IBMA World of Bluegrass 2021: musical choices, calendar, programming
It’s the biggest week in bluegrass, and it’s here in Raleigh.
The International Bluegrass Music Association’s annual World of Bluegrass Conference and Festival takes place downtown Tuesday through Saturday, with scheduled performances at the Raleigh Convention Center, Red Hat Amphitheater, on outdoor stages along Fayetteville Street and within several locations.
The sets on the four street stages Friday and Saturday are free, but everything else – the shows that are part of the Bluegrass Ramble showcase – require a ticket – and proof of COVID-19 vaccination. More on that below.
There is, however, a virtual option for those who don’t want to face the crowds. The free virtual music pass works for all events but must be watched live.
If you’re new to bluegrass or are naturally overwhelmed by the choices, we’ve picked a few highlights (aside from the Friday and Saturday night headliners) to help you dive in.
Bella White grew up in Calgary but steeped in classic country and old-time music, thanks to her father, a bluegrass musician who grew up in Virginia. Rolling Stone Country has described its sound as “sublime Appalachian heartbreak” and venerable roots music label Rounder Records has given enough thought to their debut album, “Just Like Leaving,” to release it more widely this year.
Where to see it: Tuesday, 7:35 p.m., Congress Hall 306 and 9:00 p.m., Pour House
If you had the illusion that black musicians were new to traditional music forms like bluegrass, instead of being at the very beginning of them, Jake Blount will make sure you are placed lovingly and lastingly. The songs on his latest album, “Spider Tales,” are drawn from Blount’s research into traditional black and Indigenous music, harmoniously telling a haunting, yet very modern, story.
Where to see it: Tuesday, 8 p.m., Architect; Wednesday, 10:30 p.m., Congress Hall 306; Friday, 3:45 p.m., Come Hear NC Stage in the parking lot in front of Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts (free)
The sweet lilies
Many acoustic groups have a violin player, but The Sweet Lillies are practically on their own with a viola – the slightly deeper and richer cousin of the violin. Calling their sound âstring-Americana,â this trio offers dynamic performances with plenty of room for guests such as Sam Bush and members of The Infamous Stringdusters, String Cheese Incident and the Trey Anastasio Band. Their latest album, “Common Ground”, was released in June and produced by Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth.
Where to see them: Tuesday, 8 p.m., For House; Wednesday, 8:45 p.m., Convention Center Room 304
The Arcadian Savage
The Nashville-based Arcadian Wild, a grassroots duo, add talented musicians as needed to complement a sound that is rooted in vocals but taps into the instrumental sounds of folk, bluegrass and even classical lore. They spent the first year of the pandemic releasing âPrincipium,â a four-song cycle exploring the human condition in the context of the seasons.
Where to see them: Tuesday, 8:10 p.m., Congress Hall 304; Wednesday, 7 p.m., Vintage Church
Bluegrass can take root far from the Appalachians, and Barbaro proves that it can flower even during harsh Minnesota winters. North Carolina music fans might hear undertones of Mandolin Orange (now Watchhouse) in their songs, with clever lyrics and sound that draws inspiration from jazz, chamber music and more.
Where to see them: Tuesday, 9:55 p.m., Congress Hall 306; Wednesday, 8 p.m., Lincoln Theater and 11 p.m., Architect; Saturday, 9:30 p.m., Davie Street Stage (free)
This quartet brings a pop touch to their bluegrass backgrounds, maintaining a stringy feel while reaching far behind the strings – there’s even a flute in the band! Clever lyrics take on modern life, but flamboyant instrumentals and an in-depth knowledge of traditional music make the songs timeless. Their latest album, “Right Now”, was released in 2020.
Where to see them: Tuesday, 10 p.m., Lincoln Theater; Wednesday, 7:35 p.m., Convention Center Room 304
In the fog
Raleigh’s Into the Fog seems to have a pretty clear idea of ââwhat music should be: whatever the artist wants it to be, regardless of genre. This trio brings country, blues, funk and more to their blend of bluegrass. Formed just in time to participate in the famous Telluride Bluegrass Festival group competition in 2017, they just won the MerleFest group competition earlier this month.
Where to see them: Thursday, 10 p.m., For House
Tray Wellington’s first instrument was a trombone, when he was a college student in Ashe County, western North Carolina. But he took to strings via an electric guitar at the age of 13, eventually finding his way to the banjo. On this instrument and with this wide range of musical experiences, he has won honors and awards as a founding member of Cane Mill Road and as a solo artist. This includes the IBMA Momentum Instrumentalist of the Year 2019 award. Fresh out of East Tennessee State University’s prestigious Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music program, he has a recording contract with Mountain Home Music and a very bright future.
Where to see it: Friday, 4 p.m., Red Hat Amphitheater; Saturday, 8 p.m., Davie Street Stage (free)
The Steel Wheels are highly regarded on the American scene, with an upbeat mix of rock and roots that fits perfectly into a festival. They even host their own, Red Wing Roots, in the Shenandoah Mountains of Virginia every July. During the pandemic, they replaced touring with songwriting at the request of fans, recording the best of them for a project called âEveryone a Songâ; the first volume came out last year, and volume 2 is on its way in November.
Where to see them: Saturday, 8 p.m., Come Hear NC Stage in the parking lot in front of Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts (free)
For an overview of the acts, schedule, and venues with shows Tuesday through Thursday, visit https://worldofbluegrass.org/ramble/lineup/.
A free R-Line shuttle serves all five locations: Lincoln Theater, Vintage Church, Pour House Music Hall, Architect Bar & Social Club, and Raleigh Convention Center.
Red Hat Amphitheater Schedule
These are paying concerts with compulsory vaccinations. For a full schedule of Bluegrass Ramble shows and street festivals, visit worldofbluegrass.org.
4:00 p.m. Wellington Band Tray
4:55 p.m. One thousand twelve
6:00 p.m. Sister Sadie
7:30 p.m. My Bluegrass Heart by Bela Fleck with Michael Cleveland, Sierra Hull, Justin Moses, Mark Schatz and Bryan Sutton
9:30 p.m. The Del McCoury group
4:00 p.m. The Gina Furtado project
4:55 p.m. The boys of Po ‘Ramblin’
6:00 p.m. Jerry Douglass, Odessa settles and Edgar Meyer
7:30 p.m. Steep Canyon Rangers
9:30 p.m. Group of mountain ropes there
The Come Hear NC stage is located in the parking lots in front of the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts on East South Street.
City Plaza on Fayetteville Street will host the Youth Stage. The Capitol Stage is at the north end of Fayetteville Street between Hargett and Martin Streets.
There will also be a stage on East Davie Street, set back from the intersection of Fayetteville Street.
Tickets and virtual option
Tickets for the main Bluegrass Live concerts on Friday and Saturday at the Red Hat Amphitheater are sold as a one-day or two-day pass. They start at $ 15 for garden seating to $ 60 for reserved seating.
The IBMA offers a free virtual music pass for the entire week of events. All streaming events must be viewed live. To register, visit worldofbluegrass.org/tickets.
Details on COVID-19 protocols
People attending paid events must show proof of their COVID-19 vaccine. This includes the IBMA Conference, the Bluegrass Ramble Showcase Series, the annual IBMA Awards, and main stage events at the Red Hat Amphitheater.
Children under 12 will not be allowed to attend paid and registered events.
Unlike other events and places of entertainment, a negative COVID-19 test will not be accepted in place of the vaccine.
Masks are also required for all indoor events and encouraged in crowded outdoor venues.
For more information, visit worldofbluegrass.org.
Drew Jackson contributed to this story.
This story was originally published September 28, 2021 at 5.45 am.