Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bob and Ted's Somewhat Excellent Adventure

As I told y’all earlier, I’d asked the Lumbermen (most common nouns having to do with the Mighty Lumberhorn band are preceeded with the prefix "Lumber-", you know) if they would be so kind as to guest blog here and recount their experience at the Bluegrass Bash in North Central Wisconsin a couple of weekends back. I didn’t go myself to bring you an unbiased report for a couple of reasons: 1) I had a full dance card myself that weekend, and 2) Experience tells me that if I like a genre of music so much that I would be tempted for a whole weekend of it, I will not be able to listen to it for at least seven more years. (See also: "Rivera, Stoney, playing in band with, at psychobilly rumble weekender" and " strange daze spacerock festival, effect on pregnancy coupled with horrendous sinus infection" or talk to Grant Richter about the Chicago Blues Festival, so full of blues that by the time headliners like Eric Clapton stepped on stage together for the first time in decades, nobody really cared.)

Anyway, (and I wonder if this is how they write their songs), the Jorin boys submitted separate accounts, banjoist Ted’s detail more in the pre-promoter smackdown and Lumberhornist Bob’s in the smackdown itself, which means, I’M going to have to play Editor Bitch. So instead, I’m just going to cut and paste paragraphs and chop a bit and color-code who wrote what. I'll put Ted in Red and Bob in Blue. I'll stay in black, because I look good in black and this is my blog, dammit.

It might be long, but it’s worth it. Part of what I like about this band, as I’ve written before, is that they are marvelous storytellers, rich in precise detail, if sometimes tangentally so. I ran into Ted at the South Shore Farmer’s Market the other day, and told him "You guys can write. You should have your own blog." "But we don’t," he replied, with an implied, "So there!" Anyways, with my editing and insertion of links, here you go:

TED: The days leading up to the event were eventful enough at Camp Lumberhorn. Only the previous week saw the passing of BJ’s old man, my own grandfather, with whom no one had an uncomplicated relationship, but thanks to some amount of decorum, reality or later-life patching up everyone was comfortable with the way things worked out and that’s all I have to say about that, except that I was not personally present and the passing nor the funeral.

At this trying time, I was in Philadelphier, the City of Brotherly Love. Highlights of that trip, in no particular order include:



V’RON: I just did (via hyperlink). You do realize all these hyperlinks are mine, don’t you?

TED:
  • The ubiquitous spirit of Ben Franklin, who, in addition to all the stuff you heard about, cured cancer, invented passenger side airbags, was crucified died and was buried, and on the third day he rose again. Seriously, they love this guy, “they” being the National Park Service, Independence Square gift shop owners and other assorted present day Revolutionary War profiteers. In Milwaukee terms, he’s like RobinYount: 3,000 career hits is pretty amazing, but the jumping the shark part was total BS. Wait, that was Fonzie. Turns out there’s no one like Ben Franklin here, but that’s not what this story is about.


V’RON: See what I mean about the tangents? They suck you in until you realize, wait, we’re veering off-topic!

TED: I rolled back into Milwaukee with about two hours to spare before BJ picked me up for the Bluegrass Bash. We were headed up a day early as is our custom (Heather and Jeffro always show up on Saturday), to par-tay with the other bands and do a little campfire pickin’, a little representation that those Lumberhorns aren’t so square. In reality all that happens is that I pitch my tent (BJ has taken to vehicular quartering) we call our wives, walk around the campsite, greet all manner of mullet and dreadlock as cordially as possible and go to sleep slightly earlier than we would on a Friday night at home. We are so square, and this year was not significantly different.

The Lumberhorn "GOT WOOD" T-shirts are a perennial favorite about at this event. We doled out three at the gate: 2 that we owed to the ticket taker from last year (he threatened to not let us in) and one that we unironically traded for a
barrel of firewood. We never did get a fire going, but we’re all about making friends. Then the ticket guy asked us if we heard the Sloppy Joe story and we were all about getting disenfranchised.


V’RON: And now here’s a backstory, which would appear to me to be an oncoming warning of the bad juju coming up. (read: while this reads like one, this isn’t REALLY a tangent.)

