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edwardofhuncote
Senior Member
Username: edwardofhuncote

Post Number: 526
Registered: 6-2014
Posted on Tuesday, August 18, 2015 - 11:36 am:   Edit Post

I just returned to work yesterday morning after a two-week vacation. Spent most of yesterday sorting through piles of reports then filing them... and deleting emails. (soooo many nonsense emails...) Anyway, today I've got one of those "hurry-up-and-wait" maintenance projects going on all day long, so thought I'd relive some of the good times by sharing a couple pictures from this music festival I went to.

The Old Fiddler's Convention http://oldfiddlersconvention.com/ is held on the first week of August every year in the little mountain town of Galax in southwest Virginia, this past year was the 80th Annual. I've now been going for 30 years, since the summer I turned 16 and got a driver's license. It was there, I think that the music bug first bit me, and now I've been a camping contestant for 28 of those years. The whole purpose of fiddler's conventions was to get regional musicians together and pass along the traditional Appalachian music, that wasn't necessarily written down. It's really handed down person-to-person, even multi-generationally now. You kinda' have to get the backdrop... this is 7 straight days and nights of wall-to-wall music, traditional old-time string bands and bluegrass bands come from all over, some very long distances... for instance, this year I met some Australian folks that had come for the first time. There is a jam available somewhere in the park pretty much around the clock, *especially* if you play bass. It's a couple thousand musicians in a melting pot, that often gets unspeakably hot during the day, or impassably muddy in bad weather... you gotta' *want* to be there to truly enjoy it. The one-liner on this hat I spotted sums it up pretty well. Galax_hat.jpg

So you get into the park on Sunday morning... they open the gates and start checking folks in at 7:00 am. Since our bunch goes down a couple days early to get a good spot in line, we're usually we're in by 9:00 or 10:00, and our camp/compound is established by noon. The first order of biz is to secure at least one of these power outlets. There are only four of these poles in the park.
Galax_power.jpg

(okay, that picture is a little bit scary if you know anything about electricity, amperage loading and voltage drop at the end of 300 feet of drop cord)

Once you're in and set up, it's good to roam the campground a little, get to know your neighbors, meet up with old friends, many that you only ever see once a year at this place. I saw this really cool tie-dye being used as a sunscreen on the next camp up from ours - note the banjo and guitar forms... I don't think it was a print, someone really went to a fair amount of trouble to do this one.
Galax_tiedye.jpg

(and if you stare into it long enough, you'll start to see an Alembic Standard Point body. =)

So like I said, the contests are really meant to be secondary to the campground music, but every evening at the stage they have competition in each of the individual categories. Deal is, you get your contestant fee back when you play, ($40) so it creates a cash incentive for the musicians to perform for the audience. It's a long line to stand in... sometimes a couple hours. I always play mandolin, mainly because mandolin is on Tuesday night, so I get some grocery money early in the week, but also because they don't have a competition for bass there. That has always seemed strange to me, since a bass is *required* to compete in either of the band categories. A bunch of us bass guys petitioned the Moose Lodge that hosts the Fiddler's Convention one year to institute a bass category, but to no avail. In response, a few of us began to register in fiddle competition, and play our basses with bows. A new rule against that was issued the following year. Finally, a local artisans group, The Blue Ridge Musicmakers Guild, stepped up and began a new tradition - they hold an independent fundraiser every year, post their own judges in the crowd, and award the best bass player in both Bluegrass and Old-Time bands a prize, which is presented before the awards ceremony on Saturday night. It's done in memory of local bassist Barbara Poole, who died several years ago. Very cool compromise.

One more little poke at the Loyal Order of the Moose... it's a weird relationship we have with our host. We LOVE their festival, and we appreciate and recognize what a logistical nightmare it must be. But they honestly don't have a clue what it is we're trying to accomplish here... to them, it's the primary means their next FY operating budget, to us it's a week-long musical New Years Eve celebration. A couple years ago, in response to some rude, obnoxious folks, all bass guitars were banned from the campground. Can't blame them for trying to keep the peace I guess, but it was kind of a bummer for those of us who do plug in. I figure they'd at least issue a warning before throwing me out, so I sneak my small-room/upright rig in disguised as camping equipment... it's a little Acoustic Image Clarus with an ultralite Flite 12 cab. Also had a buddy to fabricate these totally unauthorized stickers for my Turner Renaissance 5'r... won't be trying this with the Alembic Custom fretless! =)

Galax_moose.jpg

So here's our band, New River Bound. https://www.facebook.com/NewRiverBound We've been together for going on five years now, and I'm having the most fun ever playing with these folks. Outside of playing traditional Appalachian string band music, we're also doing a lot of our own originals. Jess, our banjo player is a world-class lyricist, and her husband Brian is an extraordinarily gifted guitar player who arranges our stuff. Our fiddler Caleb, I grew up around his parents, which are just a little older than me... in fact, I met them at Galax. Most often, I'm playing a five-string, fretless bass guitar in this group... I'm very anxious (read- excited) to see how the new Alembic works with it.
A technically clean performance Friday afternoon we felt put us in the running for at least a top-ten finish this year... that was the strategy anyway - play it safe and clean on Friday, then on Saturday night under-the-lights, run the dial up to 11 and break the knob off. Here we are on stage Friday.

