Friday, April 28, 2006

Blogging from MerleFest will be limited

Internet access at MerleFest is much more difficult than I'd been led to believe. I'm on briefly now, but won't have time to share much now.

For gossip-lovers, here's one tidbit from the roots romance line. Reminding the audience of Casey Driessen public proposal to his wife during last year's festival, Jim Lauderdale announced his engagement to Bryn Davies, formerly Bryn Bright, who seems to be everywhere these days. Last night, she was one of the Lauderdale Bluegrass Band, along with Randy Koors and others.

The other Thursday night highlight was John Prine, who said he "started backwards," delighting the audience by opening the set with "Paradise," "Angel From Montgomery," and "Sam Stone," all from his first record from 1972.

More later...if I can.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

New site features

Instead of getting any sleep the night before leaving for MerleFest I started work on the integration of the blog and the bee into the main Festival Preview site. It's pretty cool, and a sign of a more bloggish moves to come. I definitely need some design work and I'd like to see other bloggers join in and for discussions to take off. Lots to do when I get back.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Family day for Taylor & Rodriguez

It's getting late on Wednesday and I'll have to shut down soon to get ready for my flight to Charlotte for MerleFest. There are a lot of Old Settler's items I'm not going to get to today. Hopefully, I get back to posting on many of these topics overlapping with my upcoming MerleFest content.

* report on the Vassar Clements tribute
* Peter Rowan interview
* Austin prodigy Sarah Jarosz
* interview with Mike Phelan of Marley's Ghost
* impressions of Todd Snider
* Sharon Gilchrist does double duty
* Kat Edmonson is the cat's meow
* campground vignettes, more

I did want to get in one more report on Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez, since they'll be playing again Friday and Saturday at MerleFest. They played the last set of the festival on Sunday afternoon at the campground stage. It was a family affair for Carrie, as her grandmother, novelist Frances Nail, and other members of her family watched the talented fiddler and vocalist put on a very entertaining set of music.

Taylor and Rodriguez showed off their duet vocals on "Sweet Tequila Blues" and others, Carrie's feisty solo on "Never Gonna Be Your Bride," great lead guitar from John Platania, and Taylor's greatest hits including "Wild Thing." Rodriguez is an Austin native and Taylor had considerable success locally as a part of the Armadillo scene in the 1970s. Also, their set included a number of Austin-related songs, so the whole thing had a homey, Sunday afternoon feel to it.

I sat down with Chip for a quick interview before leaving to make my flight out of Austin. We agreed to pick up the conversation at MerleFest. Which is also where I am going to pick up the conversation on this blog beginning Friday morning. MerleFest has a real press facility on site and I expect to be able to file reports throughout the festival. See you then.

Mike Marshall on jam bands

I caught up with Mike Marshall after the mandolin workshop and before the Vassar tribute, which he would be leading. At the workshop, he had talked about his own role in the newgrass movement and as part of a generation of musicians who changed the music. I asked him if thought that the new generation of jam bands was doing something similar.

"Grisman and Bush and Béla took the music in a natural progression from what Bill Monroe and others had laid down as a foundation," he said. "The jam band thing to me feels like a turn more than a natural progression. They are trying to accomplish something different, which is in essence is a party. When you see Yonder Mountain it is really about the atmosphere of the evening more than about taking the instruments to the next place.

"What is cool is that they are bringing a whole bunch of people to the music that otherwise weren't interested because socially they weren't comfortable. So they provide a social environment for that social group where they feel at home, but what's good is that some of those people will go check out Del McCoury or David Grisman."

I asked Marshall what trends in the music he thinks will influence the future. "It is probably going international. We have embraced all the Americana grooves and melodic ideas--blues and rock and Cajun and funk--and incorporated all that into what we call bluegrass. So it is natural that the next generation will expand their reach to Cuba, Brazil, India, and China," Marshall said.

Most of Marshall's festival appearances are as part of a duet. He played Wintergrass will Hamilton de Holanda. In June, he'll take the stage at Telluride in a duo with Edgar Meyer. "For some reason, I go into these very intimate kind of situations where it is like a converstaion between two old friends. I love the intimacy and space that happens when there are just two instruments," he said.

Jam meets grass at OSMF

For several years, Old Settler's has worked to bring in a younger audience by booking a portion of its lineup with popular bands from the jam-band circuit. This festival, it was acoustic magician Keller Williams, all-out rockers New Monsoon, Texas jammers Flounders Without Eyes, and newcomers Green Mountain Grass.

Musically, I thought the acts fit perfectly well. Keller Williams is an amazing entertainer, completely appropriate as a festival headliner. A lot of traditional roots fans had their eyes opened by an example of what's being done in bluegrass-related music in a vibrant sector of innovation.

I caught the end of New Monsoon's set, which ran on the Bluebonnet Stage while the Vassar Clements tribute was playing on the main stage. I felt like I stepped into a mini Grateful Dead show, and had a good time grooving to the music. I also liked Green Mountain Grass quite a lot, since its a jam band that uses mainly bluegrass instruments.

The lineup succeeded in attracting a market of jam band followers to the festival. I ended up spending a good deal of time with Dave, a jam-bander who was set up near me in the campground. Dave had come down from College Station, Tex., where he works in computers, but his main thing is his love of jam music and the jam lifestyle.

Dave was reasonably literate about more traditional music forms. He certainly was excited to be seeing Peter Rowan, and he'd seen Del McCoury any number of times. Some of the new things he heard that he liked were The Waybacks, Marley's Ghost, and Todd Snider.

Totally off the top of my head, I'd say the jam banders comprised about a third of the audience. Another third was traditional folk and bluegrass music fans, and the others were ordinary young Texans out to have a good time. The latter group and maybe some of the jammers were a little rowdy in the campground. Alcohol seemed to be the drug of choice.

On the other hand, there was quite a lot of good picking in the campgrounds. I had my mando along and got in on a couple of jams. I'm always a little shy about getting in, but almost always have a great time while wishing I was confident enough to take the lead on some songs.

The various audience segments coexisted more than they mixed in the campground and the stage lineup. Since the overall attendance of the festival was well less than capacity, the differing styles and behaviors never become a problem. In a sold-out situation, I'm not so sure that the harmony would maintain.

Is the marriage of roots Americana and jam rock one of convenience or one that will grow and become stronger over time? I'll be following the story in the festivals ahead, especially at Telluride, where the marriage has enjoyed its greatest success.

In the next item, I'll talk with mandolin master Mike Marshall about jamgrass and the newest generation of jam musicians.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Remembering Helga Ruby

I'm rushing off now with members of my family to commemorate the first-year anniversary of our mother's death. I'll be back with more Old Settler's content later, but I'd like to mention here that my mother supported the work I was just beginning a year ago to create this website and business. Without Helga Ruby, who first exposed me to folk music in the folk revival days, there would be no Festival Preview. Thanks for your unlimited support for me, mom. We miss you.

Meeting the "king of Kerrville"

In the campground, I had an interesting chat with Javier, the self-styled tee-pee dwelling "king of Kerrville." Kerrville of course is the long-running folk music/singer songwriter festival that runs 19 days every June in a town not too far from here. A non-stop story-teller, Javier has been dispensing wisdom as well as barbeque to the Kerrville faithful every year since the beginning, but he feels that the community spirit at the festival has begun to deteriorate, largely because of a division among RV campers and tent campers at the festival.

The full story is covered in his wife's book about Kerrville, "Hot Jams and Cold Showers," which has to be the best-ever music festival book title. The problem, said Javier, is that the management began to cater exclusively to the desires of the trailer set, while at the same time making a variety of mistakes involving the site's drainage and physical improvements.

Despite the problems, Javier still thinks Kerrville is the best festival going, though he thought there was a lot to admire in the campground setup at Old Settler's Camp Ben McCullough.

"Bright Place" turns dark for The Waybacks

Now it's day 2 of the festival, but I won't try to follow the order of the stage schedule. The next bunch of items are random observations and interviews from the rest of the wonderful Old Settler's Music Festival.

I'll start with James Nash, the hot flat-picking guitarist and vocalist for The Waybacks, one of only two bands (with Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez playing both in Austin and at MerleFest next weekend. I haven't been able to do much preview coverage for MerleFest, which I'll be coving later this week, so some quick items on those bands is now in order.

