Go Time/Show Time/Sunday on the Square
Our music minster has a saying I like. When it is time to play the church service, he says, “O.K. folks, five minutes till “Go Time.”
In bluegrass gigs, when we get ready to play it is called “Show Time.” The distinction is important. He does not want the music at church to be viewed as a show, and I agree 100%. For me, Church music is an attempt to make some spiritual sense out of a crazy world. The purpose of music should never be to show off, but this is extra true in church.
Of course at the “Go Time” AFTER the service sometimes we’ll bend the rules a little. Last Sunday we did “Just a Little Closer Walk to Thee.” Our minister lets us do it in a jazzy style when the congregation gets ready to leave. He did hold the line on my lyrics, though. (They were lifted from Jethro Burns)
“Just a bowl of butter beans
Pass the biscuits if you please
I don’t care for collard greens
So pass the bowl of butter beans.”
Every year we play a gig called Sunday On the Square. Even though it is a Sunday afternoon we cut loose at show time. The gig is at 3:00 to give folks time to eat after church. Everyone spreads out with lawn chairs and blankets, and all the kids run on the lawn. It is a large time. We had the gig this past weekend and had our best turnout yet. It might be ’cause they advertise it on the marquee at the Walmarks, but I think it is ’cause it is free- you get what you pay for.
Last year after the first set “dark clouds were a rising and a sure sign of rain,” as the Stanleys would say. We opened the second set with “Cold Sheets of Rain,” and then had to scurry to get our gear put away before the storm hit.
As a band leader you have three responsibilities in this situation. The first and most important is to be sure none of your band members get electrocuted, so right off you pull the plug on the power.
The instruments are second priority. One of the great ironies of bluegrass is that professional quality instruments are often owned by pickers who play gigs for a few hundred bucks, and acoustic instruments are made of wood, and sensitive to the elements. The sound equipment is the lowest priority. Microphones, cords, and even amps and sound boards can be replaced easier than instruments, and there is no emotional attachment to them either. My wife bought me my mandolin, and it is one of the few material items in my life I consider important. Like a fine wife, the longer you are blessed with her, the more attached you get. My mandolin doesn’t mean as much as my family, but it is the next rung down.
I am glad it didn’t rain this year. The pollen was bad though. At one point, the Warbler sneezed right into the microphone and it was the achoo heard round the County. But, part of the bluegrass gig is you have to brave the elements. Someones gotta do it and I’m glad it is us. I’m already looking forward to next year.