Bela Fleck - Twice in a Week!

Update: Yes, I know that's not Bela. But it's my favorite pic of the set. Richie Stearns.

So, I had been looking forward to the Bela Fleck Banjo Summit for a while, and it did not disappoint. We went to the Paramount Theater in Rutland, an hour away, and saw some of the best music ever. The format was great too, because the musicians and the styles of music changed almost every song, so it never got dull.

Richie Stearns has a really interesting voice. When I saw him last, it was at another banjo summit at the Egg in Albany, NY. He sang a song about the twin towers and going into Iraq, that left an imprint. He plays clawhammer, but puts it through effects pedals and makes some crazy good noise.

Bela Fleck and his wife Abigail Washburn. She has a great voice and can sing in many styles, and Bela, well, if you've seen him before, you know.

On this stage stood about half of the most famous banjo players ever. Bela Fleck is a pure genius, and I think most would agree that he's on another level. Tony Trischka was there too. He actually taught Bela for a bit, and I was lucky enough to have had a lesson with him at his house. I distinctly remember he offered to make me a sandwich when I arrived! 

Left to right, Richie Stearns, Tony Trischka, Noam Pikelny and Bela Fleck.
Also performing was Abigail Washburn, Bela's wife and a beautiful singer who plays claw hammer style. Richie Stearns also plays claw hammer, and has a very haunting voice. He also wails on the banjo and sends it through effects including a wah wah pedal, which totally worked! Noam Pikelny is the new top dog in the young banjo players arena and he plays mostly with the Punch Brothers.

Then of course there was Bill Keith, who's albums in the '60s changed the way banjo was played, and then of course there was Eric Weissberg, of "Dueling Banjos" fame.

Russ Barenburg is one of the smoothest flatpickers around. His album with Edgar Meyer and Jerry Douglas "Skip, Hop & Wobble" has been on permanent rotation for years.

The backing band killed it too. One of my favorite flat-picking guitar players, Russ Barenberg, was as good as ever. The other musicians, Corey DiMario (bass), Casey Driessen (Fiddle), Corey DiMario (Bass) and Jesse Cobb (Mandolin)...I think that's right?! Anyways great show.

They ran out of banjos near the end of the show, so they had to share. Sounded pretty good!

Everybody at once. Lame filter I know, but there's not a lot of detail, as this is a tight crop off a 10mp file, and the biggest head in the theater was right in front of me. Or, that's how it seems in all the photos.
Although photography was forbidden, I loosely interpreted it as no flash photography. The Nikon V1 was perfect for this occasion. I can turn off the screen, and just use the viewfinder. By using the electronic shutter, it can also be silent. Not virtually. Completely. So no light or noise. Very unobtrusive. The focus is quick and spot on, since it uses a mix of phase can contrast detection methods of focus, and it can take pictures very rapidly as well. 

Me and Russ. There's a reason I mostly stay behind the camera.
I had the cheap mid range and telephoto zoom that came with it, and the nice 18.5mm (50mm equiv) f/1.8 lens. The lenses are tiny too. I had the camera and all three lenses in my jacket pocket. And with an electronic viewfinder, I can review images before taking them, so I don't have to chimp. I'm totally geeking out, but anyways, I'm convinced it's the greatest little surreptitious lens, perfect for concerts. There's also an adaptor to use regular nikon glass, so a cheap $250 50mm f/1.8 lens becomes a 135mm f/1.8 lens.

Okay, back to music.

The next week, Bela and his wife Abigail, along with their five month old son, came to Dartmouth. They performed in Spalding Auditorium. I didn't go. But I did get to see Bela and Abigail do a free demonstration and Q&A. And after the show, I couldn't resist. I asked Rob to get a photo of me and Bela.

Oh yea, we go way back. Seriously though, this is one of the best parts of the job.

Bela's thinking "when will Sasquatch let me get back to my wife and kid?"


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