Big-time bluegrass is about to do an encore in Raleigh: Last year was the first of six annual confabs of the International Bluegrass Music Association to be held there. The 2014 conference, ceremonies and festival in downtown Raleigh will be staged Tuesday through Saturday at various venues. It’s a big production: IBMA, based in Nashville, Tenn., pegs last year’s Raleigh attendance at 154,000.
Sure, there’s an awards show: It’s Thursday at Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium. You can hear it live, by the way, on Sirius XM’s Bluegrass Junction station (channel 61).
The key days are Friday and Saturday, when Wide Open Bluegrass – the IBMA’s public fan fest – offers ticketed performances as well as no-charge music on outdoor stages. A total of 60 bands are scheduled.
Here’s where it gets tricky: Ticketed performances, which feature the stars of bluegrass at the Raleigh Convention Center and Red Hat Amphitheater – acts like Bela Fleck, the Steep Canyon Rangers, the Del McCoury Band, Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby with Kentucky Thunder – were pre-show sellouts last year. As late Friday, single-day general admission seats ($50) were still available. Order tickets at http://bit.ly/PVjB2Z.
Even if those tickets are gone, there’s plenty to see and do.
Bluegrass Ramble for early birds
You need to be in Raleigh Tuesday, Wednesdsay or Thursday for the showcase series called Bluegrass Ramble: The evening performances are on stages in six downtown locations in addition to two stages at the Convention Center. A total of 70 acts will play; most sets are 60 minutes.
Last year, you could pay at the door and prices varied. This year, a single-day pass is $25; the multiday pass is $75.
The venues: Architect Bar, 108 1/2 E. Hargett St. ( www.architectbar.com); Kings Baracade, 14 W. Martin St. ( http://kingsbaracade.com); Lincoln Theatre, 430 S. Dawson St. ( www.lincolntheatre.com); Pour House Music Hall ( www.thepourhousemusichall.com); Tir Na Nog, 218 S. Blount St. ( www.tnnirishpub.com); and Vintage Church at the Longview Center, 118 S. Person St. ( www.vintagenc.com). The Raleigh Convention Center ( www.raleighconvention.com) is at 500 S. Salisbury St.
Who’s playing where and when? See the schedule at www.worldofbluegrass2014.sched.org.
David Menconi, who covers music for Raleigh’s News & Observer, was asked to name a gotta-see act. He recommends Darin & Brooke Aldridge. The Cherryville-based husband-wife team plays Tuesday at 9 p.m. at the Architect Bar & Social House and 9 p.m. Wednesday at a Convention Center stage.
“They’re really good at gospel as well as bluegrass,” Menconi said. “Brooke is the primary singer and she has a great, great voice. Darin is one of the best young guns in the bluegrass instrumentalist field.”
(You can see also them for free at 1:45 p.m. Saturday at the outdoor Bluegrass StreetFest.)
New to the Ramble this year is a city-operated Bluegrass Express shuttle system that runs between hotels and venues.
Listen for free at Bluegrass StreetFest
Live music spills outside, onto four stages along Fayetteville Street, Friday and Saturday from noon to 11 p.m. There’s also a youth stage (noon to 5:45 p.m.) and a dance tent (noon to 11 p.m.). With about 80 regional and touring acts participating, both new and die-hard bluegrass fans can enjoy this no-cost sampler. The Friday show closers (9:45-11 p.m.) are Chatham County Line, Steve Dilling & Sideline, Blue Highway and The Deadly Gentlemen. Saturday closers (9:30 or 9:45-11 p.m.) are Jim Lauderdale, Laney Jones, The Ramblin Rooks and Della Mae.
Download the full schedule at www.wideopenbluegrass.com/music-schedule.
Menconi was asked to pick a don’t-miss group: “Chatham County Line are new-ish and on their way up. They played last year’s festival and they have a song, ‘Living in Raleigh Now,’ that’s about that event. The band has a cool pop and rock sensibility, which makes for catchier bluegrass. It’s not like they generally do rock songs, but this gives an interesting little spin to it.”
New this year: Films and late shows
The IBMA Film Festival will screen these films Friday and Saturday at the Convention Center: “Banjo Romantika” (by Lee Bidgood), “The Porchlight Sessions” (Anna Schwaber), “At the Feed & Seed” (April Janow), “The Cricket” (Andrew Cartoun), “G2: Mind Over Matter” (David Elfgren), “Herschel Sizemore: Mandolin in B” (Rick Bowman), “The History of Future Folk” (Jeremy Walker) and “The Tao of Bluegrass: A Portrait of Peter Rowan” (Christine Funk). There will be multiple showings; the film festival is free. Details: https://ibma.org/world-of-bluegrass/film-festival.
With bluegrass fans pouring into Raleigh for Wide Open Bluegrass weekend, 10 downtown venues have committed to host bluegrass performances from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and/or Saturday. The Wide Open Late Night venues: In addition to The Lincoln Theatre, The Pour House Music Hall, Tir Na Nog and King’s Barcade – Ramble participants whose addresses and websites are listed above – there’s Deep South (430 S Dawson St.; www.deepsouththebar.com), Hibernian (311 Glenwood Ave.; www.hibernianpub.com), Napper Tandy’s (410 Glenwood Ave.; www.nappertandysirishpub.com), Natty Greene’s (505 W Jones St.; www.nattygreenes.com), Lucky B’s Around the Corner (609 Tucker St.; www.luckybsbar.com) and the patio at Plates Kitchen and Sushi Blues (301 Glenwood Ave.; www.plateskitchen.com; http://sushibluescafe.com).