Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Festival and band in dispute over cancelled gig

The highly regarded progressive bluegrass band Cadillac Sky was dismissed from appearing at the Mountain View Bluegrass Festival after playing only one of five scheduled sets at the Arkansas festival last weekend.

According to festival director Andy Rutledge, the band didn't live up to the terms of its contract by playing amplified instruments and by straying from traditional bluegrass material. Rutledge told Festival Preview that numerous paying customers walked out of Cadillac Sky's performance during the festival's opening night gospel program.

He said that when he spoke to members of the band after the performance, they were unwilling to make adjustments in their presentation. As a result, Rutledge paid the band dismissed it from the remainder of the contract.

In a notice posted by Cadillac Sky on its MySpace page, the band labeled Rutledge a "bluegrass nazi," and questioned his judgment that the band's music is not bluegrass.

"We were supposed to play five sets of music there in Mtn. View, but a 45-minute gospel set laced with such new-wave progressive titles like "Cryin' Holy?," "Wayfaring Stranger," "Rock in a Weary Land," and finally, "Never Been so Blue" (a tribute song to THE Father of Bluegrass Music: Bill Monroe with twin-fiddles?) sealed our fate, and led to our undoing."

The posting also pointed out that the group's vocal harmonies and banjo-fiddle-acoustic guitar- mandolin-and upright-bass-instrumentation are standard for bluegrass music.

Rutledge said that the biggest problem was the volume level. "Usually we set up for the performers to play through mics. They had acoustic instruments, but with direct boxes.

"The first song was just fiddle and banjo for about 10 minutes and was very loud. When I asked their sound man to turn it down, he would not," Rutledge added.

Cadillac Sky was replaced for its remaining sets by another band on the festival lineup, The Mountain Gypsies.

Posters at a number of sites such as Bluegrass Rules, Banjo Hangout and Mandolin Cafe have criticized the festival for taking punitive action against a contracted performer.

Rutledge said that he regretted that the incident has become a public matter, but said that he stands by his decision. He reiterated that the festival fulfilled the terms of the contract by paying the band in full.

The Mountain View festival runs twice each year--in April and November--at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View AR.

13 comments:

Dan Ruby said...

My take is that this festival audience is very much in the traditional bluegrass camp. Cadillac Sky is a great band, but certainly tends toward the progressive end of the spectrum.

But Rutledge should have known that before booking them. Once on site, the festival owes the band the courtesy of honoring its commitments.

There are many ways of micing a band on stage. Playing unamplified instruments through microphones and using electronic pickups on acoustic instruments are both in the mainstream.

The festival can choose to present bands as it likes, as long as the band is notified. In this case, Rutledge says that the band was notified of the stage setup, but proceded with its own sound setup.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dan- Bryan here from Cadillac Sky. We were never told to not use our set up...in fact, Mr. Rutledge, let us set up our stuff in the little intermission time they had, and never made one comment about the set up. And I have to draw offense with "Andy" over the fact that he said our sound man did not turn it down. He actually turned it down every time he asked to the point where all the audience could hear and all we could hear were the monitors. What a weekend to remember

Anonymous said...

There have been several comments on bgr for one over the last year. You'll never meet a bunch of forum posters who are more traditional minded than the fine people at bgr. A few have reported on the forum what fine musicians and band Cadillac Sky is. Believe me when I say, that's no small accolade to get from the certified traditionalists at bgr. I haven't seen the band, but I believe the bgr posters when they say they put on a fine show, though not strictly traditional, fine musicians and music.

As for the sound set up. The promoter has control over that and can nix the volume and set up and I tend to think the band would adhere to the contract. I don't think this was the band's first rodeo and I haven't seen any other complaints about them or their sound set up.

Nope, the promoter here didn't do his homework and that's the bottom line. I seriously doubt a band with this much going for them is going to quibble over volume and it doesn't sound like they did. The promoter blew it. He paid them at least but he sure did not do anything to help the bluegrass divide.

~ bgr 'babe

regiberry said...

Last year several musician friends that I know and respect, came back from IBMA just RAVING about Cadillac Sky. I haven't seen or heard them yet. I have only heard that they are great.

I cannot understand how Railroad Earth and New Found Road could also be on the same bill and only Cadillac Sky get 86'd! Railroad Earth is a jam band and progressive Bluegrass.

The promoter sure stirred up a lot of crap and I can understand how disappointed Cadillac Sky felt over the incident. Hope both sides learned something from this "revolting developement" !

Anonymous said...

Sounds like another hardcore traditional Geezer with no concept of the history and evolution of Bluegrass Music. What is even more funny is that in Bill Monroes day, The Bluegrass Boys including Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt were progressive and Ralph Stanley was more traditional. Bill and his band were constantly raising the bar of musicianship and writing and progressing the music to new levels. Bill Monroe was progressive in his day. Why cant Cadillac Sky be Bluegrass and a little progressive if they want to?
Somebody ought to give the promoter a little history lesson and a swift kick in the rear.