The MerleFest preview is that Bob Weir of Grateful Dead fame will be appearing with them at MerleFest. Actually, the first-ever public appearance of Weir and The Waybacks is Wednesday evening at The Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, an event that is also the CD release party for The Wabe's new From the Pasture to the Future.

I asked Nash how they had come to be hooked up with Weir. He said it happened naturally, through friends suggesting that they jam together. When they did, everyone had a good time, and they decided to do a few gigs together. They've had several rehearsals in recent weeks, and are set to perform twice later this week.

Nash said they'll play mainly Waybacks material with a few Grateful Dead songs thrown in. He said it was amazing how much they sound like the Dead when Weir is on vocals. As for his own history, Nash, who grew up in Tennessee, was not a Dead fan growing up but got into the scene a little bit after arriving in California as a college student.

The other big Wayback news, at least for the Austin crowd, was the return of favorite son fiddler Warren Hood, who has decamped to joined the San Francisco-based band full-time. The hot-fiddling, baby-faced son of the late Champ Hood brings another lead instrumental voice to the band's electic mix of jazz, rock, blues and folk styles. Hood was welcomed by the audience as a returning hero.

One of the few technical glitches of the Old Settler's event took place during the Waybacks' set, which began in daylight but continue past sundown. The stage lights never came on as the set progressed and it ended with the band playing in complete darkness. Not exactly the "bright place" the band sings about in one of its trademark songs.

I asked Nash, whose hot picking did not seem diminished by the conditions, for a reaction. He said that noone told them there was a lighting problem and that he only slowly realized what as happening during the course of the set. In the end, Nash's compadre Stevie Coyle was calling out to the audience, "We're over here." Nash said it was a good experience to have no choice but to play without looking at the fingerboard, which is what he tries to do in any case.

Just as the band finished its encore song and was bowing into the darkness, the stage lights suddenly came on and then functioned perfectly well for the rest of the Friday night show.

Austin's Claritin couple

Here's one I got from the local alternative weekly, The Austin Chronicle, which answered a question that I've been wanting to look into for awhile: How did Austin musicial spouses Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis come to be the spokespeople in a national television ad campaign for an anti-allergy medication?

In the Chronicle's Q&A with Robison, he said the whole thing happened very quickly. The ad agency had the spot scripted and needed the right talent. Someone at the agency knew about Robison and Willis, and thought they would be right for the ad. They were contacted through their manager. Everything was ready to go, and the musicians just had to go in for the shoot.

For Robison and Willis, aside from whatever fee they earned, the commercials also raised the artists' profiles at a time when they have new record releases. Very savvy.

Skydancing with Peter Rowan

I made too much about reggaebilly in my Peter Rowan's Skydancer Trio in the program bio. (Yes, I wrote the artist bios that appeared in the official festival program.) The trio is mandolin-vocalist Sharon Gilchrist from the Rowan-Rice quartet and percussionist Jeff Hogan.

They played mostly the familiar Rowan repertoire, but with a perhaps more of a world rhythm to it. Midnight Moonlight, Land of the Navaho, and Panama Red from Old & In the Way, Roanoke, White Dove, and Walls of Time from the Monroe years. And they did close with No Woman, No Cry, so maybe it was reggaebilly after all.

Later in the festival, after a set by the full Peter Rowan-Tony Rice Quartet, I got a chance to sit down with Peter Rowan for a chat, which I'll be blogging about later.

Kinky meets his base

As an out-of-stater, I'd thought Kinky Friedman's campaign for Texas governor was more than half satirical. But his appearance at Old Settler's was a serious campaign stop for an anti-politician on the stump for signatures to meet a May 11 deadline to qualify for the ballot.

"I'm 61 years old, too young for Medicare and too old for women to care," he started out. "But I care. I care about Texas."

Mixing his droll humor with policy positions and attacks on the incumbent, he laid out a series of positions in favor of biodiesel fuel, education funding, casino gambling, and guest workers and opposed to highway tolls, capital punishment, and banning gay marriage. He is also pro-cigar and pro-Guinness, displaying both props proudly throughout the appearance.

The latter had recently caused him some trouble when he was seen imbibing while riding in the grand marshall's car during a St. Patrick's Day parade. "I admit I did drink the Guinness," he said, "but I did not swallow."

