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Crowder
Feb-07-2004, 8:40pm
Just got back from Friday night and Saturday at the SPBGMA annual festival in Nashville. It was my first time at a major festival of any kind, and I'm still a little bit blown away by some of what I saw.

SPBGMA is held at a gigantic Sheraton in Nashville. This place is the same shape as the Pentagon and seems about as big. And for SPBGMA, it is completely overrun with bluegrass enthusists. Infested might be more like it--there's not one square inch of the place that's not a part of the festival. When we showed up on Friday night at about 7:30PM, we walked into a lobby that was about the size of three or four basketball courts. It was filled to utter capacity with people and pickers. There were probably about 25 different circles of pickers, all shapes and sizes from prodigious pre-teens in matching outfits to guys that are probably on life support when they aren't at a festival. It was quite a scene to walk into.

As we moved through the hotel, we found groups of pickers in every nook and cranny....every stairway was a makeshift amphitheatre, every elevator lobby a practice room. One of every 15-20 hotel room doors were propped open with a pair of boots or a smashed Bud can, meaning there was an open jam taking place in the room. The musicianship in these rooms ranged from merely entertaining to nearly unbelievable. At one point there were two rooms going side by side....one featuring a solid group of semi-pro's with two strong girl singers, and another made up of some of the slickest pickers I've heard anywhere. Wandering from one room where the girls were harmonizing on "Say Won't You Be Mine" to the next where two mandolin players were playing twin fiddle-style harmonies on Big Mon at about 140 bps was pretty incredible.

After my friend and I wandered around half the night picking, eating moonshine-soaked fruit and watching the light snow fall, we decided to pack it in about 2AM and head back to the hotel where we had a room. I figured the lobby would have cleared out a little since earlier in the evening, and I was exactly right: there were about 10% less people there at 2AM than at 8PM. Remarkable. No one was showing any signs of letting up.

We went back over today to check out the main stage acts and the displays of instruments, cd's and accessories. Saw some "star" luthiers like Dude, Sim Daley, Charlie D. and even Steve Gilchrist (more on this momentarily). Played all the new mandolins from Gibson, Daley, Silver Angel, Tut Taylor's Prodigal 5, Lebeda, and Mark Bluett. It was interesting to see the differences in them all, particulary in issues like neck angle and how far off the body the necks were set. To be honest, I didn't play anything that I'd trade mine to buy, but I'll say I liked the Bluett's best. One of his was sort of an orangey blond made of incredible wood that I think will be fantastic as it matures. $5K price tag. Bluett was a nice guy, as was Daley. I wasn't that impressed with Daley's detail work, but he had an A5-style there that really had a strong tone. The Wayne Benson was the best of the Gibson's I played, but I didn't like the cosmetics too much, particularly the signature on the fingerboard. My friend ended up buying a 1907 Gibson A-style, oval-hole, I don't know the model. $2K.

Equipment-wise the biggest thing I noticed was the prevalence of Gibson mandolins among the better of the "next-generation" players. Lots of Bushs and Steffeys being played out in the lobby. They really stood out for their dry, loud chop in a jam setting, which I think is the main factor for some of these guys. That chop made a strong impression on me--I think it's something in my playing I need to put more time into. In general, being at SPBGMA and hearing so many great pickers in one place really showed me where I need to make progress in my own playing.

SPBGMA was the site of the first-ever Gilfest, where Gilchrist owners were gathering to meet Steve, compare mandos, and register their instruments with the guy who is doing the Gilchrist book. My friend's other mandolin is a Gilchrist A3, so we went up to have it put in the registry and see what was going on. We didn't stay very long....it seemed like most of the guys there were just picking their own mandos and waiting to kneel at Steve's feet or pick a tune with him (turns out he plays pretty well, which I think is rare for a luthier from what I know of them). The prettiest Gil I saw during our brief stay was a blackface that just looked right somehow. A couple of the older Gil's had sort of gross finishes on them, which I thought was interesting. I think what I learned from 15 minutes of Gilfest is that I am not as big a gear junkie as I thought I was.

If you can ever get near SPBGMA I suggest giving it a go. In the future I will always make sure to get a room in the Sheraton to get the absolute most from the experience.

AlanN
Feb-07-2004, 8:51pm
Nice write-up. Sounds like there were a ton of mando pickers. Any 20's F-5 mandolins being played?

mandomick
Feb-07-2004, 10:50pm
Yes, excellent post. Sounds like a good use for some of next year's vacation days.

BigJoe
Feb-08-2004, 12:49am
It was like Loar capital there this weekend. Played some very good ones and enjoyed all of them. Met one younger fellow who owns five Loars and two 20's ferns. Got to see many friends old and new and loved every minute. Lots of great jamming!

GaryM
Feb-08-2004, 3:36am
great reading Crowder!!
wish I could have been there.

Christopher Howard-Williams
Feb-08-2004, 3:51am
Nice post there (he says through gritted teeth, turning green with envy).

Feb-08-2004, 10:25am
Well, I was within just a few miles of SPBGMA yesterday. Loaded my "Classic 71 LTD" with it snowing straight down & 26 degrees, very distressing to a Texas boy........Drove 11 hrs straight up there, stayed the night at the "roach motel" that I won't comment any further on other than to say I slept with a .38 under my pillow........Drove straight through back home. I hated to miss the festivities, but to many irons in the fire down here to loose another full day to the road. Here we are back in Texas in one piece..... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

Eric F.
Feb-08-2004, 3:44pm
I slept with a .38 under my pillow

Dale, you're cracking me up. Guess the big city life just isn't for you!

