I was happy that Katie wanted to tag along on my first trip back to the Mountain Opry in quite some time. She's 13, and into that phase where parents represent inconvenience at best and rank humiliation at worst. But, there she was volunteering to ride up to Signal Mountain with me. Great!
Nothing had changed up there in the two or three years since I'd come. Same old school building that's now been home to the Opry for 30 years. Same predominantly elderly audience. Same dim lighting, Same uncomfortable seats. Same authentic feel. Unfortunately they were fairly light on talent that night. Lacking any of the better bands to fill out the schedule, they were left with those 8 member (or more!) pick up bands featuring maybe 3 guitars, 2 fiddles, 2 banjos, 2 mandolins, or any combination thereof. All blissfully being at once played in different keys, time signatures, or, sometimes, even different songs.
I think that The Mountain Opry should be judged for what it is. And what it is is pretty cool: a free, amateur folk music venue that's more about the musician's joy than any notion of perfection. Even on the nights when fairly good bands do show up there's no mistaking it for any kind of slick production. At sometime during the night ladies will move through the audience taking donations to keep the lights on, and 100% of the talent works free.
Years ago a band I was with played there, and I got a great compliment the following week. A young twenty-something recognized me from the week before and expressed great disappointment that we wouldn't be taking the stage that night as well.
This night I took in the scene from the unique, for me, perspective of the audience. Every other time I've come it's been as a musician, and my usual M.O. had been to go directly to one of the backstage jam/practice rooms, or to get involved in a jam session outside in the milder months. This time I came sans guitar or mandolin, and in no shape to jam in any case. So we sat in the audience. I was sorely disappointed that I didn't see anyone I knew. Odd, that.
Back to Katie. I fully expected her to be bored and consider things hokey. But she really seemed to enjoy it. Now, boredom wise it certainly didn't hurt that she was constantly texting. But, that diversion notwithstanding, by the end of the evening she declared that 'banjos rock!' and that the fiddle was pretty much the bomb diggity and now she wants to learn to play.
She was delighted to hear that I actually had a fiddle way in the back of the closet that she can have, and she scratched out some notes when I gave it to her. I suggested that she may want to focus on the mandolin instead. I pulled out the Flatiron and showed her some 'Old Joe Clark'. She seems excited and ready to learn, but I'm bearing in mind that the thirteen year old brain can switch focus with the frequency of a cheap radio. So I'm not holding my breath on this one. Still, I'd be delighted beyond words if she were to stick with it, and her Mom would love for her to take up the fiddle.
I'll keep you posted.