Playing his outsider role to the hilt, he hit out at politics as "the only field where the more experience you have, the worse you get." He said that musicians would do a better job than politicians. "We won't get a hell of a lot done in the morning, sure, but we'll work late and be honest." He said his career had proved that he is not afraid to offend people, unlike professional politicians.

When he finished, he stepped down from the platform to greet the festival audience, many waving items to autograph. "I'll sign anything but bad legislation," he said.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Settling in on Thursday

The festival got off on the right note the first night with a rollicking campaign appearance by candidate Kinky Friedman and fine musical performances from Abigail Washburn and Peter Rowan. Earlier, as I had arrived and set up at Camp Ben McCullough, there had been on-and-off rain showers, but the evening was cool and dry by the time the program got underway at the cozy campground stage. (There was more rain overnight, but the rest of the weekend was glorious.)

You probably recognize Abigail Washburn as the waifish banjo player from Uncle Earl, but for tonight and a main-stage set on Saturday, she played in her duo format with cellist Ben Sollee. With the g'earls, Washburn showcases her Chinese material, but here she was able to stretch out with a number of songs in Mandarin or with Chinese musical influences. Sollee, whose cello playing is more melodic than the only other bluegrass cellist I know of, Rushad Eggleston, had some fun teasing Washburn, joking that the title of a beautiful melody sung in Mandarin sounded to him like "soybean casserole." The tune will be on an upcoming Washburn EP featuring Béla Fleck and Casey Driessen in addition to Sollee.

The Kinkster was up next, and he didn't disappoint. Coming up in the next item.

Delightful OSMF festival goes underappreciated

Not having attended other highly regarded Texas festivals such as Kerrville or Austin City Limits, I can't rightfully call Old Settler's "the best little music festival in Texas," but after returning today from a magical weekend in the hill country outside of Austin I can say those others would be hard-pressed to equal the musical excellence, production quality, and site comforts of this really fine event.

The problem is that the Austin-area fan base has so many choices that not enough of them showed up for the organizers to break even on the event, a reality that threatens the festival's future. Official attendance figures were not available, but festival president Randy Collier was candid in telling me that the total gate was down from last year despite fine weather, a great lineup, and a sustained marketing effort.

To be sure, thousands of festival-goers did show up and several vendors I spoke with were satisfied with traffic at their booths, but as an attendee I never had any trouble getting great seating locations, prime campground space, or quick service on the festival shuttle bus. Those are nice things for attendees, but are problematic for the promoters. The festival could easily have handled 50 percent again as much gate without stressing any of the systems. An equivalent event in many other parts of the country would certainly have drawn better.

Hopefully, the light turnout will not discourage Collier and the other organizers from proceeding with plans for a 20th annual event next spring. After enjoying this festival so much, Festival Preview will certainly be back in 2007.

I'll have lots more about OSMF on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Blog moves to center stage

I'm just back from Old Settler's with loads to write about but little time to do it, since I'll be headed out for MerleFest in a couple of days. So instead of carefully prepared and edited articles on the primary Festival Preview site, I will produce my OSMF coverage in a series of postings here on the blog.

I have some new ideas for how to better integrate the blog and home site (and the bee, for those who have been following). If those work out as I hope, this more blog-centric style of working may become my model for future festival coverage, since it should allow me to be more timely and comprehensive.

Now, on to OSMF news, interviews and analysis....

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Festival Preview at Old Settler's

I won't be blogging or updating the Live Roots Music bee for the next few days while attending Old Settler's Music Festival in Austin (unless it turns out they have WiFi on site, which is doubtful). Check back next week for OSMF highlights and other festival news.

Telluride NightGrass schedule posted

Festivarians who don't get enough music on the Telluride Bluegrass Festival stages can fill out their weekend attending any of the extra-cost late-night appearances by festival performers at four indoor venues around town. Planet Bluegrass announced the schedule of NightGrass performers yesterday. Tickets go on sale April 26 at the Planet Bluegrass site. Here's the lineup:

Wednesday, June 14
The 5th Annual Bluegrass Kick-Off Party with Yonder Mountain String Band
Telluride Conference Center
8pm music, 7:30pm doors
$22 in advance

Thursday, June 15
Drew Emmitt Band
Sheridan Opera House
11pm show, 10:30pm doors
$25 in advance

Wayword Sons
Fly Me to the Moon Saloon
10pm show
$10 in advance

Friday, June 16
Yonder Mountain String Band
Sheridan Opera House
11pm show, 10:30pm doors
$30 in advance

Sweet Sunny South
Fly Me to the Moon Saloon
10pm show
$10 in advance

John Prine
Michael D. Palm Theatre
Details and ticket info coming soon...

