So...trip report attempt. First off, it was, like last time wayyyy back in 2001, one of the best experiences of my life. I don’t really have words. It was kind of like a really fantastic family reunion, but all centered around acoustic music of all kinds and all levels. All of the instructors were good. (Instructor list for those who might know them, maybe: The Flatpicking Team: Russ Barenberg, Kathy Barwick, Mitch Corbin, Mark Cosgrove, Beppe Gambetta, John Goldie, Chris Jones, Steve Kaufman and Chris Newman. The Mandolin Team: Carlo Aonzo, Robin Bullock, David Harvey, Emory Lester, Don Stiernberg and Roland White). Excellent line-up on both sides of the fence, but I went for guitar this time around. About three instructors in particular stood out for me (Mitch, Chris Newman and Kathy) — I’ll probably spend most of my practice time on the material they gave me, as much as possible.
The trip out was awfully long — got picked up here just before nine in the evening and didn’t arrive in TN until about one or so their time. I didn’t really sleep, either. And I wasn’t altogether impressed with Delta as far as customer service went — I know everyone is pretty tense when air traveling these days, and it can’t be easy for the airline workers, but they had an awful lot of surly personnel. Still, I got there OK. I wasn’t sure where to go to catch the Maryville College shuttle, so I wandered around by baggage claim until I spotted a guy with a guitar case and asked him if he was headed to Kamp (it’s Steve Kaufman’s camp, hence Kamp), which he was, and we figured out between us where to go, picking up another straggler as we went. We chatted until the shuttle came, which happened pretty fast. Nice guys - one of them ended up being in my class.
There were already some familiar names (folks I "know" from the FLATPICK-L mailing list) in the building where we registered, so that was good. I spent most of the afternoon and early evening wandering around saying hello to the folks I knew from on-line or last time, and getting to know at least some of the others. I stayed in the same building as last time, this time in a suite: four of us in two bedrooms, with a little kitchenette in between with a fridge and everything. OK, so the beds were very hard college mattresses, and everything was a bit on the worn side, but still, not bad at all. My roommate was another single gal, and we clicked pretty well. I was a little afraid I’d end up with someone who went to bed early and slept lightly, but we almost invariably stumbled in about the same time every night, and if we didn’t, we’re both sound sleepers so it didn’t matter. And the gals in the other room were a mother and daughter from Atlanta — super nice folks. The daughter is about sixteen and already a great mando player, and mom is a professional classical musician who primarily plays oboe. It was kind of a hoot seeing people giving our door a funny look if they walked by when she was practicing...”Hey...wait...that’s not a mandolin OR guitar OR fiddle OR banjo...what the hey???” She performed with a violinist at one of the open mics - really purty music.
First evening, I bought a guitar. Already had that deal lined up so I wouldn’t have to carry a guitar with me on the outgoing trip. I bought it from a guy who was one of the first few “Internet people” I met in real life — a Vermonter with a rather dry and twisted sense of humor. Really fun guy who does a lot of good parody songs. Thenewlittleguitar (it needs a name) is a more basic model than my other one, and therefore less worrisome to lug around. The back and sides are made out of a material that’s almost like...well...Formica. The top (where most of the sound comes from) is real wood. Makes for a pretty sturdy instrument that still sounds decent. I’m tempted to bring it to work with me some of the time and see if I can find somewhere private to practice a bit during lunch.
I went to bed relatively early that first night since I didn’t know where the good jams were yet. Last time I went, people did a lot more hanging out outside; this time most jams were in rooms. One of the dorm areas has buildings with rooms that have huge living rooms in each suite, and many of the people on that side hosted jams of all sorts. Once I was introduced and a little less shy about poking my head into the rooms, I mostly hung out with a group that tended to stay smallish (ten or fifteen people) and played a lot of different styles — one night they were doing the contradance music I know and love, another night one of the instructors who does Celtic music and jazz was there, another night another instructor was playing awesome swing music. I did more listening than playing; maybe next time I’ll have learned more of the commonly played tunes and improved my chord knowledge. I'm also a lot better at mando thank guitar at this point, and although several people kindly loaned me mandos over the course of the week, I was really struggling whenever I didn't have one.
Most days we got up in time for breakfast at seven thirty or eight, played / talked some, had a class, had lunch, played some / talked some, had another class, played some / talked some, had dinner, played some / talked some more, went to the concert of the evening (there was an open mike, and then the various instructors took turns doing sets over the course of the week, generally bringing up others for backup), and then after the concert, we’d play (or listen) well into the wee hours. I wasn’t as hardcore as some of the craziest folks, but even so, I ended up being up until three or four most nights. It’s sooo hard to go to bed when the next tune is always something you don’t want to miss. Just one more...and the next thing you know, you’ll be lucky to get a few hours sleep before the whole merry-go-round starts up again. The last night, I didn’t go to bed. The first all-nighter of my life. I knew I was going to need to be up by three-thirty or so to get ready to head out for my six o’clock flight, so there didn’t seem much point in lying down. Mostly hung out playing tunes and chatting with a guy who was in my roommates class, and listening to another guy who was settin’ on the porch playing guitar until late. Good times.
The flight back went really well, actually. I decided at the last minute to risk carrying on thenewlittleguitar in a gigbag rather than borrowing a case I’d have to ship back. I was worried they’d take it away from me and it’d end up getting smashed in a luggage compartment, but it worked out just fine. The first plane from Knoxville was really small, and the stewardess said I’d probably have to gate check it since someone else already had a guitar in the coat closet, but it turned out it fit in the overhead with millimeters to spare. On the second flight from Houston, I expected to be challenged when I carried it on, but no one said anything, and the nice folks in my row helped me pack bags around it so it wouldn’t get smooshed. No problems. And Continental actually still serves meals. *gasp* They also didn't charge me for my second checked bag (I checked my backpack so I could just concentrate on carrying the guitar), although according to their policy, they shoulda. I'm not going to complain.
Now I miss Kamp. *snif* Really good group of people, all ‘round. I’d really love it if I could go again next year. I’m already trying to think of ways I could make some cutbacks in order to make it possible.