Monday, July 30
well i don't feel better when i'm fuckin' around
There were a lot of uncommonly brilliant musicians at Rockygrass this past weekend. Which almost goes without saying. In bluegrass, the baseline price of entry - not even to popular awareness, but to participation much beyond the first tier of circle-sitting - seems to be a formidable competence,1 and scales up from there. At the higher levels of bluegrass, there's a good chance the bass player is John Paul Jones.2 Manifestations of the Planet Bluegrass empire like Rockygrass seem to pull in people who define the solid center and major edges of the form. You wind up with a lot of scary individuals walking around.
Among the people you should check out, if you haven't, are
Then there's Nickel Creek.
They announced they were breaking up3 a while ago - and after a show I caught in Denver last year, it wasn't that surprising. You could see the tension then if you were looking. This time around it was something like watching a married couple dance with knives held behind their backs. Except not really, given that the divorce is just about finalized and it's a lousy, hackneyed metaphor to begin with. Anyway, you get the sense that Chris Thile and Sean Watkins may not exactly hate one another, but they are sure as shit annoyed.
I guess this is what happens. At any rate, I'm sure I don't know anything beyond an impression conveyed by a set of smart people who have been on stage since they were children, and I hate this kind of fannish speculation. The main thing is that, despite the fact that there is no longer a sense of joy emitting from the enterprise of Nickel Creek itself into the public sphere, they are still so fucking amazingly good that it hurts.
1 As nearly as I can tell, this emerges from a culture of participation. How many people make rock music, despite the theoretically lower technical threshold, as vs. fans of acoustic music who pick or sing? Subjectively, it almost feels like the fan:participation ratios of basketball/baseball/football as compared to Ultimate.
It probably also emerges from working within a remarkably specific and conventional form.
But what do I know? I can't pick a goddamned note.
2 Somewhat literally, although I wrote this sentence in a figurative frame of mind. Of course, no one is John Paul Jones, excepting possibly himself. But you know what I mean.
3 Hiatus. Inevitable reunion tours. The template is set, but when does it not dictate a fundamental end-point?