|Banjo Player Steve Martin|
Part of the reason for that, of course, is of Steve Martin's appearance with the Steep Canyon Rangers last night. There are definite pros and definite cons about having Steve Martin appear at a smallish bluegrass festival. Best of all, Steve Martin is an excellent banjo player, songwriter, and entertainer. He more than holds his own on stage with the Rangers (a band of excellent musicians and singers, to be sure) and, in fact, almost every song in their 98 minute set was written by Steve. The show is a great blend of comedy and some very serious music.
Now for the cons associated with having Steve Martin come to your smallish bluegrass festival: he draws a completely new crowd, a crowd of boorish, rude loudmouths who are not at all like the usual fans who attend bluegrass shows. Right next to me sat a young couple who insisted on standing for minutes at a time while using their fancy cameras to snap picture after picture of Martin. When asked to sit down so that those behind them might get a look at Martin and the Rangers, they rudely lied that they had been here for hours to get their location and had "warned" everyone behind them that they would be standing for most of the show. Sadly, they were just the tip of the iceberg.
As some of you know, it is a bluegrass festival tradition to place an empty chair early on in order to claim your spot for the show. Because of Steve Martin's appearance, many people arrived four or five hours early to get spots near the stage - only to have dozens of people arrive late to stand in front of them all night long by squeezing between the stage and what was officially the first row of seating. Those in the first couple of rows of seating, the people who had been in the park the longest, did not see a whole lot of anything except the backs and butts of the rudest people in the park.
To his credit, Martin noticed what was going on and told the intruders that when they "finally got their pictures, they should sit down so that those in the front rows could see." Didn't happen.
Having Steve Martin appear is a great thing for the International Bluegrass Music Museum in terms of selling tickets and raising the profile of the museum. Now, I can only hope that the excess of idiots from last night bought only single-day tickets and things will get back to normal for the last two days.
(The photo is one I took of Steve Martin and the band warming up outside their tour bus about 30 minutes prior to their appearance on stage.)