Saturday, June 17
Tim O'Brien Band
Sheridan Opera House
11pm show, 10:30pm doors
$30 in advance

Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers
Fly Me to the Moon Saloon
10pm show
$10 in advance

Sunday, June 18
Chris Thile
Sheridan Opera House
11pm show, 10:30pm doors
$25 in advance

Vince Herman and Great American Taxi
Fly Me to the Moon Saloon
10pm show
$10 in advance

Ferg previews Telluride on Denver radio show

Chief festivarian Craig Ferguson, president of Planet Bluegrass, which operates Telluride Bluegrass, Rocky Grass and several other Colorado festivals, appeared this morning on Denver's roots rock radio station KCUV to preview the upcoming Telluride event.

As a way to illustrate the uniqueness of a live festival, he brought along some of his favorite tapes from the vault of Telluride's 34-year history (although several of his selections would not play properly on the station's audio equipment). He also highlighted a couple of highly anticipated performers for the 2006 festival, which runs June 15-18 in Telluride, Colo. (Visit Planet Bluegrass for all the details.)

For past highlights, Ferguson selected an unscheduled appearance by Bonnie Raitt during a set by Jackson Browne, and another Raitt duet with Susan Tedeschi singing John Prine's "Angel From Montgomery." Both Raitt and Prine are on the bill this year.

He also selected Shawn Colvin's first appearance at the festival, when she made a huge impression on the audience, and John Cowan's moving performance of "Dark As a Dungeon" during a festival-wide power outage. He also played cuts from the vault by Nickel Creek and Yonder Mountain String Band,

Bands at Telluride often want to do more than just play their standard sets, Ferguson said. This year, indie rock band Barenaked Ladies will do a special bluegrass set that they will record for a future live album.

He said that each year there are artists on the bill that stretch the boundaries and cause festival-goers to raise their eyebrows, and that there is also always one or more less-well-known artists who give a breakthrough performance. In the first category, Ferguson suggested that The Decembrists and Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings may surprise attendees, while Steven King & The Sixers is a prime candidate for a breakthrough.

Although Telluride offers much more than bluegrass, "the bluegrass bands are always the last ones standing," Ferguson said, making the case that bluegrass forms the foundation for the other genres of music at Telluride.

That mixture of genres built on top of bluegrass may be Colorado's important contribution to the world of bluegrass, Ferguson claimed, pointing to such home-state innovators as Hot Rize and Yonder Mountain String Band that have had a major impact on directions in the music.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Catch the buzz on Live Roots Music

To capture roots music news and opinion from across the blogosphere, I've been playing around with an interesting new Internet news aggregator called The Personal Bee. It's still an experimental system, but I'm pleased enough with the results to make by own bee, Live Roots Music, available to the public.

The bee aggregates news feeds from about 20 suppliers of music news and opinion. As the editor, or beekeeper, I am able to select recommended articles and display them on top of my bee. So even though my feeds include content from non-roots genres and non-festival formats, I am able to feature content that is appropriate to my interests. Unfortunately, I am less able to manipulate one of the system's coolest features, its Buzziness index, which you'll find is too general to be really useful yet.

Hopefully, the Personal Bee technology will improve as it gets closer to commercial release. Meanwhile, Live Roots Music serves a useful purpose by collecting all the best of bluegrass, folk, and Americana-related festival news in one location. If you like what you see, you can register with the site to subscribe to my bee or select from 50 or so other bees available on subjects from politics to technology. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

FestivaLink live downloads debut at MerleFest

For several years now, bands and festivals have experimented with ways to offer for-pay performance recordings that would be available on CD or over the Internet soon after the live event. Now a new service, FestivaLink, has been launched that could provide a standard system for providing such content.

