Note: North Carolina State Parks close their gates at 9:00 PM, requiring you to park outside and walk to your site. I do NOT recommend staying at a state park near Raleigh if you expect to get in at night. While the North Carolina State Parks don't emphasize this feature, here's a quotation from the "make a reservation" section of the State's web site
  • Park gates are closed/locked at posted closing times for your protection. (In case of emergency, contact park ranger or camp host at the posted phone number or dial 911).

The Business Conference
Early Morning Registration 

The registration desk is open on Monday afternoon, so those arriving early and wanting to get their credentials in order before the lines begin to lengthen, can come to registration then. Remember, if you're staying for Wide Open Bluegrass, you'll need to register again on Friday.

Meeting & Greeting Starts at Registration in the Lobby

Raymond McClain & Bill Knowlton Visit with the Price Sisters

There are three major tracks in the Business Conference: The Talent Buyer Track, The Songwriter Track, and the Continuing Legal Education Track (lawyers get credit from the bar for attending these sessions). But none of these elements are exclusive. For instance, The Gig Fair (speed dating for bands and events) is a crucial event for many young bands seeking to make face-to-face contact with representatives of festivals, arts centers, concert series and more. Important: If you're interested in participating in the Gig Fair, you must sign up in advance. Keep an eye on the Gig Fair page for sign-up materials. You Must be registered for the Business Conference and sign up to participate in the Gig Fair. You may find interesting sessions and receptions in all the categories of tracks and special interests. Except where noted, these are all open, but you don't want to find yourself walking up and down the Convention Center hallways with an hour of free time on Wednesday afternoon wondering which session you'd like to attend. That's why you study the Schedule.

Gig Fair

Band Meeting with Festival Promoter

Preparing for Gig Fair: Bands planning on attending the Gig Fair should prepare a folder including their experience, a CD of their work, experience, pictures, and other relevant material. Some bands spend significant money to prepare their presentation, but a well designed pocket folder with the necessary information is fine. Note: It's very bad form to wander into the Gig Fair room and walk around delivering materials or interrupting the flow. You MUST register. 

Conference Sessions: No one who attends this conference knows all there is to know. There's always more to learn about your chosen profession. If you can't go through the schedule and find sessions that will add to your ability to perform better, get more gigs, build a stronger band, write better songs, develop stronger personal relationships in the profession and much more, you're not trying. Here are a few randomly chosen topics for this year: Social Media: Nuts and Bolts and Current Trends, Promoting Yourself: The Promoter's View, Sponsorships & Endorsements, The Essence of Good Songwriting. And these three just suggest the breadth of offerings.

Showcases: Each year a committee chooses up to thirty bands for official showcasing. In order to be selected they must meet certain criteria. The thirty artists chosen are guaranteed at least two appearances at showcases in the Convention Center plus additional shows at the venues on the Bluegrass Ramble. The Ramble is designed to use convenient venues, with easy reach on the route of the special R Bus or with a few minutes walk.

Free Circular Line to Ramble Venues

There are three kinds of showcases featured at World of Bluegrass. The thirty selected bands present Official Showcases. Searching the Schedule by band name will yield you the location of each of these performances. You can stay in the Convention Center and catch all the Official Showcase bands or go out to the Bluegrass Ramble venues to see them in a variety of more realistic performance venues. Sponsored Showcases are scheduled by recording companies, radio stations, regional bluegrass associations, and others. There are also after-hour showcases in the hotels, the Convention Center, and Ramble Locations. These will include performances by the showcase bands as well as many established performers sponsors wish to highlight.

The Lonesome River Band at Mountain Home Showcase

Such events occur during the Business Conference. They offer excellent opportunities for fans to see many top touring bands and require conference registration to attend. Organizations like the California Bluegrass Association sponsor "private" showcases in their suite at the Marriott Hotel. These are extremely popular events, too. 

This year's Keynote Address will be delivered at the Keynote Address and Reception (including a buffet supper) by Rhiannon Giddens speaking on the conference theme "Community and Connection." Giddens, a founding member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops is a winner of the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass as well as a powerful singer across several genres. Her keynote will set the tone for the remainder of the conference. 

Rhiannon Giddens

Luncheons are provided on  Wednesday and Thursday at 11:00 AM each day. The Momentum Awards luncheon put the spotlight on emerging artists, bands, industry involvement, mentorship, and individuals who merit notice. There are always some interesting surprises at this newest set of IBMA awards as well as fine performances. The Special Awards Luncheon highlights industry recognition for many behind the scenes and crucial functions including songwriters, events, liner notes, graphic design, print/media, and, perhaps the most heartily enjoyed by the membership, the Distinguished Achievement Awards.  Here's a list of nominees for each banquet. 

Kyle Cantrell Presents Broadcaster of the Year
to Joe Mullins

Ken Irwin & Marian Levy Presenting
Distinguished Achievement Award to...

The Boston Bluegrass Union

While Attendees Enjoy a Good Meal

While Thursday feels like a part of the Awards element of World of Bluegrass, it remains a full business day with panels, workshops, and meetings. Days at World of Bluegrass are long and demanding, but always worthwhile. Nevertheless, Thursday is, for many who watch from within the organization, across the country, and around the world - Thursday is the Big Day.

