Here in Raleigh, the only thing bigger than the IBMA Convention this week has been hurricane Joaquin. The threat of a full-on hurricane has been lessening for the last couple of days, but the huge outdoor Wide Open Bluegrass festival has been moved indoors to the Raleigh Convention Center. We’re all grateful that the convention center is huge – and every nook and cranny is filled with food vendors, sculptors, painters, leather artisans, T-shirt artists, jewelry makers, soft drink marketers, hot dog samplers, and so much more. There are dozens of North Carolina foods to sample, and beautiful arts to purchase – many of them with a bluegrass theme. In addition to the entire street fair, all nine performance stages (including the 6,000-seat Red Hat Amphitheater) has been moved indoors. Don’t forget the film festival and the workshop stages too. Needless to say, it’s busy here. And crowded, but folks are polite and friendly, and everyone is here for the same thing: to hear some great bluegrass music.
Thursday night was the big, big deal: the IBMA awards. Hosted by Eric and Leigh Gibson (who grew up in Clinton county- in Ellenburg Depot), the event featured special performances by Alison Krauss, Larry Sparks, The Steep Canyon Rangers with Edie Brickell, and many other nominees for bluegrass awards.
Even though I was lucky enough to get a last-minute seat in the second row Thursday night, photography isn’t my strong suit, so if you’d like to see some great shots of the awards show, I recommend Todd Powers’ photos from the Bluegrass Today website. For a complete list of the IBMA Award winners, click here. The Earls of Leicester had a great night, winning album of the year, instrumental group and entertainers of the year. Becky Buller won three awards this year, including songwriter of the year.
Alison Krauss made a special appearance to introduce Larry Sparks into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. Bill Keith was also inducted, and offered one of the most entertaining speeches of the night. His advice to young musicians: “Consider taking up the banjo. It may weigh a lot, but it’ll never let you down.” The Bluegrass Today website also has great video footage of a Bill Keith tribute concert which took place this summer at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival. See for yourself how Keith has influenced everyone that came after him.
Photography skills aside, here are a few of my shots from a memorable evening:
The IBMA Awards night is the biggest night in bluegrass. An IBMA trophy is a vote of confidence from peers around the world, and can change the course of a musician’s career. Big thumbs up to Jesse Brock of the Gibson Brothers band, for winning Mandolin Player of the Year. I hope he stays right where he is – he makes a great band even better.
Tune in to String Fever this coming Thursday to hear music of all the award winners. As always, I love hearing from you – email me anytime at Barb@ncpr.org.