Inside Tony's IBMA 24 hours

Mon, 10/12/2009 - 10:48am
Written by Andrea


Tony Trischka and Steve Martin


Tony Trischka flew into Nashville late on Thursday, October 1, meeting up with Steve Martin and camping out in Steve’s hotel room to prepare for their joint presentation of the IBMA Best Vocal Group of the Year that evening at the IBMA awards ceremony. They were working on what their introduction spiel would be up at the podium. Chris Stuart had written an intro, and Tony said, “I wanted to see what Steve would come up with.” Tony had suggested they do a joke of singing the intro (“We were introducing the best vocal group.”). Steve nixed that, saying it was too much of a bit. Steve hunkered down and “wrote up something,” according to Tony. “And he gave the punch line to me. So, I got the laughs that night.” The joke orbits around Steve being nominated for a bunch of IBMA awards, including Best Banjo Player and Tony asks Steve how it feels to be at the IBMA awards. Steve says he’s thrilled to be part of it—presenting Best Vocal Group of the Year is big stuff, and oh, by the way, when do we get the check? Tony deadpans to the audience, “Welcome to the world of bluegrass, Steve,” and the audience loved it, because they all know there ain’t no check for presenting awards.

The next day, Friday the 2nd, Tony joined three other banjo virtuosos in a morning workshop. Over a hundred banjo enthusiasts crammed into the room to hear Tony, Pete Wernick (chaired the workshop), Cia Cherryholmes and Ron Block play fiery riffs, field questions and share what they’re up to. “At my turn, I included a mention of the site,” says Tony.

Tony had his own booth at the convention, and by the time he arrived in the afternoon the booth was a crowded, crazy beehive of activity. Swag bags were being handed out with goodies, including a CD (fast-pressed) of a folk-ironic song Tony had composed for this bit of convention culture, called Swag Bag Rag. His booth was right next to the Deering Banjo booth, giving a constant tide of banjo people checking out Tony’s new online banjo-teaching site. “When I first got there, Jesse Petrick from Artistworks who was manning the booth, was corralling people and sending them over to me to talk and learn more about the site. It was non-stop.” Bob Carlin, the clawhammer-style banjo guru, was at the booth when Tony showed up. The two know each other from way back, and what else would you expect of this magical chemistry of Scruggs and Clawhammer styles: they uncased their banjos and started jamming right at the booth, unplugged. Alex Hargreaves, the superhot, 17-year-old fiddler, was standing nearby, and Tony invited Alex to tear up the strings on some fiddle-banjo tunes. Bassist Joel Landsberg supplied the base line. Lots of cameras flashing and videos rolling from the appreciative crowd. Tony also jammed with Alison Brown and with Martin Fridrich from Eastern Europe and a few others, including some students. Tonybanjo student Sam Vallery got his hatch poster signed while talking to Tony.

“I really enjoyed meeting the students who came. It’s really a pleasure to shake someone’s hand—after that remove of being in cyberspace— talking in real time with them. It’s like a family for me,” offers Tony.

When Tony Trischka walked out of the IBMA convention booth area onto the streets of Nashville—after 24 hours of IBMA awards-giving, a banjo workshop and spending 3 very pleasant hours of chatting and jamming with banjo players at his booth—he says he was smiling and “I had this really strong urge to start talking banjo life with passersby on the sidewalks.” After a block of this banjo universe surrealism, he had to stop, and say to himself, “Hey. I’m back in REAL life.”