IBMA Awards Show

The Duke Energy Center is the home of the signature event of IBMA, The Awards Show, broadcast live on Sirius/xm radio and featured in all the places where people encounter bluegrass. Here's a list of this year's nominees for awards at the 2017 show. While premium seats are probably long gone, plenty of tickets are still available if you wish to attend this event. 

As a well produced, highly anticipated celebration of bluegrass's brightest lights, the Awards Show stands as the centerpiece of the week in both time and attention. Here are a few highlights of the show. This year's show will be hosted by Sierra Hull and Dan Tyminski. 

The Earls of Leicester Perform
2016 Entertainers of the Year

Roland White Accepting Hall of Fame Induction
for His Brother Clarence White

Roland White will be inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame at this year's Awards ceremony.

Sierra Hull Wins Mandolin Player of the Year

Wide Open Bluegrass

Wide Open Bluegrass is a two day free street festival and a major ticketed event at the Red Hat Amphitheater produced by the City of Raleigh in cooperation with IBMA and support of major sponsors including PNC Bank. Last year it attracted approximately 208,000 people to downtown Raleigh, according Bluegrass Today. People attending the Thursday night awards show will emerge to see the entire length of  Fayettville Street changing its look. At noon on Friday, when the Exhibit Hall opens, they'll also discover that it has been almost completely changed to accommodate fans rather than bluegrass professionals. Dozens of bands play at stages on the side streets of Fayetteville street, which is closed to traffic from the Duke Energy Center to the State Capitol . Exhibitors and food vendors fill the main thoroughfare, and people stroll up and down, stop to hear the bands, buy all sorts of interesting foods, and have a great time. Meanwhile, in the Red Hat Amphitheater, ticket holders can enjoy two days of the broadest range of bluegrass music to be found at just about any festival in the world. Here's the lineup:

Red Hat Amphitheater Lineup

Youth Programs
The Youth Room in the lower begins with a kick-off party in room 203 of the Convention Center on Wednesday at 5:00 PM. The Youth Room will be open through the next four days and a Kids on Bluegrass show will be prepared for the Plaza Stage. There is also a Youth Stage on Fayetteville Steet where young bands play. Almost anywhere you go in the hotels and around the Convention Center you're likely to find groups of talented kids jamming. The committee in charge of youth activities will b e announcing their whole program in the next week or so. Keep an eye out for IBMA announcements. I will also add material here.

The Street Fair: Let's take a walk down Fayetteville Street on Friday or Saturday to sample the activities. It's a jumpin' place where you can eat, drink, sample local crafts, try out barbecue sauces, and hear local, regional, and national bands play at one of the seven free stages along the street.

Danny Paisley & the Southern Grass 
Davie Street Stage

Banjo Flash Mob with Sir Walter Raleigh

Pete Wernick (Dr. Banjo) Jam Class 
Convention Center

Dr. Banjo Teaching

Molly Tuttle Band
Capitol Stage

Food and Craft Booths Along Fayetteville Street

Kids Activities

Panning for Gold

Malpass Brothers - Classic Country

The Expo Hall: During both the Business Conference and Wide Open Bluegrass, the Exhibit Hall, located on a cavernous space below ground level in the Convention Center, offers the broadest possible range of commercial efforts to reach out to bluegrass musicians, support personnel, and fans. Instrument makers, gear companies, publishers, organizations, broadcasters, and individual bands have booths displaying their wares. For pickers, the Exhibit Hall is paradise, as they can play instruments of every level of quality. It's not unusual to find jams breaking out, as novice pickers to national icons can be seen playing or wandering the aisles. The changeover that takes place during the Awards Show and early the next morning means that multiple visits are necessary. On the other hand, if you have tasks to accomplish, the exhibitions can be seductive, taking you away from your other plans. Here's a small look:

The Exhibition Hall

Michael Cleveland, Bobby Hicks, Dan Boner
Jamming at a Booth

Seen in Passing
Jerry Salley & Larry Stephenson

John McCuen & the Kruger Brothers
in the Deeing Booth

Don't miss the Exhibition Hall!

