It’s September. Festival season is going strong — music conference season, too! — and it seems, just about everywhere you turn, roots music is being made and enjoyed.
On September 24, the International Bluegrass Music Association’s business conference and festival will begin in Raleigh, North Carolina. Last year more than 230,000 attendees descended upon the Triangle area to take in the bluegrassy spectacle. We’ll be there once again this year. Here are the top five reasons we think you should be, too:
1. World of Bluegrass
Starting on Tuesday, the World of Bluegrass business conference kicks off the entire week of programming in Raleigh with panels and seminars, a keynote speech by Alison Brown, IBMA constituency meetings, a gig fair, a health fair, showcases, and focused business tracks for songwriters, broadcasters, talent buyers, and more. Learn about the Music Modernization Act, engage in one-on-one songwriting mentor sessions, and don’t miss the exhibit hall! It’s not just a place to stock up on strings ‘n’ Shubbs, you’ll almost undoubtedly bump elbows with the genre’s greatest pickers and artists, too. Like this moment at the Gibson booth when luthiers and musicians Dave Harvey and Brian Christianson share an impromptu tune.
2. Bluegrass Ramble
Did we mention showcases? This year, IBMA’s showcase extravaganza, the Bluegrass Ramble, will include more than 200 sets from over 30 bands all around downtown Raleigh. Don’t miss the World of Bluegrass Kickoff Party with Special Consensus at the Lincoln Theater on Tuesday night.
Need another couple suggestions to help narrow down your options? We’re excited to see acts like California bluegrass band AJ Lee & Blue Summit, banjoist Gina Furtado’s solo effort, the Gina Furtado Project, and newcomer Jaelee Roberts. Set aside time for a new band from Clinch Mountain Boys alumnus, banjo player Alex Leach, and High Fidelity, perhaps the best truly traditional bluegrass band on the scene right now, too.
3. The Awards
The 30th Annual IBMA Awards Show will be held Thursday, September 26 at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts just down the block from the Raleigh Convention Center. Hosted by Del McCoury and Jim Lauderdale, bluegrass’s biggest night will see awards handed out for Gospel Performance, Collaborative Recording, Entertainer of the Year, and more — including three inductions into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.
But, this is not the only awards event during the week! BGS is proud to sponsor the Momentum Awards luncheon the day before the “big” awards show, where young, up-and-coming, and just-getting-started musicians, events, and professionals are recognized for their contributions to the bluegrass community writ large. The lunchtime presentations are peppered with showcase bands, as seen here in 2016 with Loose Strings.
The IBMA Industry Awards (formerly the Special Awards), for categories such as Event of the Year, Sound Engineer of the Year, and Broadcaster of the Year — and more — will be announced during a luncheon on Thursday, as well. It’s an awards-packed week!
4. Wide Open Bluegrass
For the first time, the entirety of IBMA’s “fan fest,” Wide Open Bluegrass, is free! Yes, you can even get into the main stage at Raleigh’s Red Hat Amphitheatre for free. (Tickets for reserved seating are still available!) This year’s lineup at the main stage includes a special tribute to Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard and a celebration of Bluegrass Hall of Famer Del McCoury.
Don’t miss the StreetFest, too! Vendors line Fayetteville St. from the capitol to the Duke Energy Center with more than a handful of stages and a world-class lineup of bluegrass, string bands, old-time, folk, and Americana. Wide Open Bluegrass is the biggest bluegrass festival east of the Mississippi, and if you’ve been you understand why.
Also, make plans to join us for our Fourth Annual Shout & Shine: A Celebration of Diversity in Bluegrass on Friday, September 27! With our friends at PineCone we’re taking over the StreetFest’s dance tent for an entire day of dance, music, and celebrating the vast array of diverse voices and creators who love bluegrass. Music starts at noon and goes til 11:00 pm! Did we mention there’s going to be a Shout & Shine Square Dance Party?
5. THE JAMMING
If you don’t spend at LEAST two to three nights out of the week staying up ‘til dawn camped out in a hallway or a hotel room enjoying some of the best off-the-cuff music the world has to offer, you just aren’t doing IBMA right. We recommend the whole enchilada, going to the business conference, the Bluegrass Ramble, the main stage at the Red Hat — but if there’s just one thing you can muster during the week of bluegrass events at World of/Wide Open Bluegrass, it should be a mosey through the Marriott for a little bit of jamming. A lotta bit of jamming. Who knows who you’ll run into on the elevator or around the corner…
Photo of Marcy Marxer, Alice Gerrard, Cathy Fink, and Tatiana Hargreaves at Shout & Shine 2017: Willa Stein