The upcoming MerleFest event is the first festival to partner with FestivaLink. According to MerleFest, all performances on the festival's main stages (Watson stage and Cabin stage) will be made available through the FestivaLink site. All recordings will be fully legal, since both the artist and the festival will share in the revenue stream. The music will be available both in lossy mp3 and lossless FLAC formatsPricing has not yet been announced, or already burned to CDs.

This one bears watching, since free unauthorized festival recordings are routinely shared among music fans today. Both festivals and artists have tolerated such recording and trading, but many in the industry would like to see a standard system for deriving income from recordings of live performances.

FestivaLink hopes to sign up other major festivals after its debut at MerleFest. If it succeeds, it could do for concert sharing what Apple's iTunes store did for recorded digital music.

Strawberry announces complete schedules

Except for one TBA for its Spring event, Strawberry Music Festivals posted complete schedules for its two 2006 festivals, including a number of previously unannounced acts.

The new acts for Spring are Laura Love Duo, La Guitara, Assembly of Dust, and Bearfoot Bluegrass. For Fall, That 1 Guy and Harry Manx are the latest additions. The night-by-night headliners for Spring are Ryan Shupe & The Rubber Band, Los Lobos, John Haitt & The North Mississippi All-Stars, and Patty Griffin. For Fall, the closers are Incendio, Rodney Crowell Band, Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Thunderbirds (correction: His Fabulous Superlatives), and The Sam Bush Band.

Among lots of other exciting performers, I'm psyched to see La Guitara, the project of cross-genre female guitar innovators, including Patty Larkin. Many on the Strawberry email list are excited about Harry Manx, a Canadian performer who mixes acoustic blues and Indian raga musical styles. Festival Preview will have more lineup analysis in the near future.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Telluride schedule posted with more new acts

Telluride's impressive mix of bluegrass, new grass, jam grass, and roots rock was filled out today with the announced additions of The Decembrists, Drew Emmit Band, Ryan Shupe & The Rubber Band, and the Wayword Sons. I'll have more analysis on the full lineup in the future. For today, enjoy the day-by-day lineup at the Planet Bluegrass site and start dreaming about an incredible weekend of music.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Hanging with the Telluride chat group

I got a chance to hang out online last night with some of the Telluride faithful, who are amping up their anticipation for the June 15-18 festival. One thing that struck me was that out of about a dozen chatters, at least five were from out of state. The ringleader online, as he apparently is on-site in the main campground, was Telluride Tom, also referred to as "the mayor of Town Park."

Tom and the others made me feel very welcome (this will be my first year at the Telluride), and they were interested to learn about Festival Preview. Tom also sent me his writeup of his 25 years of experiences at the festival, including the story of how he gained recognition as mayor and recipient of his free lifetime pass. Since the article may appear in the festival program this year, I won't share any more of it here.

Future chats will take place Monday nights until the festival on the Festivarian Forum in Yahoo Groups, usually commencing after Jerry Lunsford's Hippie from Olema radio program has finished streaming at 7:30 MDT.

Both Strawberry festivals are sold out

The last tickets for Strawberry Fall were sold yesterday, several weeks after Spring also sold out, continuing the trend of earlier sellouts each year as the festival, now in its 25th season, continues to grow in popularity. Those who did not get tickets are not entirely out of luck, however. Strawberry Ticket Exchange, an independent site unaffiliated with the festival, is the best place to look. Craig's List is another. Be aware that there are more buyers than sellers, however.

My experience is that a good number of tickets free up during the last three or four days before the festival opens. If you really want to go, there's a good chance you'll get them at the last minute. Don't let unscrupulous sellers gouge you from more than the face value, however. Nobody wants to seeing scalpers making a profit on the festival. It is not The Strawberry Way.

Monday, April 10, 2006

FP radio is on the air

I'm trying out a cool new feature, Festival Preview Radio, which you'll find at the bottom of the right-hand sidebar on this page. It is based on Pandora, the Internet music system designed to help users discover new artists similar in style to their existing favorite artists.

Pandora is the commercial product that grew out of The Music Genome project, as research project to classify music styles and performers according to a taxonomy of 400 attributes. The idea is that you enter the names of favorite musicians or songs into the program and it will play back other similar music. Full-length, high-fidelity songs then stream to your computer. It works through ordinary Flash-enabled web browsers, so you don't need to download any new software.

