5 Ways to Explore IBMA’s World of Bluegrass in Raleigh

Seven stages with FREE live music will light up downtown Raleigh at IBMA Bluegrass Live! powered by PNC.

There are more than 100 bands performing on the stages all around Raleigh September 27 – October 1, 2022 during IBMA’s World of Bluegrass. You will have the chance to see and hear some of the world’s finest musicians perform in every imaginable setting. The rock clubs, hotel suites, street stages and Red Hat Amphitheater will all be alive with music at the end of this month. It’s both exhilarating and a little overwhelming.

Here are a couple of ideas for how to navigate World of Bluegrass.

RAMBLE AROUND TOWN – The IBMA Business Conference is happening during the week at the Raleigh Convention Center. There, bluegrass professionals attend panel discussions about event management, touring best practices, copyright issues and pitch themselves to venues and talent buyers. But in the evening, there’s the IBMA Bluegrass Ramble happening at venues around town. These are showcase performances, which are usually short, tight and designed to leave the audience wanting more. You can see new bands, and established ones like The Special Consensus who are bringing a new line-up.

Sister Sadie on the Red Carpet.

PEOPLE WATCH BEFORE THE AWARDS SHOW – Come early on Thursday night and watch the stars walk the red carpet at the IBMA Bluegrass Music Awards. It’s a fun, free way to see the stars. Del McCoury and his family is expected to be there, and they always look great. This is the bluegrass version of the Academy Awards and most of the artists dress accordingly. There are tuxedos, sequined gowns, shiny shoes and lots of big smiles for the cameras. You can find good places to sit around Lichtin Plaza and watch everyone arrive for what insiders call “The Biggest Night in Bluegrass.” Of course, it’s also a lot of fun inside if you want to buy a ticket. This year Peter Rowan, Norman Blake and Paul “Moon” Mullins are being honored as the newest inductees to the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.

CATCH LEGENDS AND RISING STARS – World of Bluegrass is a week when stars, and people who should be stars share the same stages. Peter Rowan is bringing a hot new band down to Raleigh for one performance at the Red Hat Amphitheater on Friday night. Peter is one of the few musicians performing today who can claim to have been in bands with both Bill Monroe and Jerry Garcia. The Old & In The Way album is still the best selling bluegrass record of all time. Earlier on Friday night the band Twisted Pine performs. They are one of the grooviest danceable bands of the weekend but are one you may have never heard of.  They’re also performing on a StreetFest stage.

NC’s Faith & Harmony play the Gospel Stage.

HEAR TRADITIONS OVERLAP – We’re trying something new at the Festival this year. The Capital Stage (at the intersection of Fayetteville & Hargett) is focusing on Gospel music. Gospel music has always been an important part of the bluegrass sound. Since its inception, musicians have reinterpreted church hymns and used the music to express their faith. Many of those same tunes are also performed in the Black church by quartets, choirs and bands. We’re bringing these two Southern traditions together onto one stage this year. You can see IBMA Award winners Alan Bibey & Grasstowne playing right after 10-year-old Caleb Serrano from Greensboro. Caleb joined Shirley Ceasar on-stage at the PineCone Down Home Show earlier this year.

Bluegrass legend Jerry Douglas at Red Hat Amphitheater in 2021.

WATCH SURPRISE SPECIAL GUESTS – You really never know who you will hear performing.  Sure there’s a schedule, but surprise guests show up on all the stages all the time. This event is a lot like a family reunion for bluegrass musicians. That’s why it’s very common to see a set band bring up a mandolin playing friend for a song or two. Keep an eye out for when that happens, because it’s highly likely that guest is a Grammy winner or young shredder that will have everyone talking in a year or two.

Have fun, and don’t forget to hydrate!