Scotti Adams
Feb-08-2004, 8:32pm
..Hey Crowder...I looked all over for ya...me and Mav both....couldnt find ya...of course it would have helped if I knew who I was looking for...Nice to have met you Big Joe...

Feb-08-2004, 9:30pm
Yeah Crowder me and Scotti was looking for you but we didnt know what you looked like.
SPBGMA was great. Many impressive builders. Let me tell you BRW's are killer!. It isn't hype these mandolins are great. Scotti's will rock your world. Sim Daley's mandolins was very impressive. I have to disagree with Crowder, I thought Sim's detail work was very good. Will Kimble was there and well everybody knows about him now. Will's work is up there with Dudenbostel and others. A bunch of killer mandolins everywhere.. Got to finally meet Scotti and Chris Stanley in person. What a great bunch of guys!

Crowder
Feb-08-2004, 9:36pm
Yeah Scotti, I kind of thought I could just keep my eyes peeled for someone playing a BRW and find you that way...little did I know there were going to be thousands of mandolins being picked 24/7! Wish I'd have had your cell phone number or something so we could have hooked up. Same goes for Mav, should have known you'd be there too.

Scotti Adams
Feb-09-2004, 8:14am
...oh well..Maybe next time....and Chris Stanley..how could I leave him out?...great guy..and a great mando he has...

Russ(String-Alley)
Feb-09-2004, 9:30am
That sounds like mondo mando time to me, I think I'll be putting in some vacation days next year myself.

Sweet ride Dale! good to see you got her home. .38? I figured you were a sub-compact .45 kinda guy, http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

cheer y'all

Scotti Adams
Feb-09-2004, 11:21am
..man..Ive never seen so many mando players....alot of gal players too....nothin as sweet as seeing kids with mandos hangin from their neck....I guess mando music will live forever..

J. Mark Lane
Feb-09-2004, 11:52am
Would somebody please tell me what SPBGMA stands for... and why they couldn't come up with a shorter name?

Feb-09-2004, 12:05pm
Society for the Preservation of Blue Grass Music in America.

Anyone know who the winners were?

Joe Parker
Feb-09-2004, 12:31pm
My SPBGMA experience was very much the same and I was amazed by how many really good young players were there.If you were there but did not take in the shows you missed some fine music.Of particular note was the Lynn Morris band,who came out Sat. nite and played a great show with Dudley Connell filling in on guitar and vocals,Ronnie Stewart playing some wonderful fiddle,Jesse Brock just astounding everyone and getting killer tone on the Gibson Bush model he is now playing,but the surprise and treat was having Lynn Morris come out to play and sing for the first time just 1 year after a stroke she suffered while having surgery.Not a dry eye in the house.Ronnie Reno and his group were excellent and their mandolin player, Danny Roberts, is one of the most original and creative players I've heard in a long time. The sound he was getting from his Gibson Master Model was amazing!
I have to admit to liking certain banjo players and it was worth the trip to hear J.D.Crowe play for 30 minutes.He can still teach us all a thing or two about the 3 T's.
Other highlights:I got to meet Charlie Derrington after I listened to him playing the prototype of the "Distressed"Master Model.The mandolin looked like an original Loar and sounded so much like one that it's no wonder guys like David McLaughlin are raving about them.And BTW,Charlie can hold his own when it come to playing the mandolin,believe it!!
I met Big Joe as well and discovered him to be very genuine about all things Gibson and a relly nice guy. I went to the Gibson store earlier in the day to check on the MM I have on order and while there got to meet and talk with Ralph Stanley, who was in town for a show at the Opry.He surprised us all with an impromptu acapella gospel number,singing that mountain tenor with a fan who did a good job on the lead.I met Herschel Sizemore while he was getting his mandolins worked on and he is one of the nicest people I have ever met.When he found out I was getting a MM he let me play both of his and I was thrilled(and a little nervous)to be in the prescence of one of my mandolin heroes.Alan Bibey was there showing off his new signature model and had his Loar out as well.All of this and I was just there for Saturday only!! Needless to say a good time was had by all and for the uninitiated I highly recommend you attend next year.

Joe Parker

JDARTGOD
Feb-09-2004, 1:43pm
I saw the list of winners and was totally surprised by the HUGE number of awards shelled out to Rhonda Vincent and the Rage. I won't get into Artist flaming, but let's just say she wouldn't have received my vote given the other members in the categories she took home. Just think how much she'd "win" if she actually used "The Rage" on some of HER releases!!

Feb-09-2004, 2:40pm
JDARTGOD - where did you see the winners? Thanks.

Kevin K
Feb-09-2004, 2:51pm
yeah, where did you see the list, been looking for it all morning.

Thanks,
Kevin

Feb-09-2004, 7:42pm
CMT has SPBMA winners here (http://www.cmt.com/news/articles/1484919/20040209/vincent_rhonda.jhtml?headlines=true).

Michael Lewis
Feb-10-2004, 3:42am
Society for the Preservation of Blue Grass Music of America, or something like. Don't discount the IBMA that will be held at Louisville KY in early October. more major picking.

hayseo
Feb-10-2004, 6:54pm
SPBGMA = Speedly Playing Blue Grass Mighty Accuratety
SPBGMA = Some Play Blue Grass Melodies Anywhere
SPBGMA = Some Pilgrims Bring Gilchist Money Alot
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