Saturday, October 09, 2004

IBMA: What it stands for, why we went, how it's important to our future and where it's going

IBMA = International Bluegrass Music Association

IBMA conference = I've Barely Made it Alive conference

Yes, that's what a lot of folks call it! And oh boy it's true. Folks, I barely had a chance to use a computer, let alone write to you with updates. This was an extreme case of the best intentions with no way to fulfill them. I have a bit of time before our Zona Rosa gig, so I'll give you some highlights.

BY THE WAY, though, first, I must tell you that sadly this local gig is not a public one. If you want to spend $75 for a ticket, though, come on down!! Geez! It didn't say it was a ticketed event on our contract, so I'm sorry for any unintentional misleading. I'd better send a quick note to the list with my apologies. So I'll be right back with my post. Go get a cup of coffee. Or, just read on, because it'll all follow right here!

Ok. I did the deed. Sure hope there are not a lot of angry folks due to our ignorance!

Now for the rest of the story. Yours truly spent each day working the trade show, shaking hands and charming the big guns of the bluegrass industry. Our agent extraordinaire, Mary Brabec, introduced me to who knows how many of these big guns. The list includes festival promoters, concert presenters, other agents, label reps, and radio programmers. Whew! And that was just during the days. Then on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights, we played showcases for big guns and faithful fans. There are big stage showcases at IBMA, but so far our applications to perform have been denied. So, along with the big stage bands and those trying to break through, we played late night shows in hotel suites.

The Galt House in L'ville is an excellent place to hold these showcases as many rooms are in fact like one bedroom apartments. A standard suite has room for about 25 people, if you move furniture around and put in some straight back chairs. And if the band is really cranking, you end up drawing a crowd outside the door too. We played twice in the suite where I was staying with Mary, and then played three other showcases in bigger suites. Our biggest one was in the Larryfest king size suite on the 12th floor. This is a 3 bedroom place with a huge living area and dining area. There were probably 80 people there, maybe 100. Last year we scored a much bigger crowd, but we had more time to advertise. This showcase was late Thursday night and we didn't decide to do it until late Wed. night. But our L'ville pal, Zach, helped to get the word out and the place was filled with sweet young L'ville punkers, right along with some of the big guns and other fans mentioned previously. I love to play a crowd like this. It's good proof that music can bring diverse people together.

It's a crazy way to do business. Get up in the morning, have some meetings or attend a special session. Try to get interest from the buyers. Go to the trade show in the afternoon and try to get some more interest, and spread the word on the showcases. Do some playing in the lobby for more word-spreading. Collapse for a bit, maybe get some dinner. Maybe go to the big stage showcases in the early evening. Get ready for late night playing, which starts at 11 pm. (our latest showcase was a 2 am show! And there were probably 30+ people there, filling about 80% of the chairs in that particular suite. Plus folks standing in the back and also hanging out in the hall outside. That's a good turnout.) And you can't just go to sleep after you play a showcase, especially if you're a Wilder. The adrenaline is all pumped up and it's impossible to sleep until you unwind a bit, which usually involves a few beers and some hall wandering, finding other players and jams and sometimes music that just absolutely blows you away. You may never even see those people again, so when you find some great music in the halls or in a random room, you have to check it out.

It's like the biggest festival you could imagine, with music everywhere, all night, and all the day business that you wish you didn't have to do, but you have to. Just like last year, I was the only Wilder registered for the conference. It's really expensive. So the trade show working/schmoozing and other related tasks fell to me. That's okay, though, because I kind of get in to this type of challenge. Plus I really like meeting the big guns, especially if they just caught us playing the night before. This year more than ever, I got a lot of recognition when folks met me, because they can't help but love the band. And even if they hadn't seen us, more often than not they had heard good things about us. I am sure there are promoters who don't like our show. That's only natural averages. But I think I can safely say that we were one of the main bands being talked about and I can definitely say that we got ourselves a whole lot of work out of this one week. Where else can you get all these buyers together at one time? And what other kind of music has an event this big where you can accomplish so much? It's pretty dang cool.

OK. Specific highlights. In no particular order.

The John Hartford Memorial Cruise, on the Belle of Louisville steamboat. Friday morning. With on-board entertainment.

A late night (ca. 3 am or later) discovery of a three-piece group playing like crazy by the elevators, with no one around until our group found them. The girl fiddler was out of this world. Reminded me of myself with her energy and "go for it" approach, but her chops and technical ability far surpass my own. Don't worry, no jealousy, just admiration!

Julie Lee. My soul sister. A songwriter with the most expressive voice. We played together and sang (though my voice was nearly gone with all the talking of the week) and I truly believe we were supposed to meet. I will be seeing her again and making beautiful music. And you will be hearing about it.

Zach. Our young friend in L'ville. He plays manager for us and makes a pretty good one, too. And he has crazy looking punker friends who are really fun to play for.

Curly Seckler. Used to sing and play mando with Flatt and Scruggs. Honored by the IBMA at the awards show. A sweet, charming, FUNNY man who pretty much stole the show. I'm going to buy some F&S album now, just because I saw Curly. (I don't own much bluegrass, you know!)

Art Stamper. I didn't get to see him, but he did get out of the hospital to receive an award prior to the show, and was on site. I wish I had seen him but was so glad to hear he was moving about and I will send him another letter this week.

Oh, there are more, but these come to mind the quickest. This coming week is going to be very busy, Mary says, because she fully expects to be inundated with phone calls from presenters desperate to get the Wilders to their venues and festivals!

SO -- we Barely Made it Alive, due to the sleep deprived short nights and long days, but oh boy it was worth it.

The saddest thing? That was the last time the conference took place in Louisville. It's moving to Nashville next year. Sigh.