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!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Dumplin Valley Bluegrass Festival - Sept. 19 - 21 - Preview

Promoters Joe and Mitzi Soward will celebrate the twentieth anniversary of their Dumplin Valley Bluegrass Festival this year, running from September 19 - 21 at 525 E. Dumplin Valley Road in Kodak, TN. Convenient to fans from nearly everywhere east of the Mississippi River, this festival draws loyal fans and newcomers from Florida to New England, the Outer Banks to Michigan. Held at their home, which is a year-round campground and popular regional meeting and event center, the festival features some of the brightest lights in bluegrass music as well as introducing fans to rising bands they may never have heard before. Over the years, the festival and its hosts have become one of our favorites. 

Joe & Mitzi Soward

Dumplin Valley is a fan friendly event, from its Pot-Luck supper and home grown show on Wednesday evening to its close on Saturday night. The campground is large and offers a variety of accomodations, there's lots of jamming at all levels, plenty of under control socializing, good food vendors, and nearby attractions of the Smoky Mountain National Park and the entertainments of the Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg tourist region. If you love bluegrass music and haven't been to this festival, this is the year!

The Lineup
Salt & Light

Salt & Light: The Moore Family Band is an emerging family band coming out of Graham, NC. They're a melodious, high intensity group that will entertain with a strong dose of gospel music as well as some interesting takes on traditional bluegrass. As a six member band, they have provided themselves with plenty of ways to divide the honors and keep the attention of their audience.

Salt & Light - Medley

Jerry Butler Band

We've known and liked Jerry Butler since the days when he was lead singer with Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road. He's equally comfortable with bluegrass and country music, playing both at his long-time gig at Dolly Parton's Dollywood, where he's a featured act at several venues around the campus. His flexible voice and friendly demeanor make him an "in demand" performer.

Jerry Butler - Mama Tried

Po' Ramblin Boys

The Po' Mountain Boys are a neo-traditional bluegrass group, mostly from East Tennessee, whose music owes a great deal to the Ralph & Carter Stanley tradition and sound, without ever becoming slaves to it. They include a good dose of their own music as well as other traditional renditions. They are one of the too few such bands which bring enough energy, respect, and individuality to traditional sounds that they stand out as contemporary representatives of the best that too many modern bands styling themselves as traditional seem to lack.

Po' Ramblin Boys - I'd Like to Be a Train

Jimbo Whaley & Greenbrier

Jimbo Whaley & Greenbrier is a fixture at Dumplin' Valley. Jimbo, one of the founding members of Pine Mountain Railroad, popular from its inception in 1998 for about a decade, Jimbo lives in the vast tourist destination comprised of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg just South of Dumplin' Valley. His band is filled with members of that pool of musical talent which originated or was drawn drawn to the region. Since this band doesn't tour, it's always a pleasure to see them and get to visit.

Appalachian Road Show

While I haven't seen Appalachian Road Show yet, I understand their show to be not only a musical extravaganza, but a guided tour through the development of bluegrass music out of the old time mountain traditions of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Founded by Darrell Webb and former Mountain Heart founders Barry Abernathy and Jim vanCleve, this group, which also includes Todd Phillips on bass and Zeb Snyder on guitar has emerged quickly and should last. You can count on having a lively good time combing great music with humor and maybe some education, too. (Ninety Minute Closing Show)

Appalachian Road Show - Dance, Dance, Dance

The Alex Leach Band
Photo: Bluegrass Today
While only thirty years of age, Alex Leach has been a recognizable name since there was only one number in his age. As he's matured, so has his music, bringing to his once single-minded devotion to the Stanley Brothers, increasing nuance and awareness of how even tradtion grows and changes. Once better known as a DJ, he's emerged as a recognizable voice and bluegrass personality.

Alex Leach - Mountain Heartache

The Crowe Brothers

Josh and Wayne Crowe, the Crowe Brothers, have kept close to their Maggie Valley, NC roots. Maggie Valley, once a secluded, rural village in western North Carolina's Haywood County, near the popular tourist town of Asheville. Maggie Valley has become an expensive getaway to the Smoky Mountains, while retaining its rural country aura. Their music is both rough and sophisticated, as they sing songs about old country values and living in an RV. It's always a pleasure to see and hear this band. 

The Crowe Brothers - Livin' in My Mobile Home

U.S. Navy Band Country Current

Founded in 1973 by Bill Emerson, recently named to the Bluegrass Hall of Fame, Country Current brings to audiences its program of traditional bluegrass, more contemporary songs written within the band, along with patriotic military bearing and service hymns. While primarily a part of the recruiting efforts of the Navy and tasked with appearing at official events in Washington and around the world, the band is entertaining and inspiring. While very much in demand, they can be booked by schools, communities, and bluegrass festivals at no cost to the sponsoring event. 

