Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Ferg replies to challenge

I asked Craig Ferguson, president of Planet Bluegrass, if he had a comment on Pete Wernick's recent suggestion that the Telluride Bluegrass Festival should be renamed as Telluride Newgrass Festival. I just received this email:

Hey Dan,

Let see, Pete and I have discussed this often in the past, more than enough for my tastes.

I don't think anyone really thinks the Telluride Bluegrass Festival consists of entirely bluegrass music. We do get the very occassional complaint. Pete is right about a lot of things. Yes, the locals in Telluride refer to The Festival simply as "bluegrass", yet they sure know what it "is". And agents, artists and managers around the country simply refer to it as The Telluride Festival. Really, The Telluride Newgrass Festival is just as "accurate" a name as the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Not that I can define either genre, but I would say that we're more likely to have bluegrass then newgrass these days. Perhaps the most linguisticaly accurate name would be the "Telluride Bluegrass Invitational", nearly all genres are "at home" at The Festival; but at the end of the day, there's a reason bluegrass remains the name. Traditional bluegrass, as the ever opinionated doctorates might describe it, remains the nexus of the festival, from my point of view, - a place we always return to.

But really, Telluride Bluegrass is more a direction then a genre; and, I know this kind of escapes Pete. Yet festivarians around the globe are quite clear on the at once definable and yet undefinable eclectic musical combinations expected to be found at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival by the annually gathering Festivarian Nation.

:)

1 comment:

Kevin Lynch (in Connecticut) said...

Graig Ferguson states: "Really, The Telluride Newgrass Festival is just as 'accurate' a name as the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Not that I can define either genre, but I would say that we're more likely to have bluegrass then newgrass these days."


Mr. Ferguson admits that he cannot define either genre. Apparently he is correct or he would not make a statement such as, "...I would say that we're more likely to have bluegrass then newgrass these days." Clearly the Telluride music fest has evolved into an entirely different animal in recent years. Bluegrass music, no matter how general the definition may be these days, is almost nowhere to be seen at Telluride's 'Bluegrass' Festival (by the way, that is what most people I know in the business call it, contrary to Craig's impressions on that particular subject.)


Craig also states: "Traditional bluegrass, as the ever opinionated doctorates might describe it, remains the nexus of the festival, from my point of view, - a place we always return to."

Hogwash. The evolving Telluride festival rosters of the past few years nixes that bit of wishful thinking. Perhaps promoters nationwide, who find themselves in a similar position as Mr. Ferguson, might also make an attempt to step back from their observation deck and try to look more objectively at their program(s)? Mr. Ferguson might attempt to get a different "point of view" ...a view others seem to be able to comprehend, but are mum on the subject.

It's amazing to me (and, I think, a pity) how many prominent people in the Bluegrass music business agree with Pete on such issues, yet cannot bring themselves to 'expose' themselves in public by supporting such a controversial (for lack of a better term) view as Mr. Wernick's suggestions.

Craig adds: "But really, Telluride Bluegrass is more a direction then a genre; and, I know this kind of escapes Pete."

I'm sorry, but this wishful thinking also escapes me..and many of my Bluegrass peers. If Telluride's fest is a "direction", then one might think the name would (or should) reflect that fact?

One last quote from Mr. Ferguson: "Yet festivarians around the globe are quite clear on the at once definable and yet undefinable eclectic musical combinations expected to be found at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival by the annually gathering Festivarian Nation."

On this one point, I think we all agree. However, I believe these "festivarians" are absolutely not the people Peter Wernick is concerned about when it comes to the misleading use of the title Telluride Bluegrass Festival. I'm pretty sure he is concerned about the newcomers who may walk away thinking (positively or negatively) that 99.9% of the lineup at Telluride was anything close to Bluegrass.

Dr. Banjo / Mr. IBMA President Pete Wernick has had a lifetime education in, and possibly more than one lifetime's worth of experience with, this subject of Bluegrass Music. I dare say that Craig Ferguson's resume (perhaps as well as fellow boardmembers' resumes) all pale in comparison. Enough so that perhaps they might not so readily discount Pete and like thinkers quite so easily...and bluntly. Put any personal issues aside and consider that maybe Pete's suggestions are not such a bad thing for business after all? And after all, isn't business what Telluride is mostly about these days?

One last thought: Telluride founder, the late Fred Shellman (whose name I cannot seem to find anywhere within the Telluride Bluegrass Festival website?), was an extremely eclectic man in his tastes for music. So I'm reasonably certain that he would have steered this festival in the same musical directions. However Fred was also an extremely fair and sensible man, a person who could have reasonable discussions about festival business without applying the perverbial cold shoulder that Craig Ferguson appears to have offered Peter Wernick. I won't pretend to know what Fred would have done in this case, regarding using the 'Bluegrass' moniker or not, but I guarantee he would have given the subject his undivided attention ...and much more considerable thought than the current aggregation at Planet Bluegrass appear to have done. Fred Shellman was indeed a knowledgeable business person, who could balance both business and friendships with apparent ease. Perhaps one more attribute missing from today's powers-that-be at PB?