TED:: Since the beginning of this event, even at its other locations, Cornmeal (progressive, jammy, bluegrass from Chicago) and Sloppy Joe have been mainstays. The Lumberhorns, myself in particular, have great affinity for the Sloppy Joe folks. They play lyric based hillbilly music and employ a ho-made bass type instrument and have a chick in the band. Sound familiar? Yeah, only they’re really good and super nice. (This description shouldn’t be taken to contrast Cornmeal, I just have never actually met them, but they also play really well.)

This year, however, Bash management decided that Cornmeal and Sloppy Joe should alternate years. Some stupid reason was given by the ticket guy, but moreover, they didn’t actually tell Sloppy Joe, they just didn’t invite them. Sloppy Joe hails from right down the road in Stevens Point and has a relatively large fan base which makes them the sort of act, I would think, one would want at a Bluegrass Bash. The ticket guy then said that Sloppy Joe came by last night, uninvited and unannounced and played a show outside the campground on the back of a truck. BJ and I assumed that a number of Sloppy Joe fans had purchased tix as soon as they went on sale assuming Sloppy Joe would be there, and that Sloppy Joe came out as much for their fans as to make a little scene. BJ and I finished the Yeunglings I brought back from PA and turned in.

Early to bed, early to rise (was that Ben Franklin again?), earlier than most everyone else at this event, who not only tied two or three on last night, but unlike us, they’re in good practice. Fortunately the coffee was already on at the food tent. Here’s an aside: One year my beautiful wife attended this event with us and was making breakfast for the whole band in the morning, many of whom were still asleep. While she cooked at a camp stove on the tailgate of my truck, a young hippy (apparently still awake as opposed to already awake) approached and offered her some ‘shrooms. There is debate as to the cleverness vs. naiveté of her response, but in either case, it was classic. She said, "I’m not making omelets." Okay, okay, I thought it was funny.


V’RON: There he goes again, on the tangents, and you’d think this was actually a meta-tangent, but the first tangent wasn’t really a tangent… oh jesus, I’ve caught the disease…. but really, I couldn’t cut that out. It’s a great little story-ette, and having met Christa, I can completely picture this. BTW, I vote for clever. She doesn’t hit me as naïve.

TED: This year, Saturday morning brought the unofficial Lumberhorn Live! CD release party. As BJ and I ate breakfast, we asked them to put our new CD on next. But somewhere between the food counter and the CD player he confused the new CD in his hand that I just gave him with previous Lumberhorn CD that he had to dig out of a box full of CD’s. He played the right one eventually.

Jeffro and Heather showed up in plenty of time for our 1 pm main stage set. This event, despite its moniker, is not completely about bluegrass. Not even mostly. It is equal parts camping and partying, and some smaller fraction about music, therefore at 1 pm, most folks are still camping, by which I mean sleeping, because of the partying, by which you know what I mean.


V'RON: As we see now, Bob finally logs into this virtual room and begins to pick up the story with a baseline timestamp, like the good IT professional that he is.

BOB: We played the Ted Jorin, Sr. commemorative early show at 1 to 2:30pm.

TED:The folks who did show up to our matinee performance are the best part of the story. People filtered in for the first show of the day, some of whom, I’m proud to say, dragged their hungover selves over because they knew who we were; others by accident I’m sure. As we were setting up, tuning, testing DI’s (the sound guys love us because everything plugs in; none of that ambient mic acoustic instrument artistry for us), I was wearing a (fake) coon skin cap that I bought at a chees(y) & gift shop in Door County a few years ago. From the audience a rural type gentleman yelled, "How come you got a cinnamon tail on a grey coon hat?"

"Huh?"

"How come you got a cinnamon tail on a grey coon hat?"

I suddenly realized that he was talking to me. I made several apologies and various excuses for my hat throughout the show, but I settled on the one about hitting two coons on the way to the gig and the taxidermist must have messed it up.

