Over the weekend I had the pleasure of playing at the Wind Gap Bluegrass Festival in Pennsylvania with the Dixie Bee-Liners. It was, I think, the fourth time I've played Wind Gap, and the third different band I've played it with. The first, of course, was Red and Murphy and Their Excellent Children. The second was Casey and Chris and the Two-Stringers. As I recall, both times the family band played it absolutely poured rain, so we were mostly performing to a crowd of lawn chairs with a very few hearty souls hunkered down in ponchos.
This year, though, the weather was perfect. Sunny, with a few scattered clouds, not too hot, not too cold, not too humid. It was a Goldilocks kind of day.
We played two sets and our first one was sandwiched in between Bill Emerson and Sweet Dixie, and Eddie and Martha Adcock. I joked that being scheduled right between two former Country Gentlemen created "no pressure at all" for the banjo player! In truth, you couldn't find two nicer guys and it was a huge honor to share the same stage with them. Additionally, Lynn Morris was at the festival, running sound for Emerson, and having her in the audience always makes me super conscious of my playing. Not nervous exactly, just hyper-vigilant.
On this day, my hyper-vigilance paid off, because she was very complimentary of my playing. It means so much to me to get a positive comment from Lynn because she's the kind of person who will tell you the truth if you ask her. She doesn't give fluffy compliments.
My biggest thrill of the day, in truth one of the biggest thrills of my banjo-playing life, came after our first set. I had said hello to Bill Emerson before we went on stage. I've known him for quite a few years and he doesn't live that far from my parents. I snuck into the front row to listen to a couple of songs in their set. We were mostly warming up and tuning while they were on stage, since our set followed theirs. After we had played and were standing around the record table---excuse me, product table---Bill came over to me and said, and I quote, "That was right in there." I was SO excited. It told him it was going up on my wall of great quotes. I feel like I've accomplished some huge goal I didn't know I was working towards. Bill Emerson gave his stamp of approval to my playing!! I immediately Tweeted it. And then called my parents to tell them. They were properly appreciative. Then I watched Emerson's whole second set from the front row, recording some choice tunes on my phone---specifically "Theme Time," which I sometimes play with the Bee-Liners, hoping to cop some of his licks. His playing is so clean, so precise. It's a joy to listen to.
I was a little bummed to have to leave the festival that night. After the Bee-Liners' second set I had to immediately get in my car and head south to get to my cousin Caroline's high school graduation, which was at 3:00 the next day. I kind of wanted to stay and hang out because my friends Matt McBriarty and the Grillbillies were there and I know that a rowdy night of jamming fun was in the cards. But family events take precedence, so I drove late, and I drove early, and I arrived exactly at 3:00. Usually I'm not a good night driver, being the early-to-bed-early-to-rise type, but the excitement of the events of the day kept me going, and I expect they'll keep on keeping me going for the next few weeks, at least!
Casey, congratulations again on your Bill Emerson quote! He was right. And thanks for driving 10 hours down to Charlotte for Caroline’s graduation. It was good to see you, and good picking on Saturday night!
Casey, does that comment go up on the wall, along with, “you look prettier than your banjo”:)
I learned a lot about banjo players when I was listening to Bill Emerson in Burnsville in November (Lynn Morris was doing the sound then too). Everyone was calling out requests for Bill. Tom Adams was sitting behind me and all of a sudden I heard him yell out “Freebird!!!”. Took me by surprise. Oh, well, it was funny to me anyway. Those Johnson Mountain Boys can be a roudy bunch.
With compliments from two banjo greats like Lynn and Bill on the same day, you had to be on cloud nine… I know I would have been! Looking forward to seeing you at Kamp next week. Till then, pick the banjer solid! (Sounds like you have been.)
Oh, yeah. Those JMBs. Troublemakers, the lot of them! 😉
And I can’t wait to see you and Murphy and meet Ned Luberecki and Alan Munde and Pat Flynn (hooray I’ll probably get my NGR CD’s all signed up).
Steve (in Japan)
I remember reading about Mark Schatz dropping by to observe your skills. What a peer group you belong to. You’re off the wall now and up on the bluegrass totem pole, that’s for sure. And, I ain’t saying all this to tickle you either.
Ben from Back When
Casey, Thanks for your posts. It’s been fun virtually keeping up with your travels. Congrats on what I am sure were well-deserved compliments, too. I remember a trombone player after a big band concert sharing examples of not-quite-compliments, and the one that stuck with me was, “I could tell what you were trying to do.” In contrast, “That was right in there” is firmly in the genuine compliment category, and exceeds the other by several orders of magnitude.
Casey…that comment from Bill was just Excellent !…nothing left to say.