Thursday, July 31, 2008

MACC Review

Musicians Against Childhood Cancer (MACC) was founded after the untimely death of Phyllis and Darrel Adkins’ daughter Mandy from a brain stem tumor in November of 2000. Mandy had been treated at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN, and the Adkins, who had been promoting a bluegrass festival for many years, decided out of their grief and gratitude to devote the future of their festival to helping provide support for the hospital. From this commitment, Musicians Against Childhood Cancer was formed in the Spring of 2000. Since that time, the festival has donated $432,524.33 to St. Jude and to the YMCA. The festival held in Mandy Adkins’ honor and memory committed to raising money for St. Jude has developed into one of the very finest bluegrass festivals in the country, one that brings together great bands, musicians put together in unusual combinations, and a spirited community for a superlative four day event.

Darrel Adkins

Phyllis Adkins

Camping Area

Frequent Pumpouts

Kid Friendly
MACC has been held since its inception in 2000 at Hoover Y Park just south of Columbus, Ohio in Lockbourne. Prior to that Adkins and his wife had promoted a festival called The Bluegrass Classic for many years at Frontier Ranch. Hoover Y Park is a seventy acre facility whose history goes back to the early twentieth century. Featuring vast fields for RV and day trip parking with 20 Amp electric hookups available for a limited number of campers, the park offers a very large performance area with plenty of shade. The four day festival runs from Wednesday through Saturday, permitting visitors to remain through its conclusion on Saturday night without having to leave early on Sunday, as is true at many events. This allows the festival to culminate in a grand finale, the MACC Opry with most fans staying until the very end.

Shaded and Sunny Seating Area
Dance Area

Out on Vendors Row

The main performance area is spacious enough to permit a very large stage with seemingly endless lawns in front of it for attendees to place their lawn chairs. Fans seem spread out, because they choose to place chairs in shady spots, but there’s plenty of room for families to put out blankets or tarps on the ground, sit in circles around coolers while they play cards and drink a cold beverage, and listen to the music, or chat without bothering people who are more serious listeners. A good selection of food vendors is located to the rear of the performance area with band tents down the right side for their merchandise tables. Two spacious parking lots permit plenty of day parking. Behind the stage is an area reserved for performers and volunteers where food is served all day, and musicians can hang out with each other. MACC is a festival where musicians come and stay for a while, getting time to visit with each other at their leisure as well as to mix with fans. Musicians performing at MACC volunteer their time, so Darrel Adkins makes certain they are comfortable and have an enjoyable time.

Volunteers Take a Break

Preparing the Stage

And In Performance
The stage is large, featuring the best stage lighting anywhere. The sound system, coordinated by Jim Winchester’s Gem Sound and provided by Soundwave, a full service sound production company. Sound engineer Tom Feller assures the quality of each performance. Soundwave’s list of former clients runs from rap to rock to country to bluegrass. Using what are known as line array speakers, the system (to my very limited understanding) apparently is capable of delivering sound much more accurately to all sections of an audience without ever having to overwhelm anyone with too much volume. Don’t ask me to explain how, but I can tell you the sound at MACC was clearer and more easily heard both close up and at a distance than any other sound system I’ve ever heard. Musicians I talked with all said the sound, from their point of view, allowed them to hear their own music in order to improve their playing. The audience was treated to the clearest, most listenable sound found anywhere.

Emcee John Tewell

Emcee Melany Tewell Shauver

Artists Back Stage (Bill Emerson & The Sweet Dixie Band)

Randy Kohrs Backstage
The job of emcee is often under-rated and underappreciated. John Tewell and his daughter Melany Shauver, through four days of work kept the proceedings moving along with style and humor. Emcees often manage to make their work about themselves, at MACC the work of the emcees was always about the musicians and the music. Darrel Adkins maintains the festival is always about the musicians, the music, the cause they serve, and the audience. In 2006, the recording Celebration of Life, containing 36 songs recorded live at MACC, won the IBMA Album of the Year award. The musicians have taken ownership of the charitable goals of the festival and contribute their time, their music, and their strong support to the memory of Mandy Adkins, who many of the musicians knew and loved. On Saturday afternoon, Alan Bibey of Grasstowne sang “Side by Side,” a song about his grandparents, which Mandy dearly loved. Her sister Tami stood near the stage while Alan sang it. He later said he wasn’t sure he’d be able to get through it. This small incident typifies the spirit of this festival.

Bo McCarty and Sammy Shelor

Backstage Moment - Bradley Walker, Carl Jackson, Harley Allen

The Saturday night MACC Opry was the culminating event of the festival as musicians from many bands joined together on stage to sing and pick together. In the days of Bill Monroe, early festivals ended with a grand finale. The MACC Opry provides such an opportunity as we saw Carl Jackson, Larry Cordle, Bradley Walker, Chris Stapleton, Steve Gulley and more singing and picking together. As we drove home to New Hampshire on Sunday, we spent a good portion of the day listening to CDs we had bought and talking about the wonders of the week just past. As volunteers, we had been privileged to experience this festival from the inside, but as fans we knew we had seen and experienced the best.


So Long 'Til Next Year

MACC 2009
July 22 - 25

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