Thursday, May 10, 2007

Abigail in Disneyland

I caught up with Abigail Washburn as we were both hustling to the Palomino Stage for the Kris Kristofferson set. Abby had earlier performed her set with the Sparrow Quartet on Appaloosa, where she had received a warm response from an audience that was not familiar with her. To attendees of Americana, folk, and bluegrass festivals, Washburn is well known as the waifish banjo player in the all-girl string band Uncle Earl. The Sparrow Quartet is a side project with banjo great Bela Fleck in a string quartet known for Washburn's explorations into Chinese folk music.

I said that she had drawn a good crowd, and she remarked that almost nobody had any idea who she was. It is great to get a chance to play for a new audience and win some new fans. I asked how she get booked for this gig? She really wasn't sure. It was just through her booking agent.

She said she'd been around for the whole festival and had enjoyed many of the performances. The festival was so professionally run that it was like Disneyland. She agreed with me that there was a lack of chemistry in the production, noting the absence of unscripted jams and collaborations on stage. She suggested a stage coordinator could have been used to facilitate such pairings.

Just a few minutes earlier, during Marty Stuart's fine turn on Appaloosa, Stuart had noticed Bela Fleck sitting in the audience and called him as "the greatest banjo picker on the planet." Then he added, "I hope you bought a ticket." At another festival, maybe Bela would have sat in on a song. To be fair, that did happen one time later when Ricky Skaggs brought up Del McCoury.

Despite the spontaneity thing, the Stagecoach Festival was amazing for a first run, Abby said. Consider that this crowd is mainly local. This has the potential to pull people from all over. It has some maturing to do in how it combines country music subgenres, but it could be a great new outlet for acoustic roots and Americana musicians to play for a bigger audience.

Kristofferson sidled into Me and Bobbie McGee for his second song, and I rushed off to get to the photo pit ahead of the three-song limit.

No comments: