IBMA’s World of Bluegrass

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The International Bluegrass Music Association hosts an annual conference and festival each fall. This year, the festivities moved to Raleigh, NC, clearly a bluegrass lovin’ town. We took my Mom to celebrate her birthday so it was especially fun! IBMA partnered with Raleigh for a free street festival so some shows required tickets but many of the same bands played at the free stages too.

All together, the three of us saw 12 sets and several partial sets. Bands were on every corner inside and outside the Raleigh Convention Center. The Red Hat amphitheater was the big outdoor venue. We saw Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, the Steeldrivers, the Del McCoury band, Traveling McCourys, Peter Rowan, The Kruger Brothers (with surprise appearance by Steve Martin), Dailey & Vincent with Jimmy Fortune, Della Mae, the Seldom Scene, Infamous Stringdusters, and Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers featuring Edie Brickell. We caught parts of Jim Lauderdale, the Steel Wheels and Greensky bluegrass.

Solivan opened with a killer version “The Letter” by the Boxtops. He also has the IBMA award-winning banjo player, Mike Munford.

Mom loved seeing Daily & Vincent with Jimmy Fortune, a Statler Brother alum. She especially loved Too Much on My Heart. She got to meet Jimmy Fortune after the show, which is one of the best things about bluegrass shows — accessible artists.

It was great to see the Seldom Scene too. They are bluegrass history and their Live at the Cellar Door album is one of one of the genre’s best albums and a fine example of what a bluegrass show should be – a good time!

At the street fair, we saw Peter Rowan walking through the crowd. I turned to point him out to Greg right as he literally bumped into him (and quickly shook his hand and apologized.) the next day, we saw a sweet set from him. He’s a true grass legend, playing with the likes of Bill Monroe and Jerry Garcia. What experience!

The expo was awesome, featuring instrument makers, bands, venues, and bluegrass media. An opportunity not to be missed!

The IBMA awards were Thursday night. We didn’t see the ceremony but caught many of the award winners like banjo player Mike Munford of Dirty Kitchen, Jason Carter of the Del McCoury band and Traveling McCourys, and Adam Steffey of the Boxcars. We didn’t get to hear them but a big shout out to Robert Greer and his band Town Mountain. He and the band won the Momentum award for best vocalist and band! I work with Robert’s brother, William.

Steve Martin gives out a $50,000 banjo award each year and this year it was awarded to Jens Kruger of The Kruger brothers. After their amazing performance of the Appalachian Concerto, Steve dropped in for a song. I lucked out and was on the front row for that special set!

Seeing our fave Stringdusters play before the full Red Hat crowd of thousands was great but as with many bluegrass crowds, they were a bit reserved. How can you not dance to this and other bands? Bluegrass and dancing go together like beans and cornbread!

We enjoyed seeing lots of talented kids who are fine musicians. There was a youth stage so the kids were encouraged and from what we saw, the future of bluegrass is in good hands.