Wednesday, November 22, 2006

How To Turn A Desert Into A...

Tonight while fighting with a pie crust, I toppled over a beer that flipped off the counter, bounced off the garbage can, and landed upright on the floor. Now, sure there was a little spillage, but damn, if I could only put that kind of talent to better the state of musickind in Northeast Ohio, I'd really be doing something worthwhile.

I finally broke down and watched the DVD that came with the Sugar Hill retrospective recording. Barry Poss is someone who kind of played an instrument -- he played old-time banjo fairly well -- but mostly he put his love for the music to work by creating a home for bluegrass artists to spread their wings, explore their artistry, and make some really good recordings without a lot of corporate mumbo jumbo or interference. That's a contribution.

While I was enjoying the DVD and waiting for the final two of three pies to come out of the oven, I scanned some of the larger names in Bluegrass, some Sugar Hill and some not, to see who might be coming to Ohio anytime soon. Then I scanned venues.....there's not even a schedule posted for The Kent Stage beyond December, and that makes me nervous.

Northeast Ohio is terrific if you like new, young, kind of lost in a sweet funky way little bands. It's great if you wanna be a rock star or a kinda, sorta blues musician. But I don't wanna be a rock star. Maybe two or three of my favorite artists of all time were ever rock stars. The rest are just solid, solid, solid musicians who have a measurable following -- evidently most of whom live outside the Ohio state line.

So this is a bit of a challenge. Not only is it a dry wasteland between now and, oh, APRIL, when Doyle Lawson finally comes back through, but the place he's coming through is a tiny little auditorium in WADSWORTH. The likes of Blossom, House of Blues, the Beachland -- ok, the Beachland is bringing Iris Dement and Robin and Linda Williams out in 2007, so skip them -- the big venues, nothing. Nothing, and nothing beyond December at my standby, The Stage.

Do I have to go to Nashville for EVERYTHING? Or, Ithaca, where a number of favorites will be playing in the coming year?

Nobody should.

I don't think I can turn this arrid desert wasteland of acoustic music into a raging river, but I probably could start a trickle.

The trouble is when, and how, and for whom. I make a fine pie, but on this score, I am lost. Lost.

4 Comments:

At November 24, 2006 9:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Bluegrass has become "addicted" to the whole festival thing. Many fans and artists build their whole year around the "usual suspects" (Merlefest, Telluride, Grey Fox, etc.) Which creates a vacuum for everybody else for the rest of the year.

2. Pollstar shows Lucy Kaplansky playing the Kent Stage in March. The Stage's website always sucks.

3. To me, bluegrass is part of the whole roots/acoustic trad music spectrum. Sadly, far too many BG performers don't see it that way and a lot of the music they produce really sucks.Trying to endlessly imitate Bill Monroe just gets really boring after awhile. And if the music gets wrapped up in Bible thumping... I'll pass. Ricky and Del are great musicians but the Gospel thing ain't for me.

4. The BG industry (and that's what it is) has split into the "newgrass" camp (as one wag has described them "very herbaceous") and gospel camps. The newgrass players endless doodling bores me just as much as the jamband Dead wannabees...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

 
At November 24, 2006 12:32 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Hi Anon,

It was a treat to find your thoughtful comments on the blog this morning. Thanks much for stopping by.

It's really refreshing to hear someone else say some of things out loud. The Festival Addiction point is a good one -- oh, you left out Clifftop, which is a fiddler's virtual Nirvana. Anyway, it is a shame that so much effort goes into such a concentrated period in a format that is in fact unattainable by a large constituency of fans and supporters. I've been to some of those big festivals but nothing hits home like the experience of a performance in a more intimate venue where interaction with the artist is genuinely possible. At some point in my life, I'd like to create more of both, and maybe something in between, so that this kind of music isn't so foreign or skeptically regarded as an outdoor adventure.

You're also correct in saying there is a lot of junk out there. I've turned on an uberpopular artist or two in the last year whom I originally really felt possessed enormous musicianship but whose latest recordings are really trending downward in quality, I think as their appeal has reached sort of "rock star" level. I've acquired a couple of recordings in the last year that were just downright disappointing. You just can't hide schlock.

That whole "camp" thing is a tricky one. The notion that the music is all along an acoustic spectrum is a really important one and it kind of helps me to think of it that way because you never know what will open the door to a new listener, or where that listener will go, whether they'll pick up an instrument, how far they'll take their interest. I've been struggling especially with the Gospel stuff, 'cause like you, I don't care nothin' for your preachin' -- or for war drums. At the same time I can appreciate from a musical standpoint the quartet -- oh, I do love a quartet, and Lawson does it damn well -- and some of the other old standards. And it's a good challenge to myself to sort of recognize that meeting an artist where they are, even if it's not a place I personally like to hang out, maybe will help maintain the diversity. I think there is a lot in between the newgrass and the gospel, and that's where I usually hang out. But it's always healthy to step outside the comfort zone, at least for me!

Thanks again, friend. Whenever I hear a wandering newgrass line I'll certainly chuckle and think of the handy phrase "endless doodling."

 
At November 27, 2006 10:29 PM, Anonymous Janice said...

Pie? Did you say pie? Is any left? PIE!!!!!!!!!

 
At November 27, 2006 10:33 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

LOL! I miss you, Pie Mama! I am just realizing we have not communed over pie. TRAGIC!! Put it on the 2007 planner...and give me your top ten faves to work on!

Cheers,
MM

 

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