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Thread: 2 Festivals, 8 Bands, 3 Mandolins

  1. #1
    fretboard roamer Paul Merlo's Avatar
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    Default 2 Festivals, 8 Bands, 3 Mandolins

    (take this with a grain of salt because I'm really not all that upset about it)

    I've been lucky enough the last two weekends to attend 2 distinctly different Bluegrass Festivals. (Charleston Bluegrass Festival at the Sewee Outpost outside Charleston, SC in an open field and Gardenia Bluegrass & Roots Festival inside the Royal Oak, MI Farmer's Market)

    Both were lots of fun and I saw some fantastic acts, 8 bands in all. But, as a mandolin player I felt a little short changed because only 3 of the 8 bands had a mandolin! Granted, one act was a duo - but only 3 mandolins? At least each band sans mando included a fiddle (except the duo). Now you should know that bluegrass, by definition, isn't my main thing but I really do enjoy lots of it. Same way I can't stand some songs by my favorite bands.

    Anyway, I thought this would be interesting discussion point for some of ya. I was actually joking with my bro-in-law about how the IBMA has some lineup rules about what instruments must to be included depending on how many pickers are there.

    The good thing is that the 3 mando pickers I saw were rather excellent, IMHO.
    Paul

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  2. #2
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2 Festivals, 8 Bands, 3 Mandolins

    Interesting, but perhaps just "luck of the draw." Mandolin-less bluegrass is not that uncommon (boo!); Flatt & Scruggs had Curly Seckler in the band, but he was there mostly for his singing. Lester and Earl reportedly tried deliberately not to sound like their former employer, Bill Monroe, so de-emphasized mandolin in their sound.

    The fiddle-mandolin tradeoff is probably the most common. You almost never find a bluegrass group without a banjo, guitar and bass (the banjo-less Down Home Folks with Buck White and his daughters come to mind). Quite a few bands have fiddle players who double on mandolin, or vice versa.

    Since you could consider mandolin the "founding instrument" of bluegrass, it does seem weird to see five mandolin-less bands at two consecutive festivals. But not unheard of. I have seen a few mandolin-less acts in my day: Reno & Harrell come to mind, one version of Ralph Stanley's band that I saw in the '80's, Earl Scruggs Revue (sorta bluegrass), John Hartford's Aero-Plain band...
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  3. #3
    Registered User Chip Booth's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2 Festivals, 8 Bands, 3 Mandolins

    The idea of a "Bluegrass Festival" is wide open at this point in many cases. Pretty much all bands require to qualify are acoustic instruments. I am not a Bluegrass purist by any means, and I prefer to see a mix of musical styles at festivals, but I do wish we could find a better way to describe the acoustic genres. I play with an acoustic group that plays traditional and modern folk, oldtime, acoustic classic rock, and jazz and swing. We are usually referred to as a "bluegrass" group by the audience, though we struggle to shake off that description. Maybe the problem lies only with me, and my narrow view of what Bluegrass really is.

  4. #4
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2 Festivals, 8 Bands, 3 Mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    John Hartford's Aero-Plain band...
    Didn't Tut pick some mandolin in that band?
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    Default Re: 2 Festivals, 8 Bands, 3 Mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by Chip Booth View Post
    The idea of a "Bluegrass Festival" is wide open at this point in many cases. Pretty much all bands require to qualify are acoustic instruments. I am not a Bluegrass purist by any means, and I prefer to see a mix of musical styles at festivals, but I do wish we could find a better way to describe the acoustic genres. I play with an acoustic group that plays traditional and modern folk, oldtime, acoustic classic rock, and jazz and swing. We are usually referred to as a "bluegrass" group by the audience, though we struggle to shake off that description. Maybe the problem lies only with me, and my narrow view of what Bluegrass really is.

    Funny how things go...I remember going to "jazz" festivals in the 80s--expecting to hear a bunch of hard bop (which to me was the epitome of jazz)...only to be disappointed by the miasma of so-called "smooth jazz" and lack of actual jazz music (one problem, in this regard, is that so many people don't know what jazz is, are typically hostile to it, and relegate to the ersatz "jazz" moniker anything otherwise "unfitting" under main/pop categories)...

    I was in a band two years ago that was playing at a bluegrass festival (or so it was called)--I thought it interesting there were no actual bluegrass acts over the course of two days there : ). Myself, I was on drums

    Classification is always dicey...but interesting and fun, after all

  6. #6
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    Default Re: 2 Festivals, 8 Bands, 3 Mandolins

    Yeah, most all bg bands today have a mandolin. Fiddle, not as ubiquitous, although many do, and if the 'name' fiddles, of course (e.g., Mike Cleveland). Grasstowne - no fiddle; 3TO - both; LRB - both; Darrell Webb - no fiddle. It is, after all, another mouth to feed, and if the mandolin picker is up to snuff, it can carry the fiddle load.

    I think the CG started that trend.

  7. #7
    Registered User CrazyMandolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2 Festivals, 8 Bands, 3 Mandolins

    I would also count the Infamous Stringdusters, now without Jesse Cobb. I also don't think they are hitting quite the same lvel without him, although that could be attributable to my own demonstrated mandolin bias.
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  8. #8
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    Default Re: 2 Festivals, 8 Bands, 3 Mandolins

    Paul, I understand exactly what you are saying and one thing that bugs me is I live about half way netween two festivals that run almost back to back weekends and after I go to the first one I would dearly love to see some different bands at the second one but for many years now they have used about 80% of the same bands and those bands play the same songs at each festival, SO...I only go to one of them now and I let the weather dictate to me which one it will be..I am sure those professional bands have more than two set lists....Like some festivals, the promotors are only after a dollar and sooner or later things like these will drag bluegrass festivals down, but there are some new festivals that are pretty nice, I wish them luck....

  9. #9
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2 Festivals, 8 Bands, 3 Mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    Didn't Tut pick some mandolin in that band?
    Probably did, but not when I saw them. Stuck to Dobro.
    Allen Hopkins
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    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

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