Country Current - The Bluenose

The Malpass Brothers

The Malpass Brothers, Christopher and Taylor, come from around Greenville, NC, in the eastern part of the Piedmont where the land is flat, rich farmland and drive-through country for many headed to the beaches of the Outer Banks. It's also rich in country and bluegrass history. The brothers grew up immersed in classic country music, perfecting their impersonations of artists who were well-known before they were born. They attracted the attention of Merle Haggard, with whom they traveled, opening his shows, for several years. Their music and their engaging, humorous act has found an audience at bluegrass festivals where traditional music is valued and encouraged. 

The Malpass Brothers - I Just Don't Like Lovin' You Any More

Rhonda Vincent & the Rage

Nominated again for the IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year, which she has already won eight times, Rhonda Vincent is a fixture at Dumplin' Valley, always welcome for her highly professional and versatile band, fine singing, and seemingly tireless willingness to stay at the Rhonda Vincent Boutique until the last fan is greeted, the last CD is signed, and the end of the line has been satisfied. She is both admired and loved by her huge fan base. Fiddler Hunter Berry has been rightly nominated this year for IBMA Fiddle Player of the Year. 

Rhonda Vincent & the Rage - Momma Tried

Penny Creek

Penny Creek developed its chops as a bar band in Melbourne, FL and began appearing at local and regional festivals several years ago. As it has become increasingly popular, it has also changed its personnel and become increasingly good, while expanding its reach. Look for a very solid bluegrass band offering a good variety of material. We always enjoy seeing and hearing this band.

Penny Creek - A Poet with Wings

Deeper Shade of Blue

Deeper Shade of Blue was one of the first bluegrass bands we saw when we began coming to North Carolina about twenty years ago. Over the years, the band has maintained a remarkably stable membership, allowing it to mature and develop from good to excellent. In recent years, despite all having jobs at home, the band has travelled more widely, spreading its very good traditional sounds. They always deliver!

Deeper Shade of Blue - Making Plans

Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper

Michael Cleveland has become the most awarded and recognized fiddle player of his era. Named IBMA Fiddle Player of the Year eleven times in this century, his hard driving traditional fiddle playing takes on the colors of the many of bluegrass music's great fiddlers while sounding like his inimitable self at all times. While the focus is often on Michael's fiddle play, Singer/Guitarist Josh Richards and Mandolin ace Nathan Livers add vocal and instrumental strength.  

Michale Cleveland & Flamekeeper - Jerusalem Ridge

Darin & Brooke Aldridge 

Nominated for a third consecutive IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year, Brooke Aldridge's clear warm country voice and powerful emotive delivery cannot be surpassed by any contemporary singer. Less noted, but equally important to this band, is veteran performer, at just forty years of age, of Darin Aldridge. His fine instrumental work on both guitar and mandolin and harmony singing is under-estimated, as he sublimates his own virtuosity to the excellence of the band and to supporting his wife. Other members of the band include, Carley Arrowood on fiddle and Matt Menafee on banjo or Dobro, combine to make this band one of the most versatile and subtle bands in the business. Billy Gee, on bass, brings his solid beat along with bass vocals to fill the gospel songs this band loves to sing. 

Darin & Brooke Aldridge - Someday Soon

Lonesome River Band

Since its founding thirthy-seven years ago, the Lonesome River Band has stood out among bluegrass bands for its musicality, blending bluegrass with the influences of rock sensibility and country connections. Since 1990, Sammy Shelor has been first their banjo player and, since 1995 sharing leadership with Ronnie Bowman before taking over in 2000. His outstanding musical imagination led to his being awarded the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass Music in 2011 as well as being named IBMA Banjo Player of the Year five times over three decades, a remarkable display of longevity and leadership. LRB has often been the closing band on Saturday night for this fine festival. 

Lonesome River Band - Wreck of My Heart

Spotify Playlist of Bands at Dumplin Valley 

The Details:

For Further Information you can contact the festival by writing: 525 East Dummplin Valley Rd., Kodak, TN 37764, Phone at: 865.397.7942 or 865.740.1889. or email: dumplingrass@comsst.net. You can also make reservations for camping accomodations. Sometimes there are late cancellations so a few sites with hookups may become available, although these are usually reserved far in advance. 

A number of motels are conveniently located near Exit 207 of I-40, about three miles from Dumplin Valley, for those who are not campers. This year, we were able to find a convenient Airbnb, which like VRBO are becoming increasingly available in the area. 

Wednesday Night at Dumplin Valley


Vendors offering food ranging from snacks and sweets to full dinner plates are available conveniently located behnd the covered stage area located in the former milking parlor. Instrument and gear vendors, some of whom provide quick instrument repair, are usually available, too. 

How to Get to Dumplin Valley
input your address in the O space & click

Happy Joe Soward at the End
of a 
Great Weekend Festival!