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5/9/2001

EAR PLUGS
Got a big stack o' CD's to review, hopefully we'll have those done by Sunday. We're in the midst of a HUGE reorganization/remodeling of the Degenerate Press site, so stay tuned for the not-so-grand reopening.
Meanwhile, here's a report from degenerate MAC:
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, or The grass is blue. Here's a late report on a recent trip to a festival that we believe any music lover would appreciate. The festival, in it's 14th year, is called Merlefest in honor and memory of Merle Watson, the son of legendary old-time and bluegrass guitar picker Doc Watson. Usually, in the last weekend of April every year, the Watson family puts on quite a festival on the campus of Wilkes County Community College, in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. This festival is possibly best described as the "equal and opposite reaction" for the Music Midtown "action" recently witnessed in Atlanta. It is the Anti-Midtown if you will. For four days, a total of 80,000 people get together and enjoy the absolute best that the American Acoustic Music Scene has to offer. This year, there was no sign of violence, crime, obscene drunkenness, or other unpleasantness. Just lots of happy, friendly people having a good time. The demography of the crowd was fairly diverse with a smattering of the very young, the very old, the urbane, the countrified, the redneck, the hippie, the country club set, and on and on.
If you like Bluegrass, Folk, Country, Cajun, Jazz, Gospel, Klezmer (!), Old-time, or good ol' Rock-n-Roll music, there would have been something for you at one of the fifteen Merlefest stages. There was even a kind of a lounge act by the name of "The Chief Jim Billie Band", made up of guys of American Indian ancestry from the Seminole nation. They could have been called "Wayne Newton with Headdress", or "Dean Martin and the Seminole Strings" Pretty funny, but undeniably entertaining. Headliners for the fest were: the always amazing "Bela Fleck and the Flecktones" on Thursday; up-and-coming "Nickel Creek" on Friday; the indescribable Dolly Parton followed by "Donna the Buffalo" on Saturday night, and somebody we didn't see on Sunday because we were driving home. Thrown in for good measure were multiple performances (both singly, and in many different combinations) by standout musicians such as Tony Rice, Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas, David Grisman, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Peter Rowan, Rhonda Vincent, Sam Bush, Tim O'Brien, Darrel Scott, Del McCoury, John Cowan, and many more. Clearly, there was a lot of music being made.
Our favorite part of the festival were the so-called "workshops" which were basically set up for hero worship. An individual, or sometimes a group, of really outstanding musicians would get up on a stage, play a while, and then field questions from the audience. The two we attended were a dobro workshop with Jerry Douglas and a mandolin workshop with Sam Bush, David Grisman, Chris Thile, and another guy whose name I can't recall. This activity was really fun, and it leads to one of the other really interesting aspects of this festival: the fest is attended by large numbers of amateur and semi-pro musicians. I mean the place was crawling with people who had an instrument in hand. As a result, a lot of the questions put to the professional musicians in the workshops were technical in nature: What size pick do you use? What effects do you use when recording? What tuning do you use on this song from that album? And so forth. If you were an aspiring musician, you could learn a lot. The amateur and semi-pro musicians put their new knowledge to the test back in the campground after the shows are over. We camped in a makeshift campground (at the local little league baseball fields) with about 1500 other people.
Nightly, there were campfires surrounded by more or less talented musicians trading songs and stories and such-like. These song circles keep it going all night. Until dawn. No kidding. Merlefest is all music, all the time. And, in spite of the lip-service paid to drug-and-alcohol-free campgrounds, there was ample, but fairly mellow, consumption of beer (and other, stronger stimulants/depressants) at the song circles with minimal interference from The Man. (The no drinking clause was introduced this year in order for The Man to have a reason to go in and bust the particularly rowdy and disruptive participants, I think). We had a great time. It was as relaxed and carefree as I have been in some time (years?). We can whole-heartedly recommend the festival for all those who love music (in its myriad styles), and who think the idea of camping with a bunch of other people in the foot hills of the Appalachians for a few days sounds like fun. See you next year.
Degenerate MAC

UNDERBELLY
Anybody been to the Gold Club since the joint was busted a couple years back? Just curious, might have to do some investigative reporting for a future Degenerate Press article. Anyone know what's the latest on Dottie's? Looks like it's been shut down for remodeling, as reported a while back, but either they're taking their time or something's gone awry.


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