After the set I think the guy maybe thought he hurt my feelings calling out the authenticity of my hat because he offered, "You name the critter ‘n I’ll skinnit. Wanna skunk hat? Rabbit? You don’t wanna 'possum 'cuz they all skin." He followed us back to our campsite and offered some fascinating details of his day to day life. He 'rassled a pig at the fair recently, and had the bite marks on his forearms to prove it. If that wasn’t enough, he also had pictures that he ran barefoot back to his truck to get. While he was gone his friends told us everyone called him "Dumbass" and that after he 'rassled the pig he met Miss UpNordt Whatever County they were in and they’re still going out and "there don’t seem to be nothin’ wrong with her."

BOB:Yes, Dumbass offered to fashion a hat for Boy Howdy from a selection of carcasses in his freezer, but advised against a possum hat due to an undesirable skin-to-fur ratio. A lovely rainbow appeared in the East, visible as a complete arc from ground to ground.

TED: Soon Dumbass returned proudly with a picture of him and two buddies (ChickenShipoopier and Fonzie) looking as proud as could be, covered in mud and blood. "ChickenShipoopier got Tourette’s. We was working on my truck and he called me expletive n’ I said what you call me? 'n' he said expletive 'n' I threw a wrench at him. He coulda just said he had Tourette's." I laughed until my sides hurt at just about everything he said.

While we were yucking it up with country mouse, BJ was summoned to the production trailer.


BOB: As we were leaving the stage, Jackie [the promoter] asked me if I'd like to come see her in her single-wide, an offer that I eagerly accepted. She counted out $300 with a smile, and I reminded her that the contract said $300 rain / $400 shine and asked if she was assuming that it would rain. She inspected her copy of the contract that she had written, and suggested that I take the $300 and talk to her again later. I declined the $300, and agreed to talk later.

TED: This was strange for a number of reasons, first that we had another set to play and they never paid after the first one before, and also because it was not the amount the contract stipulated. No one is shocked by a promoter-screws-the-band story, but here’s how this one goes. I don’t remember if we put the "if it rains" clause in or not, but it’s stupid. Does it mean $300 if it rains while we play? Before we play? Anytime in 2007? The fact is it didn’t rain, but they tried to get us to go away with $300. "So you think it’s going to rain?" BJ asked.

On the way back to our campsite, we stopped at another campsite to attempt to explain the convoluted grandpa stories that we mangled onstage, with mixed results.


BOB:This resulted in a subsequent visit to our campsite by a Volkswagen tricycle pulling a 4' by 8' sheet of idiots. Fortunately, they were "loaded for bear" with alcohol and other imbibements.

TED: But, overall the camping/partying/music appreciation ratio is not lost on the management, which resulted in the headliners becoming more obscure over the years (read: cheaper). John Hartford, Hayseed Dixie, Old Crow Medicine Show, Ricky Skaggs and The Ozark Mountain Daredevils have played this thing in the past. This year’s headliners were the DeWayn Brothers (largely a Split Lip Rayfield protégé band, but that girl was fun to watch) and some other band that wrapped up with a note for note cover of “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.” There was no banjo or anything else to make it appropriate.

So back at the campsite to relax and a young man (6? 7? I’m not good at guessing) came over to ask if we had any firewood. We did, and we dropped by his site with the stuff. While we were there his mom figured we may as well go ahead and build the fire too.


BOB: Part of her confusion resulted from our chopping firewood, when what she had instructed her son to do was to visit our campsite and bum a cigarette from us.

TED: And her bra-less charm disintegrated as it came out that she didn’t have a job, drank and smoked way too much last night, and the feller she was camping with whom she sent into town to buy more vices was not her husband/babydaddy. Classy. I ran into her later and she casually mentioned that she wasn’t sure where the boy was. "Should I be concerned?" she asked. He actually might be better off, I thought.

V’RON: We now have slightly differing accounts of the precipitation level, important to note should the contract dispute reach the litigation phase:

BOB: Late in the afternoon there was a scattered drizzle. Some areas of our campsite appeared to remain completely dry, but it sprinkled on the hood of my truck. Jeffro's van, 40 feet away, was dry. People continued to fly kites, throw footballs and frisbees, and ride around the grounds on homemade contraptions seemingly unaware.

