On some awards show red carpets, it’s all about “Who are you wearing?” But in Raleigh, the big question before the International Bluegrass Music Awards show Thursday night was: “How are you doing?”
There was an atmosphere of reunion as artists gathered at Duke Energy Center in downtown Raleigh, with hugs, waves and a lot of catching up.
Even more than the hope of taking home an award and the chance to get a little extra gussied up, many artists said the real draw of attending the awards show was getting to see folks they’ve worked with before – or, in some cases, would like to work with.
“It’s the ultimate schmooze,” said songwriter Claire Lynch, a nominee for Female Vocalist.
As the sun went down, dozens of people gathered a respectful few feet away from the red carpet to look for their musical heroes. Jimmy Connell of Raleigh was there with his 2-year-old daughter, Grace, hoisted on his shoulders.
“We’re here just to check it out,” he said, “and introduce her to the music.”
As the musicians admired each other’s suits and gowns, they also expressed admiration for Raleigh’s welcome to the IBMA festivities. Many mentioned the banners decking out downtown streets and the enthusiastic crowds at this week’s showcase performances.
Even the in-state bands were impressed.
“It’s very cool to show off our home state,” said Tim Surrett of Haywood County-based Balsam Range, nominated for seven IBMA awards.
Awards show hosts Steep Canyon Rangers appreciated the short commute from their homes in Brevard, and they also were enjoying the chance for bluegrass music to be in the spotlight – not always the case when IBMA festivities were in Nashville, where bluegrass can be dwarfed by country music.
In Raleigh, said Rangers fiddle player Nicky Sanders, “We are the thing.”
And the thing Thursday night was celebrating the people who make bluegrass music, both for fans and for the musicians themselves.
“I’m still in awe of being around these people,” Jim Lauderdale said as fans and press leaned in to take his picture.