WAMU’s Bluegrass Country is broadcasting live from Nashville September 26-30. Click here for a complete schedule of our live programming. In addition to our broadcast, we’ll also be blogging daily. Today’s blogger is Bluegrass Country host Lee Michael Demsey.
Support for today’s blog comes from Pickin’ in the Panhandle.
It’s Tuesday at IBMA, and I’m into my fourth day here in Nashville, a visit I enjoy each year. I like to come early to settle in before all the action gets underway. There are a number of fine music venues around this town, including the Station Inn and the Bluebird Café, just to name two.
My first stop on Saturday night was the Symphony Hall (below photo), where Bela Fleck was giving the world premiere of his Banjo Concerto, with the nearly one hundred piece Nashville Symphony Orchestra. What a fine evening of classical music it was.
The next night, it was off to the Ryman Auditorium, the original home of the Grand Old Opry. One would think that the music heard there would be primarily Country or Bluegrass or some other similar semi-traditional style of music, but these days the Ryman plays host to a wider mix of artists. Heck, Ted Nugent played there just the other week! I joined a full house to watch Elvis Costello do a powerhouse two hour show.
Monday, the convention got going and WAMU’s BluegrassCountry kicked off our live afternoon broadcasts with a visit from Jamie Dailey and Darren Vincent. I had the good fortune to host The Roys, Acoustic Blue, and the exciting new band, Monroeville during my segments.
The late night showcases are always a highlight to me, though it’s kinda hard for this old guy to make it til 2am, when these sessions tend to wrap up. When you do though, you can see some awesome talent, some of which doesn’t make it to any of the official showcases earlier in the day. This is especially so at the Mast Farm Emerging Artist showcase, which last night had one of my favorite young bands, The Farewell Drifters, as well as Jubal’s Kin, mountain folk duo Anne and Pete Sibley, and the phenominal Grant Gordy Quartet. Much in the same spirit as David Grisman’s bands of the past, this instrumental band features some of the best acoustic players around. Please tune in Thursday at 6pm eastern time when they will be my guests, live from our makeshift studio at the Nashville Convention Center.
There have been two Keynote addresses, coming from two different sides of the Bluegrass spectrum. Ronnie Reno, noted Bluegrass musician, producer and son of banjo great Don Reno, gave us reflections of the past, and his association with Bill Monroe. Chris Pandolfi, banjo player with the Infamous Stringdusters spoke with passion about the need for the expansion of the Bluegrass envelope to embrace the jam band movement, and not to limit itself by putting a narrow definition on Bluegrass. Having always considered myself a progressive when it comes to Bluegrass, it’s still hard for me, and others, to open up to this very popular wing of the musical spectrum, that has some roots in Bluegrass but at the same time seems so far removed. But one has to keep an open mind to grow.
- Lee Michael Demsey