I’ll be the first to admit that I love the Britt Pavilion and would gladly accept tickets to and attend ANY show put on there just because it is so beautiful! The ponderosa pines (a shout-out to John Muir School!), open sky, great acoustics, and the liberty to eat and drink whatever I want all make for a perfect musical venue.
That said, I still would not normally have gone to the Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby concert, except that the talented Emy Phelps who also teaches music at the John Muir School was opening for them…and so I met up with the amazing teachers and some of the wonderful parents and children of the school community on the grassy hillside in Jacksonville.
Emy was fantastic. She has a powerful voice and she and her band played like the headliners they truly are. Beautiful songs of various styles had us all hooting and hollering and whistling above the sound of the ‘polite applause.’
After an intermission of Italian wafer cookies, juicy strawberries, and Dagoba chocolate, the men took the stage. My only previous exposure to these performers was hearing Bruce’s ‘hits’ on the radio (and they didn’t compel me to crank it up) and a cassette (a red light right there!) of Ricky Skagg’s doing country tunes when I was about 8-years old. Well, mix an open mind (and ear) and the magic of Britt with gifted musicians and, voila, you have me standing up, tapping my feet, and just all around enjoying the bluegrass music! I love the banjo! I love the fiddle! I love the twang and the pace and the roots! There is something elementally soulful in that music that speaks to all of us who are willing to listen.
They played right up to the 10:30 curfew thus sparing us the usual five minutes wasted on screaming and hollering for the absent band to return (thanks, guys! I hope other big shots take an example here) and instead paid tribute (or something) to Rick James, yes, Rick James http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-GLGO0gXJc – this clip is all the education you need on him, and it’s appropriate for mature viewers only – you have been warned).
Picture it with me, now: Bluegrass saunters bow-legged down the dark alley only to find Superfreak shooting up in the corner. See, it doesn’t even make sense in a cliché metaphor…but it sort of worked musically. I was so stupefied by the crossing genres that all I could do was tap and wiggle awkwardly, but with a sense of possibility previously unknown to me. If Bruce Hornsby and Ricky Skaggs can play “Superfreak” with a bluegrass band at the Britt Festival in Southern Oregon, then anything is possible. Which means that I’ll be letting you know how I spend my Powerball winnings. And you can be sure that more Britt tickets are on the list!