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Raleigh becomes world bluegrass capital – for 5 days

By John Bordsen
Travel Editor

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Nashville, Tenn., may be the home of country music. But for the next three years, Music City will have to share its bluegrass with North Carolina: The Nashville-based International Bluegrass Music Association will be holding its annual conference and awards ceremonies in downtown Raleigh.

Landing the Sept. 24-28 confab isn’t much of a stretch: Bluegrass is a specialized form of traditional Appalachian music codified in the 1940s by Bill Monroe, with the help of banjoist Earl Scruggs – a Shelby native. Monroe’s seminal Bluegrass Boys band also included Curly Seckler (born in China Grove), Jody Rainwater (Surry County) and Billy Constable (Spruce Pine).

Annual bluegrass festivals are staged from the Outer Banks to the Tennessee line. From Doc Watson (Deep Gap) to the Steep Canyon Rangers (Brevard), North Carolina is no stranger to this genre.

But the influx of bluegrass musicians in Raleigh this month will be the ultimate boon for their fans. Under the umbrella title World of Bluegrass, the business conference at the Convention Center – a mix of morning or afternoon seminars – is augmented by public, evening performances that will last until 2 a.m. at seven venues. The weekend of Sept. 27-28 also brings the two-day Wide Open Bluegrass, the IBMA’s fan fest, which includes ticketed indoor performances as well as no-charge music on outdoor stages.

We’re talking roughly 175 performances over the course of five days.

You can hear up-and-comers as well as performers at the top of their game. National notables include Jerry Douglas, who provided the dobro for the Soggy Bottom Boys on the “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack; guitarist/singer Del McCoury, who has appeared on everything from “The Grand Ole Opry” to “Late Night With David Letterman”; multi-instrumentalist Peter Rowan, who played with Jerry Garcia and whose “Panama Red” became a staple for New Riders of the Purple Sage; and the Steep Canyon Rangers, who took a Grammy in 2013 for Best Bluegrass Album and who are often joined onstage by actor/comedian/banjoist Steve Martin.

Bluegrass Ramble

World of Bluegrass features Bluegrass Ramble for conventioneers and fans, Sept. 24-28. The evening showcases are on stages at five nightclubs plus the Raleigh Convention Center. Admission is charged; see schedule at www.worldofbluegrass.org/schedule.html. Pay at the door; prices vary.

The venues: Lincoln Theatre, 430 S. Dawson St. ( www.lincolntheatre.com); Longview Theater, 126 E. Cabarrus St.; Tir Na Nog, 218 S. Blount St. ( www.tnnirishpub.com); Kings Baracade, 14 W. Martin St. ( http://kingsbaracade.com); Architect Bar, 108 1/2 E. Hargett St. ( www.architectbar.com); Pour House Music Hall ( www.thepourhousemusichall.com) and the Raleigh Convention Center, 500 S. Salisbury St. ( www.raleighconvention.com).

Major indoor performances

If you’re looking for serious variety, there will also be four large indoor shows for the Wide Open Bluegrass Festival:

• Sept. 27, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at the Raleigh Convention Center stage; 30-minute sets.

• Sept. 27, 11:45 a.m.-11 p.m. at Red Hat Amphitheater; 45- to 90-minute sets.

• Sept. 28, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Raleigh Convention Center stage; 30- to 45-minute sets.

• Sept. 28, 11:45 a.m.-11 p.m. at Red Hat Amphitheater; 45- to 90-minute sets.

The evening shows at Red Hat are particularly notable: The closing act Sept. 27 is a collaborative performance by Alison Krauss, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush (all of whom were on the “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack), Del McCoury, Bela Fleck, Tony Rice and Mark Schatz.

Closing on Sept. 28: Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers, with singer/songwriter Edie Brickell.

Single-day tickets ($30-$70) are good for both of that day’s performances. Two-day tickets ($70-$140) are good for all shows. Remaining tickets are for general admission seating, and they’re going fast. Details and tickets: http://bit.ly/134v0hR.

Listen for free

Live music spills outside, onto three stages on Fayetteville Street, Sept. 27-28 from around noon to 11 p.m. With about 50 regional and national acts participating, you’ll get a sampler for both new and die-hard fans. The stages are at the City Plaza, Martin Street and Hargett Street. There’s also a youth stage and a dance tent (clogger and square dancing troupes). Schedule: www.wideopenbluegrass.com/music-schedule.

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