For Festival Preview Radio, I've input the performers booked for upcoming festivals to create a "radio station" for each festival. Keep in mind that the songs selected may be selections by artists either in the lineup or others similar in style to those in the lineup. Therefore you can think of the Grey Fox station not as a playlist of performers appearing at the festival, but of a larger set of artists that the festival management might have booked if they had more stage slots and budget.

So far, I've put up stations for Old Settlers', Strawberry Spring and Grey Fox, and I'll put up more festival stations soon. Since each festival includes a range of musical styles, you hear a variety of styles on each. Still, it is interesting to compare the stations to see how the system interprets the varying personalities of the different festival. Check it out, and enjoy the music..

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Larue matter closed

Yesterday's little dustup on the Strawberry email list has played itself out. I'm pleased to say that a number of respected members of the list spoke up in my defense. Larue posted a message acknowledging that his opinion, which he says he still holds, had been outvoted, and that he would refrain from further comments about Festival Preview and this writer. I also consider the matter closed and look forward to future involvement with the list.

For those of you who have an interest of all things Strawberry, but do not participate in the list, I can highly recommend it as an informative and nuturing online community. Here's the signup page.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Reply to Larue

This morning I've come under attack from a frequent poster on the Strawberry email list who objected to my recent contribution to the list about the jamband-roots music crossover. The poster, who goes by the name "Larue Porkefuss," objects to what he considers to be an attempt from a "professional marketer" to use the list for personal business purposes.

Larue's posting contains a good deal of personal vitriol that I'd rather not further provoke with a reaction. However, his underlying point deserves a response. Like Larue himself and others who post to festival email lists, I sometimes offer news and opinions I think will be of interest to list members. One distinction is that I am not just an individual (though I always use my real name), but I also have a blog and website with related content, and I generally include a link to these in my postings.

I am by no means unique in this. Many of the posters on the Strawberry and other email lists include links to radio programs, festivals, bands, and other business entities with which the poster has a relationship. However, I recognize that using another group's list to promote oneself is not good form. Likewise, it is poor online etiquette to spam list members with unsolicited emails.

That's why I have been very careful not to cross the line in my postings and mailing. First, my list contributions are fairly infrequent. I've started fewer than 10 threads on the Strawberry list in the past year. More importantly, I assure that my posts are relevant to the lists' purpose and that they contribute something interesting to the discussion. Of course, relevance and interest are subjective qualities, and it is possible that Larue or others might not agree with my evaluations of these things.

For example, the post in question contained analysis of trends at roots music festivals generally, and mentioned Strawberry only tangentially. If one of the conventions of the Strawberry list were to confine the discussion to matters of immediate relevance to the Strawberry festivals, then one might argue that my post was off-topic. However, in several years of reading almost every post to the Strawberry list, I have found many that discuss subjects not directly related to Strawberry.

As far as hijacking the list for my business purposes, I have never spammed list members with Festival Preview emails. Last December, when I put out the first email newsletter for Festival Preview, I added a number of names of Strawberry list members to my own list. However, these were all people with whom I had had direct interactions, either on the list or in personal emails. Also, I made sure it was easy for recipients to notify me or my list management provider to opt out of receiving any further emails. Since that first mailing, I have operated entirely on an opt-in basis.

Larue's was one of the names I included in that first mailing, based on earlier email exchanges we'd had. After receiving my December mailing, Larue asked to be removed from my list, which he was.

It is likely that Larue's animosty to Festival Preview goes back to the poll I conducted among Strawberry list members after the Spring 2005 festival. He was one of a few list members who felt that such a poll was contrary to the Strawberry way. That opinion was of course an entirely legitimate one, and he and others had every opportunity to express it, including in the poll itself.

I also privately extended the opportunity for Larue to write up his objections to the poll for unedited publication on the Festival Preview site, an offer he did not reply to. However, in today's rant, he wrote, "Mr. Ruby, don't you DARE email me, in yer defense. That would be even ruder than what I percieve [sic] you are doing . . . I want nothing to do with you."

Fair enough. I'm not sending him any email and he is not under any obligation to read what I post to the list. However, he also seems to want to have me censored or perhaps banned from the list, an escalation of his attack.

