Some were as small as their fiddles, but they sawed away under the tents and in the corners of Wide Open Bluegrass, the outdoor, free venues for some live music during the just-passed International Bluegrass Music Association meeting that Raleigh hosted for the first time this year. The Capital City won its bid for the IBMA over long-time host Nashville thanks to the Red Hat Amphitheater and a host of crowd-friendly sites all over downtown. Raleigh will host for another two years, and if the early reviews from players and fans are an indication, for some time thereafter.
IBMA officials said the organization just felt a little under-appreciated in Nashville, the home of country music. And so IBMA went courting, and found a clogging, pickin suitor in Raleigh.
The weather was magnificent, a little fallish but still kind of warm, and downtown streets filled up pretty much every afternoon. From the looks of the faces in the crowd, it appeared bluegrass was indeed the music that brought people together. And in hotels downtown, musicians met up for the first time but bonded in late-night jam sessions in the hallways.
Thousands of people attended the festival and the Red Hat was sold out Friday and Saturday nights, when the big acts played. The IBMA people were excited themselves, as their own booth sold out of almost all items, from the T-shirts to the $2 stickers that said, Practice Random Acts of Bluegrass.
Sometimes, bluegrass performers praise a player at songs end by saying, You sure can render. With regard to a successful staging of a major event, Raleigh rendered.