This summer my wife and I have explored two music festivals. Having never attended a music festival before, I developed a hankering for one. One of the festivals we attended was the Peacham Acoustic Music Festival, “PAMfest" for short. It's held in Peacham, Vermont. I noticed the advertisement on a bulletin board in New Hampshire, after a recent hike. Researching the event, I found it showcased several things I really wanted to do, a bluegrass jam, guitar workshops, and something called a band scramble.
The band scramble caught my imagination. You would put your name into a hat, and then be assigned a band as the names were drawn. The band had to come up with a name and a song to perform at an evening concert. You had no idea what instruments the other musicians played, or skill level. It sounded so cool I had to try it out. My wife was being a great sport. This was not her idea to come to the PAMfest, much less take part in forming a band with complete strangers. I applaud her willingness to give it a try. She truly saw how much I wanted to participate.
The names were drawn. There were enough musicians to form two bands. My wife and I were in different groups. She was placed in a group with two harmonica players, and a man who played the banjo for their performance. I was in a group with three other guitarists. At this point the bands separated and found some empty rooms to begin our work.
My band mates and I made introductions and one of the guys proposed a song. It became apparent very quickly that I was the weak link in this ensemble. I had landed in with some very accomplished guitarists. I will leave it to say that my heart sunk a bit during my struggles to learn a new song at the pace these guys could. Their words of encouragement were kind, but the reality of my being able to make a passable performance on this song was not there.
Band drama. As much as I liked these new found friends, I was not willing to stand on stage to be totally lost for the entire song. I figured it was better to let the band perform without me. I was not going to be let off the hook that easily. The guys told me to bring a song I knew and to teach them one. I agreed, although, it was awkward to do so.
After retrieving my music, I introduced my song. It was an easy three chord song with very predictable chord changes. My band mates didn't miss a note. It was a breeze for these guys. They did some great fill work to make the song sound great.
We would perform both songs that evening. My song was done first, and I sang and strummed for all I was worth. I added a few notes with my harmonica to the song they worked on. Because of their willingness to let me show off what strengths I had, it became the wonderful experience I’d thought it would be. All in all, I think it was a good job done well.
PAMfest gave us much more than the band scramble. I sat in on one of the best run open bluegrass jams I’ve ever attended. The leader made sure we all knew the key of the song, the chord progression, and any crooked parts that might slip us up. Many of the songs were the same ones I play at my local bluegrass drop in. The performances that happened all day were from many varied acoustic genre’s. Musical inspiration from these performances continues long after the festival is over.
The experience I got from music festivals is one I will be repeating. It takes many dedicated volunteers make a local music festival. When local folks are willing to volunteer year