Postcard2 is "the Net's most populous, populist and potentially mind-altering twang list." In 1997, some lovely soul got the idea to have a festival every year to celebrate this music we all love so much.
I'll let the Wall Street Journal explain further. This is from Monday, May 31, Page A20, under "Time Off: Diversions and Excursions June 1-14":
OK, it's not Lollapalooza, Lilith or even a Fleadh -- in fact it's not even traveling outside St. Louis. And it probably never will, because this three-year-old festival of American roots music -- from bluegrass to hard-core honky tonk to roots rock -- is a nonprofit shindig put on by a group of Midwestern musicians, music writers and fans whose goal is making music, not money. Fifteen bands from across the U.S. will perform over three nights, including headliners the V-Roys, alt-country rockers from Knoxville, Tenn.; the Damnations, TX, Austin-based sisters with quirky lyrics and sweet harmonies; and Dale Watson, whose sound and presence recall Merle Haggard in his young and rowdy roadhouse days. * Off Broadway. June 10-12. (888) 766-8742. (Taylor Holliday)
The online community that is Postcard2 threw the first Twangfest in St. Louis in 1997. The idea was to allow various bands that have members, managers, publicists or extremely rabid fans on P2 to gather face-to-face with a few dozen P2 members and make the music and listen to the music they love so much -- old-time country, alternative country, punk country, regressive country, progressive country, roots rock, bluegrass, rockabilly, and all the other things that make of this musical genre sometimes called "Americana." And to expose a few hundred other non-P2 members to the joys of Twang.
The first Twangfest took place over two nights and featured the Waco Brothers (in the top 5 of my favorite live performers of all time) as headliners. It was such a huge hit that it was held again last year. After each event, people who attended would write to P2 these long, gushy essays about the music, the people, crazy stuff that happened.... kind of like what I write after SXSW, only wilder and more emotional.
In early 1999, the eight key people, all volunteers, who throw together Twangfest (who each live in different cities throughout the U.S.) posted to P2 that they were trying to form a nonprofit organization, and I thought, what the hell, I'll offer to help. It could be fun. And it kinda of fits with my professional life.
So I e-mailed one of the organizers, and offered my services pro bono. Two hours later I was on the phone making suggestions about how to write a mission statement. The next few weeks saw me researching nonprofit music organizations, helping to write a strategic plan, develop ways to recognize volunteers, create wording for grant proposals, offer tax advice.... and I loved it! I love applying my boring mindless professional work with things I love.
Then the electronic harassment began from the Twang Gang, telling me I HAD TO COME to Twangfest III. And a few weeks later, on a whim... I decided to go. By myself. Having met maybe two of the people that would be there face-to-face. And having no budget for such an endeavor. 48 hours before my flight, I panicked and considered cancelling... but went I did.... and I have never encountered a more welcoming, loving, strange, wonderful community in my life.
I roomed at the Oak Grove Inn (TwangFest Central) with two other P2 gals, one of whom, Marie Arsenault, was a chief organizer of the event. None of us spent much time in the room, however.... My adventures began when, for reasons too complicated to go into, I helped sneak a dog into the Oak Grove, into the V-Roys room (nice guys!). Then it was off to the club.
I knew I was going to love the Off-Broadway as soon as I walked in -- the walls of the entrance are papered with album covers, one of them being Government Cheese's "Come On Back to Bowling Green and Marry Me" (I recognize those feet anywhere).
As soon as I entered, I saw someone I knew -- Mark Wyatt, singer, bass and accordion player with One Riot One Ranger (we met in line for the bathroom at the Bloodshot Records party at SXSW 1998). He's one of the nicest people on earth. I also ran into Junior Barnard, who I had met once before, and introduced myself... and he denied that it was me. "You are NOT Jayne Cravens!" Have I told you lately how happy I am to have lost 20 pounds?
The organizers more than lived up to their new "professional nonprofit status", enough to make any under-cover IRS agent happy -- this wasn't *just* a drunken, crazy, rain-soaked, festive get-together, this was the ultimate celebration of great Americana music -- it will keep my CD collection growing and my bank account empty (as P2 has been doing a fine job of over the years) and myself evangalizing about the joys of Americana.
The bands, the bands... my god... I was in heaven. To quote Patsy, "the whole acts was tremendous." Standouts for me were:
I'm just glad Junior didn't blind Morgan with that Zena-like hat throw to the drummer -- I had no idea a cowboy hat could whip across a crowd at lightening speed, particularly one wielded by a university professor from Kansas.
What particularly shocked me were the number of women who came by themselves to Twangfest, just like me. Men still outnumbered women 2 to 1 (and as most of the men were married... dammit), but Mark Wyatt dubbed this Twangfest the Year of the Woman, because of the number in attendance and because we could beat the crap out of all the Twangfest guys at once.
I also met Peter Blackstock, the founder and editor of NO DEPRESSION magazine. I had seen him around at SXSW the last three years, but had never been introduced. We had a great conversation about Toshio, this Japanese bluegrass player he knows from Austin and I know because I had Thanksgiving Dinner with him once (LONG story).
There's lots more music than just the official bill at the Off-Broadway -- there's bands and jams at the Friday afternoon bowling social (and you have never heard anything funnier than the bowling announcer coming on the PA saying, "Attention, Bowlers, the Sovines are now playing in the lounge."). There's also lots of jams at the Saturday afternoon picnic and, occassionally, at the unofficial after-show parties outside on the lawn of the Oak Grove Inn.
I could go on and on and on and on. And, I have. But my point, and I do have one, is that the Internet is a fantastic place, and it's NOT making us all isolated and lonely, and Twang is a beautiful thang, and you all need to visit the Twangfest Web site and learn why Americana is such an important musical form, and buy the Edges from the Postcard CD and BE THERE NEXT YEAR!!!
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