Galax_friday1.jpg Galax_friday2.jpg

(I'm the old guy with a six-foot tall fiddle and an Alembic T-shirt. =)

And here's one of us backstage Saturday night, all jacked-up on some pretty awesome coffee.
Galax_NRB1_.jpg Galax_fuel.jpg

(this is the aforementioned awesome coffee... how else could I hang all night with these youngsters!?)

Here's one from the grandstand... we heard later there were about 3500 people watching.

Galax_Sat_.jpg

We pounded it pretty good... really left it all out on stage, and when the points were tallied up, New River Bound was scored 7th in Old-Time Band this year - our 4th top-ten finish, and best so far. Here's our triumphant photo-op at the "Virginia is for Lovers" sign.

Galax_LOVE.jpg

Maybe more later...
davehouck
Moderator
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 11914
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Tuesday, August 18, 2015 - 3:33 pm:   Edit Post

Great report! Thanks!!
davehouck
Moderator
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 11915
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Tuesday, August 18, 2015 - 3:41 pm:   Edit Post

So, is there any video of your group?

(Message edited by davehouck on August 18, 2015)
edwardofhuncote
Senior Member
Username: edwardofhuncote

Post Number: 527
Registered: 6-2014
Posted on Tuesday, August 18, 2015 - 4:13 pm:   Edit Post

There is Dave, from both nights. I'm hoping Jess can post them on our (linked) Facebook page. (I don't do Facebook and don't have any idea even how to shrink the file enough to email it)

I just found out too, we made it onto the souvenir recording again this year. They put both our Friday & Saturday performances from last year on the the 2014 (79th Annual) album. I think the soundcrew likes us better than the judges do. =)
pauldo
Senior Member
Username: pauldo

Post Number: 1540
Registered: 6-2006
Posted on Tuesday, August 18, 2015 - 7:22 pm:   Edit Post

Thanks for sharing your adventure!
I enjoyed reading it.
bigredbass
Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 2425
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Tuesday, August 18, 2015 - 11:53 pm:   Edit Post

I'm glad you had a great time, but honestly, what the hell kind of world is this: They ban BASSES in a setting crawling with B A N J O S ? ? ? ?

One more sign of the End Time . . . . . Since you spent time here in Nashville, maybe you heard this one:

'Whaddya call 50 banjos at the bottom of Old Hickory Lake? A Good Start !'

Joey
edwardofhuncote
Senior Member
Username: edwardofhuncote

Post Number: 530
Registered: 6-2014
Posted on Wednesday, August 19, 2015 - 5:27 am:   Edit Post

Yeah, the lowly banjo usually winds up way down in the mix in that town Joey... and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if there was a few of them in Old Hickory, with a banjo player's remains. LOL! Here's one more for ya' to pass around the 'ville... "Perfect pitch = pitching a banjo into a dumpster without hitting the sides." I grew up in the home of a banjo player, so it's all perfectly natural to me.

They didn't ban *all* basses... just the evil 'lectrified ones. In a sense I will concede, they don't have much place in "traditional" Appalacian music, but what the benevolent Moose doesn't understand is, there's a lot more than that going on out in the campground.
bigredbass
Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 2426
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Wednesday, August 19, 2015 - 6:28 pm:   Edit Post

So Gregory I've always wondered if it would do any good to show up at a bluegrass affair with an acoustic bass guitar?

I've never considered or wanted to play upright. To me it's like piano and pipe organ: They both have black and white keys, and that's about it, totally different technique and mindset.

I've occasionally been interested in bluegrass, but never entertained the thought of showing up with an electric and amp, though I see it done from time to time. It just wouldn't be my choice.

So, any ABG's used in that scene, unplugged?

Joey
edwardofhuncote
Senior Member
Username: edwardofhuncote

Post Number: 536
Registered: 6-2014
Posted on Thursday, August 20, 2015 - 5:49 am:   Edit Post

Ummm, that's a tricky one to answer Joey.

To start with, you're absolutely correct - they are very different, and though a good many things carry over (in both directions) you really have to approach each instrument separately.

Regarding unplugged, even on upright I prefer to be plugged in, simply because of the sheer volume needed. That may sound counter-intuitive for an acoustic jam, but the instruments in that particular setting were specifically designed to be loud. IME, an unplugged ABG would get covered up in most of those situations. The other side of that is (for me at least) I don't like to play hard. Playing an upright bass is a very physical act already... it's nice to play with less effort and still be heard.

