Bluegrass Music

Farewell Milan Music Festival, Is SEMBMA Next?

A few days ago, I learned that the Milan Music Fest, held yearly in August at the KC Campgrounds in Milan, will be no more after this past year ( Producer Mark Gaynier has decided that after 25 years of running this highly successful bluegrass festival in southeast Michigan, he would like to retire from the event and change course in his life.

No shame or hard feelings here. Mark has worked hard to make the festival a success for his attendees, and when top national acts like Rhonda Vincent show up every year, you know that something was being done right. However, one can understand the sadness of bluegrass fans in the region. This was a great location, and the acts performing were always top notch. There are a few other bluegrass festivals in Michigan, but most are on the west side of the state, making it difficult for those like me that cannot spend time overnight due to employment and caregiving issues.

There is a one-day festival in Blissfield (near the border of Ohio) that the Southeast Michigan Bluegrass Music Association sponsors. Although I am a member of SEMBMA, I am never able to volunteer due to my commitment to the Michigan Old-Time Fiddlers Convention held on the same day. At the next SEMBMA meeting (on October 22nd), I plan to suggest that the association recommend moving the Blissfield festival to the same weekend that Milan was. This would help get some of the Milan crowd, as well as not conflict with other events.

Speaking of SEMBMA, the organization has not been in good shape as of late. It is attempting to secure new officers for the board, but there has been next to no response. With that said, there is talk of dissolving the association and distributing what is left in the treasury to various educational funds. Working as a board member on even a small organizations such as SEMBMA take a lot of time and energy. I fully understand Bill and Pam Warren wanting to step down, as they have taken the reins for a number of years.

I have stated to the association that I will help in any way, even taking on one of the board member positions, if it means keeping the group going. I have a full-time job, and almost every hour of my time outside of work is spent caregiving my 90-year-old mother. I literally have to plan ahead days in advance just to do things like get a haircut or even write this blog. However, it would be a shame to see SEMBMA dissolve at this time.

My big disappointment is that there are so many members of SEMBMA that never show up for business meetings, but are waiting in line when a free jam sessions is scheduled. Promoting bluegrass in the community takes more than learning an instrument and showing up at jam sessions. This association is creating scholarships, sponsoring festivals, and working with artists to give bluegrass a voice in the area. It needs people who are willing to donate time and energy in order make a name for itself as a viable organization that is respected in the music community.

Again, I will do what I can given my situation. Heck, I never have time to participate in the SEMBMA jam sessions! However, it saddens me that so much of the membership think that the jam sessions are all that matters.

Chew on it and comment.

Bluegrass Music Musical Instruments

Milan Bluegrass Festival 2022: Dave Adkins Tries Out the 2208

Yesterday I spent a few hours at the Milan Bluegrass Festival. This year, the festival was extended to five days. I was planning on attending a few of the days, but because I screwed up my vacation time when I went to work for the law firm for two days, I was only able to go on Saturday. Also, due to family issues, I was only able to stay for the afternoon first sets fo the bands.

One of the main reasons that I wanted to attend was to meet up with Dave Adkins. He is a great guy, extremely friendly to his fans, and was happy to see me. He and I have worked with some of the same songwriters in the bluegrass field, so we exchanged a few thoughts on the people that we know. I also wanted him to try out the Sevillana 2208 acoustic guitar that was shipped to me a few weeks ago. As far as I know, the one that I have is the first one in the US, so I take pretty good care of it and definitely want to get it test-driven by as many musicians as possible.

Not only Dave, but his mandolin player Ari Silver and banjo player Zackary Vickers (both excellent guitar players in their own rite) took the 2208 for a spin. I was glad to see that all of them truly enjoyed playing the guitar. They loved the loudness (we were picking behind the stage while another band was performing, and you could still hear the 2208 clearly), the weight (which seems a little heavier and more solid than most dreadnoughts), and the craftsmanship that went into the guitar, especially the inlay work. Zackary must have played around with the guitar for at least 15 minutes, he was having a great time with it. Even Dustin Terpenning, banjo player for the band Crandall Creek, asked if he could take it for a spin and loved it as well!

Dave Adkins
Ari Silver
Zackary Vickers

I didn’t get a chance to have the 2208 tried out by any other musicians due to time constraints and band members busy with talking to their fan base. However, I was glad to get Dave and his band members’ feedback, which I will be sending back to Cherry at Deviser Guitars.

Other bands on the stage that afternoon was aforementioned Crandall Creek (sort of a family band persona, although they are not family). Breaking Grass (a very high-energy modern bluegrass band, with a hint of Dave Matthews Band thrown in), Rhonda Vincent and The Rage (always entertaining and good, wholesome traditional bluegrass), and Alex Miller (an American Idol contestant that is starting to make waves in the country music circuit), although I didn’t catch his act and had to leave early.

Milan is your typical bluegrass festival for bluegrass lovers. There’s not a lot of frills, just two sets of music from each band, and the fans appreciate the friendliness of the performers after the shows. I have said it before, one does not get that type of artist/fan interaction from any other music format like one can get from talking with members of a bluegrass band. And so many of them appreciate that you have a respect for them as well. Like bringing in a new guitar to try out, band members love to have their opinions asked for, especially on guitars, banjos and mandolins.