TED: It rained 6-8 drops that afternoon.

Court Reporter: So noted. (exits deposition room).

TED: We jammed with the Cedar Town boys a bit who were camped near us. Friendly guys from Eau Claire, even if they had a banjo guitar instead of a banjo, but I’m partial. They’d only been playing together three months! Only a couple gigs! Landed a slot at this fest! Later, in passing, the promoter said to BJ that the other promoter would be consulted to determine if the rain would affect our contract. I continued drinking in preparation for our encore slot.

BOB: I found Jackie in the early evening, and she said that she was too busy to talk at that time, and that I should come see her after 10pm when the headlining band was performing.

Once the headliners were on, I located Jackie behind the stage and asked again about "settling up." She said that she needed to talk to Tom, [other promoter dude] as it "did kinda rain a little bit." I said "O.K." and walked away to confer with bandmates.

The band agreed that we provide Jackie with a piece of information to help her negotiate on our behalf, the piece of information being that if we were paid the lesser amount, we would not be appearing at The Bash again. I found her in the trailer where she was speaking with someone, and I hovered outside the door so she could see I was waiting for her. After a moment, she came out and she and I walked away for a bit of privacy. I told her what the band had decided, and she tersely said "Now I am irritated." I told her that I was not intending to irritate her, but to provide her a piece of information that I believed may be helpful to her, and she issued the cryptic statement "If you had just kept your mouth shut, I had already worked it out." I walked away from her without saying anything.

After a 7-ticket ($3.50) can of Leinenkugel's and another chat with the band, I returned to Jackie's trailer where she paid me $400 and made polite small talk. I assured her that we would play our best set to keep the beer tent full, and I went to prepare for our show.


TED:The Lumberhorn somehow landed the beer tent encore slot our very first year at this fest, which also happened to be the first time they offered the slot. It works like this: The fest makes all it’s going to make from ticket sales by Saturday afternoon, maybe Saturday evening. The headliner usually wraps up about 12:30 or 1 am. The fest can legally sell beer until 2:30 am, but not if everyone goes back to their camps and drinks their own beer. So as soon as the headliner plays their last note, the Lumberhorn’s playing our first note to attract everyone over to where the fest can score its final dollars. The beauty and challenge of this gig is that you don’t get a break. If you stop for a second, people leave. This year the headliner played until after 1 am, so it was a cakewalk. Last year they wrapped up right around midnight. Two years ago we played the 10 pm slot on the main stage and then the beer tent, effectively opening for the Hackensaw Boys opening for us.

BOB: We played well. The beer tent was so thick with dirt kicked up by dancing fans that I could barely breathe. For a while, I could've sworn that the air was thick with some type of exotic smoke, but who can tell for sure? The Lumberhorn was sticky with an unidentifiable cocktail of Dumbass' creation, mud, sweat, blood, and beer, so I played simpler and louder than usual. Boy Howdy took full advantage of our guest mandolin player from the Cedartown Boys by sticking to banjo songs, which made for plenty of spots for jamming. Heather drove the crowd into a frenzy with a few lightning fast fiddle dances, and Jeffro pounded it all home with his patent-worthy bluegrass machine gun suitcase technique. The crowd yelled along with their favorites and made a mosh pit out of the rest, and when we were finally silenced for the traditional "Blasting Of The Floyd" on the big P.A. system, there wasn't a dry armpit within a country mile.

The musical debauchery continued at various campsites well into the morning hours, until the rain finally broke loose.

In the morning I performed the ritual Sunday discarding of the soaked and ruined camping gear, and our filthy quartet formed a hungover caravan to the first small town's diner we could find that would serve us, seated disrespectfully close to booths packed with the clean-shaven and recently sanctified families of Workhardandgotochurchtown, USA.


V’RON: And what of Jackie? You think you’ll do this fest again?
Bob?
Ted?
Benjamin Franklin?
Dumbass?
Anyone?
Bueller?

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