Schedule for Artists and Performances for
Wide Open Bluegrass StreetFest
September 29-30, 2017
(all times/performers subject to change)
CITY PLAZA STAGE                                                                                                     
           12:00  Danny Paisley & Southern Grass                                            
           1:15 Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen                                               
           2:30  The Ebony Hillbillies                                                              
           3:45  Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers                                        
           5:00  Adam Aijala, Ben Kaufmann, & Friends                                              
           6:15  Tim O'Brien featuring Jan Fabricius                                               
           7:45  Nick Forster & Danny Barnes                                                
           9:30 The Gibson Brothers                                                              
           12:00  Flashback 
           1:15  Joe Newberry & April Verch                                                  
           2:30  Kids on Bluegrass                                                                  
           3:45  Songs from the Road Band                                                     
           5:00  Bryan Sutton & Casey Campbell                                            
           6:15  Becky Buller Band                                                                 
           7:45  Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley                                                     
           9:30   Chatham County Line ~ELECTRIC~                                    
DAVIE STREET (North Carolina Blue Ridge Music Trails)                                           
           12:15 Strictly Strings
           1:30 Cathy Fink, Marcy Marxer, and Sam Gleaves - Tribute to Ola Belle Reed 
           2:45 Zoe & Cloyd  
           4:00  ShadowGrass 
           5:15  Darin & Brooke Aldridge                                                       
           6:30  David Holt & Josh Goforth                                                    
           8:00  The Kruger Brothers                                                               
           9:45   Alan Bibey and Grasstowne                                                   
           12:15    ClayBank 
           1:30  The Piney Woods Boys                                                          
           2:45  Snyder Family Band                                                               
           4:00  Mark Kuykendall, Bobby Hicks & Asheville Bluegrass         
           5:15  Strictly Clean & Decent                                                          
           6:30  The Rorrer Brothers and Son                                                  
           8:00  Terry Baucom’s Dukes of Drive                                           
           9:45      The Harris Brothers                                                                
HARGETT STREET STAGE                                                                             
           12:30 Carolina PineCones                                                                
           1:45  Chris Jones & the Night Drivers                                             
           3:00  Dave Adkins Band                                                                 
           4:15  The Grass Cats                                                                       
           5:30  Tommy Edwards & Bluegrass Experience                              
           6:45  Missy Raines & The New Hip                                                
           8:15  Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys
           9:45  Volume Five
           12:30 Nixon, Blevins & Gage                                                          
           1:45  Williamson Brothers                                                               
           3:00  Hank, Pattie, and the Current                                                  
           4:15  Kristy Cox   
           5:30  Sideline    
           6:45  Claire Lynch
           8:15  Kenny & Amanda Smith                                                        
           9:45  The Slocan Ramblers                                                                                                                              
CAPITOL STAGE                                                                                                  
           12:15 FY5          
           1:30  The Honey Dewdrops                                                            
           2:45  Irene Kelly  
           4:00  Nedski and Mojo                                                                    
           5:15  10 String Symphony                                                               
           6:30  Molly Tuttle Band                                                                  
           8:00  Front Country 
           9:45  Town Mountain                                                                      
           12:15 The Outliers 
           1:30  Ray Cardwell & Tennessee Moon                                          
           2:45  Ms Adventure
           4:00  NewTown 
           5:15  Scythian   
           6:30  Jeff Scroggins & Colorado                                                     
           8:00  Steve Gulley & New Pinnacle                                                
           9:45  Wood & Wire 
DANCE TENT                                                                                                     
           12:00 Square Dance  with Aaron Ratcliffe (calling) and Blue Ridge Broadcasters
           2:00  Zydeco Ya Yas 
           3:15  Contra Dance with Beth Molaro (calling) and Steamshovel
           5:00  The Glorifying Vines Sisters
           6:15  Apple Chill Cloggers w/Patrick Walsh & Friends
           7:30  Open Dance w/ The Ebony Hillbillies
           9:30   Open Dance w/TBD                                      
           12:00     Family Square Dance Kyle Johnston (calling) and Half Hog
           2:30       Clogging Performance & Workshop: Cane Creek Cloggers w/Strictly                                   Strings
           4:15       Contra Dance with Beth Molaro (calling) and Steamshovel 
           6:15       Clogging Performance: Green Grass Cloggers w/Uncle John & The Hollis                            Trio
           7:30       Open Dance w/The Gravy Boys
           9:30       Open Dance w/Scythian                                                                             
Junior Appalachian Musicians (J.A.M.) @ Martin Street
12:00    Ruth Shumway & The High Ridge Pickers
1:00    Eliza Meyer & Friends
2:00    Ashe JAM Band
3:00    Yates Family & Acoustic Heritage

4:00    Virginia Luthiers Band w/ Wayne Henderson & Karlie Keepfer

The Red Hat Amphitheater: During Wide Open Bluegrass on Friday and Saturday, performances by a series of top bands you might never see together at any other single festival take place in the only ticketed event during Wide Open, since proceeds from this event provide major support for IBMA's Bluegrass Trust Fund.

Here's a link to the main stage schedule. Try to beat it anywhere! Here's information about ticketing. While most prime seats have long been taken, there's plenty of lawn seating.  During the day, you can move forward into any empty seat. If the owner of that seat shows up, it's the bluegrass way for you to move. Otherwise, help yourself. Meanwhile, here's a teaser from last year:

The Glimmer Wall at the Back of the Convention Center

Brooke Aldridge of JumboTron

The Crowd

The Earls of Leicester

I've tried to present a blog entry that would help both registrants for the various events and people who attend in other ways with a guide to planning and enjoying IBMA's World of Bluegrass from September 26 - 30, 2017 in Raleigh. You have plenty of time to prepare. IBMA's own web site is still the "go-to" source for information. The web site is many-layered and often dense. I've tried to link to highlights there that will help you through. The week is huge and all consuming. Don't forget that you're there to learn AND to enjoy yourself. I hope to meet many of you as the week goes along. Please stop me to introduce yourself. I may not remember you, but I treasure the chance to turn names into people.