Next week’s blog may be late as well, since I will be heading to Hillsdale on Saturday for the Michigan Old-Time Fiddlers Convention. There is nothing like live music.

Chew on it and comment.

Bluegrass Music

New Job: No Festival Time

Well, in two weeks I start a new job! It is a job that I have been wanting for probably 20 years. I will be doing what I do best, writing and editing, for a well-known law firm here in the Detroit area. The lawyer that I interviewed with was really impressed with the writing test that I did, so much so that the HR rep called me about two hours later to offer me the job.

Great! However, this means that for the next six months or so, I will not have any vacation time. It’s not like I’ve been able to take any time off for the past two or three years anyway because of COVID. Yeah, I was laid off for nearly a year, but I couldn’t go anywhere. Festivals were cancelled, and no hotels were open if I wanted to travel. The only time that I had off was two weeks in October when I actually had COVID, and I spent 20 hours each day sleeping.

So this summer, I will be missing some festivals that I planned on attending. The Milan Bluegrass Festival this year is a five-day event, and I am hoping that I can at least hit the Saturday shows. I also hope that I can hit the Hillsdale Old Time Fiddlers Convention in mid August for that Saturday. However, that is about it, most likely will be until after Christmas.

Bittersweet indeed. However, I have gotten used to not having vacation time or any time to myself, for that matter. Caring for my 89-year-old mother is a full-time job in itself. I get very little help from my sibling, who is retired and is always on vacation himself. I have stated previously that I am attempting to sell my house and move back to mom’s so that I can take better care of her. I have had very little time to even clean that place up. I still have lots of music equipment to get rid of.

I know that I will never retire, I will most likely work until I am in the grave. However, I would like at least a few days to myself once in a while. My last “vacation” was September 2019, and that was volunteer work at the AmericanaFest. Since then, any day off I have had has been used to do car repairs, doctor’s visits or take mom to her doctor. I just means that I have to look way ahead for restful opportunities and plan accordingly.

As an aside, I appreciate the recent rise in hits both at the Luegra blog site as well as my YouTube channel ( Your checking in and comments are greatly appreciated.

Chew on it and comment.

Bluegrass Music

Milan Bluegrass Festival

OK, this is a day late, but there is a reason. I spent two days at the Milan Bluegrass Festival here in Michigan, and it was the first time I’ve been anywhere in two years!

I don’t get to attend too many bluegrass festivals, and since I’m skipping the AmericanaFest, I figured that I needed some musical escape. It was a blast for a number of reasons, and the best two days I have had in a long time.

  • A great place to people watch. Every character that you can think of, you can usually find at a bluegrass festival, and they are all friendly.
  • You can talk one-on-one with the artists. Any other genre of music, the performers are pretty hard to meet, let alone talk with. They are usually hiding backstage or away from the people, only coming out for the performance and maybe a few photo ops. No, bluegrass bands always stand at their merchandise tables after a show to meet-and-greet with the fans. They know a lot of people by their first names, talk about previous shows, and lots of non-bluegrass stuff like cooking, fishing, hunting, and people back home.
  • You will make friends. People love to talk to each other about music and things in common. And lots of times band members come into the audience to watch another band. I spent a good hour with fiddler Hunter Berry (from Rhonda Vincent’s band) watching another band and talking some.
  • The bands look out for each other. If someone needs to borrow a guitar for a song, another band is handing over its Martin acoustic.
  • There is always greasy food to eat if you forget to bring your own. You can go back to eating healthy when you get back home. In the meantime, enjoy that order of fries or onion rings!

One thing that was missing at this festival that is at others is the parking lot jams. Most people here seemed to have come for the show and not to play. There were a few people walking around with instrument cases, but they all seemed to be interested more in either getting noticed or having an artist autograph the instrument. On a related note, I took some instruments to sell there, and did sell a mandolin to an older lady who wanted to learn to play it. I talked her into taking it to Rhonda Vincent to autograph, and Rhonda, the sweetheart that she is, took the woman aside and showed her a few chords to play. THAT is what makes a bluegrass festival special.

One of the main reasons that I went to Milan this year was to see the band High Fidelity. They are a younger group that is heavily influenced by the sound of Reno & Smiley, my personal favorite bluegrass band from the past. The fiddler Corrina Rose Logston is a ball of energy to say the least. The vocals are old-time Gospel-ish, and they are very personable on stage as well as off.

But the most important reason that I love this band is the bass player, Vickie Vaughn. We first met in 2014 at the IBMA Leadership Bluegrass conference and have stayed friends ever since via emails and Christmas cards. Our personal lives have paralleled a lot during this time, with fathers passing away and bouts with cancer, but we have both progressed. This was the first time that we have seen each other in over five years, so it meant a lot to be able to see her again. The band was supposed to play at the festival last year, but COVID cancelled that, so this was the first opportunity. It was a true blessing to see her again. I call her my “bluegrass kid sister,” and she totally agrees with the moniker. She will always be in my heart, and I am proud of the success that she has achieved. Plus she has a voice that would make any singer jealous! Thank you, Lord, for letting me see my kid sister again!

Let us hope that we can get back to bluegrass-festival normal like this again. Next year, the Milan Bluegrass Festival will be five days long! Ain’t no reason not to attend at least one day!

Chew on it and comment.