That's also his right, but it doesn't seem very sporting. It's not like Festival Preview is a big corporation or media heavyweight. Rather it's a modest website run by one individual who has a passion for the music and a desire to communicate about it. It is true that I am seeking to expand my readership and ultimately to derive some revenues from the content and services Festival Preview provides.

If that offends Larue, I regret that. But I have heard from many more people who are interested in what I am doing, and I fully intend to go on providing them with news and information about Strawberry and other roots music festivals.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Terrific David Bromberg profile

Ever since seeing David Bromberg a year ago at Strawberry Spring, I've been curious to learn how he ended up as a violin maker and dealer and musical laureate in Wilmington, Del. Today's Washington Post has a wonderful front page article, "In Fine Fiddle," that paints a three-dimensional portrait of the virtuoso guitarist who worked with just about every major folk-rock musician and led his own band in the '70s and '80s before quitting the touring life.

These days, Bromberg is playing a modest schedule of festival and club dates, in addition to his day job as a fine instrument dealer and role as Wilmington's musical muse. This month, he'll be playing at MerleFest, and he is also on the bill at the Floyd Fest, Edmonton Folk and Rhythm & Roots festivals later this season.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Trends in the OSMF artist profiles

We've posted our "baseball card"-style artist profiles for Old Settler's Music Festival. A couple of interesting trends pop out of the data:

In Austin, "regional" is also "national." The local angle is important to festival promoters around the country. That's why you will see a strong Colorado lineup at Telluride or Rocky Grass, plenty of California acts at Strawberry, a Pacific Nortwest flavor at Wintergrass, and a heavy dose of Southeastern bands at MerleFest. But one thing that is special about Old Settler's is the number of national and mid-tier performers who are based in Austin or who have local connections.

At the upcoming festival, Terri Hendrix, Monte Montgomery and Susan Gibson are among the regional performers building major national reputations. Todd Snider and Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez are breakout acts with strong Austin roots. Finally, Flounders Without Eyes, Sarah Jarosz, The Grassy Knoll Boys, Green Mountain Grass, The Texas Swing Kings, Lonestar Bluegrass Band, and Slim Richey & Kat's Meow are regional performers with active local followings.

Jamband-roots crossover is good business. The category of festivals we cover tends to appeal to an older audience of roots music afficionados, and one of the challenges for promoters of these fests is to find a way to attract younger music fans without alienating their older base. That is easier these days when many of the youth-oriented jam bands are including bluegrass and other acoustic music elements in their styles.

That's why you see most of the roots festivals packing their lineups with acts such as Yonder Mountain String Band, Hot Buttered Rum, and many others. (The flip side of this coin is the appearance of hardcore bluegrass acts like the Del McCoury Band on the bill of jam band and indie rock festivals.)

Festival Preview is especially interested in tracking this phenomenon, and in analyzing whether the lineup adjustments actually succeed in attracting a different demographic. We'll have our first chance to put that to the test later this month when attending Old Settler's Music Festival, where Keller Williams is the headline act and three other jam acts--New Monsoon, Flounders Without Eyes, and Green Mountain Grass--are on the bill alongside traditional roots players like Del McCoury, Peter Rowan, and Uncle Earl.

Welcome Melody Trip

I've always believed that more is merrier in media markets. That's why the trends toward one-newspaper towns and radio monopolies are bothersome. The media owners get lazy, the content gets boring, and the audiences are poorly served. Of course, the explosion of diverse content and viewpoints online is an important force in the opposite direction.

It is in that spirit that we welcome a new online media venture to the music festival space. Melody Trip launched earlier this week as a festival-goer community site seeking to cover all genres of music but primarily focused on the indie rock and jamband markets. The site has ambitious plans, mostly unfulfilled for now. It aims to provide a comprehensive festival directory, news, travel services, shopping, contests, and especially community features for festival-goers.

Some of those features may compete with things we're doing with Festival Preview, but we are pleased to see that there's another group of people with the passion and blind faith that it takes to launch a web publishing business focused on the live music market.

To demonstrate our support, Festival Preview has started a satellite blog on the Melody Trip site. We may duplicate some items from here, but will mainly use it as a way to discuss the intersection of the roots music and jamband festival markets. Come by for a visit, and take a tour through Melody Trip's ambitious site.