Anonymous said...

We went to Mt View particularly to hear Cadillac Sky after seeing their name on the program and listening to their music on myspace.com. We were very disappointed that they had been sent on. When an announcement was made during the day that they would not be performing, many in the audiance applauded. I, too, feel that maybe the promoters did not do their homework. Don Peters

Anonymous said...

And this is why, at the last IBMA, they are saying, skip sending a demo CD, send a DVD... and it looks like, showing the audience reactions to you would be a good idea.

Having been to a few Cadillac Sky events... I’ve watched the crowds. And yea, from the start, some of the folks look a bit apprehensive, with their arms folded across their chests and a straight lip. But by the second song, the folded arms are down, many start to lean in towards the stage, eyebrows up... and then slowly, surely, their heads start to nod up and down and once Matt rips on that banjo... people turn to whosever next to them, raise a “well?” eyebrow, stick out the bottom lip and then shrug or nod... and by the end of the second song, they smile and clap while nodding a bit faster. And after a few more tunes... they most all are smiling and clapping and some have really BIG grins and shake their heads the negative way, but more like Grandpas, "awww, those naughty boys," not the “no-way” shake. Some are standing and many are chuckling. And the kids who were walking around the festival outskirts came into the stage area, getting as close as possible to the stage. And they screamed and hooted for more when CS finished. In fact I remember a few jumping up and down, high fiven each other and yelling yea, yea! And it seemed people were noticing that the kids were showing an unusual interest. And I can tell you that my teens are crazy about Cadillac Sky and that knowing what has happened in Mountain View, it’s doubtful they would want to return there. And I'll tell you, I'm not into spending money to have them walk around the perimeter of a festival.

Anonymous said...

And this is why, at the last IBMA, they are saying, skip sending a demo CD, send a DVD... and it looks like, showing the audience reactions to you would be a good idea.

Having been to a few Cadillac Sky events... I’ve watched the crowds. And yea, from the start, some of the folks look a bit apprehensive, with their arms folded across their chests and a straight lip. But by the second song, the folded arms are down, many start to lean in towards the stage, eyebrows up... and then slowly, surely, their heads start to nod up and down and once Matt rips on that banjo... people turn to whosever next to them, raise a “well?” eyebrow, stick out the bottom lip and then shrug or nod... and by the end of the second song, they smile and clap while nodding a bit faster. And after a few more tunes... they most all are smiling and clapping and some have really BIG grins and shake their heads the negative way, but more like Grandpas, "awww, those naughty boys," not the “no-way” shake. Some are standing and many are chuckling. And the kids who were walking around the festival outskirts came into the stage area, getting as close as possible to the stage. And they screamed and hooted for more when CS finished. In fact I remember a few jumping up and down, high fiven each other and yelling yea, yea! And it seemed people were noticing that the kids were showing an unusual interest. And I can tell you that my teens are crazy about Cadillac Sky and that knowing what has happened in Mountain View, it’s doubtful they would want to return there. And I'll tell you, I'm not into spending money to have them walk around the perimeter of a festival.

Dan Ruby said...

Thanks to Bryan for supplying further information on the incident. Thanks also to Ted Lehmann for pointing me to the story.

I think Andy's problem is half festival dictator syndrome (not an uncommon malady) and half ignorance of music business norms. He's an older guy who has played in bluegrass bands and runs the Ozark RV Park. Like a lot of folks, he has a dream to start a bluegrass festival. With the help of the Ozark Folk Center, he accomplishes that but finds himself with more than he can handle.

SamD said...

As a bluegrass musician, in a label act, in a more traditional vein, I must say it takes all kinds & all kinds are out there.

Having no first hand knowledge, just having read several blogs concerning this incident, I must say I'll bet there's enough blame for everybody.

We've played situations where we've shown up to find out we'd be circling one mic. We've had situations where we had all the mics we could ever want and no monitors. Most of these situations also come with almost no sound check and you need to start your set on time & deal with it.

We've not refused to adjust, we've never refused to stretch or cut short and we've not walked away bad mouthing a promoter, though some might have deserved it.

We've also run into trouble on both sides: promoters who don't know what they're doing, they just like to have the card that says "Promoter", and we've run into bands, both big & small, that are "legends in their own minds" demanding, and throwing "non-bluegrass Britanny Spears" fits when everything's not "perfect".

So the moral is, it takes all kinds. You don't do bluegrass to get rich, on either side of the story.
You do it because you love it, you'd like it to be profitable enough to be able to eat & continue. You take the bad gigs, bad experiences and try to learn and not book that artist or artist don't play that festival or gig again.

SD

Dan Ruby said...

There is more good coverage and analysis on this at The Bluegrass Blog.

Julian Lillard said...

cheers to the promoter...if ya gotta plug it in or beat on it..leave it the hell at home
(Julian is the host of he Rt.1 Bluegrass TV Show)

Anonymous said...

I think you have all missed the point, which you would only get if you have spent a significant amount of time hanging around Mountain View.