[Dixielandjazz] One way to Play Where The Kids Are

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sat Dec 4 06:57:35 PST 2004

Here is a very interesting (at least for band leaders searching how to play
where the kids are) article about how a Blue Grass Band plays in Rock Clubs
and does so quite successfully. The parallel is that an OKOM band can do the
same thing in today's Rock Club setting, or with today's Rock audiences of
young people. Some already do so.

The only difference is that OKOM has little "National Visibility". The
solution is to develop one's own "Local Visibility" by playing those summer
concerts and other gigs where the kids are, as suggested by Wiggins, Larry,
Joe Hopkins and a few others who are doing it quite successfully now.

It is not enough to hear opportunity knocking, one must open the door.

Steve Barbone 

December 4, 2004 NY Times

In a Rock Setting, a Bluegrass Band Sees No Need to Adjust
Ten years ago, a bluegrass group like the Del McCoury Band would have made
its way between folk clubs and festivals. It uses a vintage setup - two
microphones, five unplugged instruments - for a repertory that sometimes
reaches back to old Appalachian songs. Mr. McCoury has direct connections to
bluegrass tradition: he was a member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys in the
early 1960's. On stage, the band members wore neatly creased suits and ties
and freshly shined shoes. But now, the band can headline a rock club like
Irving Plaza, as it did Thursday night, with fans shouting requests and
singing along.

The change comes from two factors: renewed visibility for bluegrass with the
Top 10 popularity of the string-band soundtrack for "O Brother, Where Art
Thou," and the McCoury band's move onto the jam-band circuit when it's not
performing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Mr. McCoury doesn't have to
change to please jam-band audiences. Young fans of handmade music appreciate
the band members' quick fingers and Mr. McCoury's old-fashioned mountain
voice: a tense, keening tenor filled with age-old pain and stoicism, Celtic
memories and tinges of American blues. In songs like "It's Just the Night,"
he sounded both fond and eerie.

The band also offered some modest comic relief with the Lovin' Spoonful's
"Nashville Cats," and it recast Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black
Lightning" as an old country song, moving the locale to Knoxville.

Between verses, the musicians stepped forward in round robins of deft solos.
Mr. McCoury has two sons in the band: Ron McCoury on mandolin, playing
pristine and breakneck lines, and Rob McCoury on banjo, plunking out
syncopated, sometimes bluesy solos. Jason Carter on fiddle answered the
staccato picking with solos that raced and then glided around the tunes,
while Mike Bub's bass and Mr. McCoury's rhythm guitar filled in the beat and

The music reaches back in sound and presentation. At one point, all five
members gathered around one microphone to harmonize, and there were parts of
the show that used an archaic light to make the musicians appear almost in
black and white. Yet while the style was deliberately classic, it didn't
sound dated. The songs told their stories and flashed their expertise in
perfect proportion.

At Irving Plaza, the Del McCoury Band shared the bill with a jam band, Donna
the Buffalo, and sat in with it. (Mr. McCoury topped the bill, but his band
preceded Donna the Buffalo onstage, perhaps to allow his fans to get home
before midnight.) Donna the Buffalo is a genial jam band with a Cajun streak
from Tara Nevins's button accordion and rubboard. But after Mr. McCoury's
concision, its largely midtempo, mildly depressed songs seemed to just
putter along. 

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