Monday, August 23, 2010

Minnesota Bluegrass and Old-time Music Association

MBOTMA is the acronym for the big festival that happens every August at a beautiful location west of the twin cities in the "Land of 10,000 lakes". This was the 30th annual event for the organization of almost 100 bands or groups throughout the state. Having been booked for about 18 months in advance, the time came and we went and did our 'Professional' gig of the Decade. Shay Garriock met us there having flown from NC. Jenny and I elected to drive instead of flying so we could bring more of our instruments and comfortable. We spent the best part of two days driving completely through 5 states to get there.
We visited our music friends Doug and Jean Herr near Battleground IN the first evening. Along the way we saw hundreds of miles of cornfields and occasionally a modern wind mill farm of 50 to 100 units. With a big sky and rare sight of land forms, we got a feel for the effects the ice age on the topography of the mid-West by the time we got there.

The MBOTMA festival itself is on a large tract of land with facilities for RV campers complete with a bathhouse and large lake. It seems to be someone's horse farm who happens to love string music and people. There were open fields with RV and trailer campers as well as wooded areas for so called 'rough' camping. The summer temperatures felt like the Deep South. On Thursday evening a tornado watch was issued making for some anxious excitement. Rain did come and soak the festival site ripping up the circus tent used for the showcase events. Unlike our last time playing at this festival in 1997 there were fortunately NO MOSQUITOS. The place had been sprayed a few days earlier. ugh.

We arrived a day early to be instructors in a one day music camp with folks who wanted detailed instruction on how to play old-time fiddle and clawhammer banjo. Although the turn out was small we loaded the participants up with lots of tunes from good old Southwest Virginia. We were hosted for a meal by the coordinators of the music camp: Doug Wells banjo and Katy Olsen - fiddle. We appreciate all they did to make it a success.
The duet singing showcase that we prepared for was canceled unfortunately. Our Friday evening performance on the mainstage just before dark was well received. The late afternoon sun lingered long on the summer evenings. We sold several CD's which wound up paying for the gas we used on the trip. Our other main stage set was on Sunday afternoon in which we did all gospel songs from our large gospel song repetoire.

Among other things, I participated in a banjo builder's demonstration on Saturday afternoon. Builders of banjo from both ends of the spectrum ( gourds with skin heads and fretless necks to super modern space age designs) were represented. My antique Victorian era -inspired designs fell some where between which made for an interesting contrast. Many questions were asked and answered by all three of us who participated. I brought a work in progress which helped demonstrate my method of building better than just a working model did.

Shay Garriock and I participated in an old-time fiddle showcase along with Garry Harrison, Bruce Molsky, and Rafe Stefanini.
We played tunes from our various influences. We did our best to represent the Blue Ridge area of Southwest Virginia's under- recognized traditions of old-time fiddling.

Shay caught a flight early on Sunday having elected not to ride with us due to time factors and logistics.
Jenny and I spread our return trip over 3 days taking a slightly different route which led us into the backwoods of Ohio.
We were awed by the major rivers we encountered on the whole trip including the Kanawha, the Ohio, the Scioti, and even the Mississippi. We saw so much of America as we passed through that was rural but not Appalachian. The low elevation, high heat and humidity and the serious lack of mountains and forest help kindle a new appreciation for our home in Floyd County. If you read this you are invited to stop by sometime and check us out. Let us hear from you!!!