Maybe the biggest obstacle isn't volume. I know of some circles where an ABG would be completely acceptable, and others where (through no fault of the player) you just couldn't get by with a bass guitar. At one extreme, if the jam is made up of people who are of the strict "preservationist" mindset, then no - they need that visual of a "doghouse bass" to complete the re-enactment of Flatt & Scruggs at Carnegie Hall, and I completely respect that... we need those folks too. At the polar opposite, I'm getting away with playing a five-string fretless bass guitar in an oldtime band up here in the cradle of Appalachia, where playin' a 'lectrified bass might get you tossed outta' Galax. =) Seriously, we're anything but traditional until we need to be. Sometimes, late at night, we even use :gasp: A DRUM! (like percussion is something new in folk music)

As an aside, in my 30 years around the various corners of the bluegrass music scene, electric basses have come into vogue and gone back out at least twice. It's cyclical for sure, but I've never known what drives that. When I started playing back in the 80's, the bass players in both of my favorite bands (Hot Rize and Lonesome River Band) both used a good ol' Fender P bass. I think Hot Rize still does.
edwardofhuncote
Senior Member
Username: edwardofhuncote

Post Number: 538
Registered: 6-2014
Posted on Thursday, August 20, 2015 - 7:02 am:   Edit Post

Another funny picture...



This was on Thursday night in the lineup for guitar competition... contestants are allowed one accompanist on stage with them, and my guitar-playing buds always pick me as their good-luck charm. The guitar category typically has about 450 contestants, each allotted 2 minutes. That's a long line to stand in... it was probably close to 1 am by the time we made it to the green room, but as you can see from the Mick Fleetwoood-like wild eyes, I'm working on my 5th or 6th cup of the Kaffe Magnum Opus "Jamaican-Me-Crazy" coffee. Kinda' helps keep the right hand timing in order. LOL!

Here's what it looks like from the on-deck spot.



That's me backing up my buddy Ted McAllister. This was Ted's 40th time across that stage... his first Galax was forty years ago. He didn't place this year, but last year IIRC he took a top-ten spot last year.
edwardofhuncote
Senior Member
Username: edwardofhuncote

Post Number: 541
Registered: 6-2014
Posted on Friday, August 21, 2015 - 8:46 am:   Edit Post

One last post and a few more pictures…

Just to put this whole thing into scale, here’s a view of the campground… it really doesn’t do justice to the sea of RV’s, tents, and E-Z-Up awnings that cover these acres for a week. The rest of the year Felts Park is an athletic field/sports complex in the middle of town, right off Main St. which contributes to the Sunday morning chaos of getting all of us in there in some orderly fashion. Looking around the campground, you'll notice folks display their years worth of "Contestant Camping" stickers on their campers like badges-of-honor.



Here’s what it looks like from the stage looking out at the crowd, and from the grandstand looking back at the stage on Saturday morning for the Folk Song competition. That’s a very popular one, and draws one of the biggest audiences, other than the Youth on Monday and the Bands on Friday/Saturday, it’s probably the biggest. I usually end up backing up a couple of the girls around our camp, one of which has taken 1st place in the contest an amazing 16 times in 21 years. Her two daughters are following suit now.
A few years ago, they built the permanent structure where the stage is now. According to my Dad who was there back in the day, the yellow circus tent is at least 40 years old. Until about 5 years ago, it had a makeshift wooden stage that fit onto the front of it facing the grandstand. The new one is a VAST improvement, especially for the sound crew.



A couple years ago this girl organized every mandolin player she could find to set a world record for the Largest Mandolin Ensemble. Tara Linhardt is a big ball of energy in a very compact package, and like many of us is a Galax “Lifer”, having been here since preteenage. Long story short we set the world record… it was recently broken on the island of Crete by 414 Greek mandolinists. Not to be outdone, Tara pulled it off again this year, and posted a (un-official as yet) new world record of 493. Doesn’t have anything to do with the official proceedings of the Fiddler’s Convention, just one of the many crazy things we musicians have come up with.



Lastly, Galax is a place to remember old friends, many of them we met here in this place where so many different regional music “circles” converge. This is my buddy Tony Collins, my musical hero and brother, and Tommy Jordan, one of my earliest musical mentors, who claimed to have been at the 30th Annual Old Fiddler’s Convention. We lost them both this year, Tony very suddenly and recently. I took this picture of them together exactly one year ago up at the Big Yellow Tent… still just can’t believe they’re gone. There are lots of ghosts in Felts Park, but we really missed these two guys. My goal for next year is to play one of Tony’s songs in the guitar competition, on Tommy’s guitar.

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