I appreciate traditions. I value legacies. I understand how difficult change can be. After all, the only person who likes change is a baby with a dirty diaper, right? Nonetheless, change happens.
In the grand scheme of things, while having a destination for Father’s Day weekend is a nice idea, the Huck Finn Jubilee is a music festival, not a father’s festival (although the two, obviously, are NOT mutually exclusive). No evil machinations were at work, bent on depriving people of music on Father’s Day. Many do not trust the Visitor Bureau’s statements, but maybe there is some truth in what they say. From what I gather, the official line is that the change in date avoids future date conflicts with the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. That’s a double bonus, because it means more quality acts that can play at both festivals. Despite the almost 800 miles separating the two locations, plenty of people would go to both given the chance. When two festivals compete not only for musicians but also for audience members on the same weekend, someone will lose out.
In a perfect world, music would be only about artistry. Look around. We live in a pretty great state (and country) but it costs money to run festivals. Keeping the Huck Finn Jubilee going means operating in the real world. From what I’ve read, a few years after the founder of Huck Finn passed away, his family ceded control of the festival to the Ontario Convention Bureau. I doubt I have all the facts, but it sounds to me as if the Convention Bureau had not stepped in, Huck Finn would be no more.
Here’s a challenge: give me an all-encompassing definition for “traditional bluegrass.” I bet if you ask ten people to define you’d get eleven different answers. Plus, the term “bluegrass” did not even show up until the mid-1940s, and evolved out of other musical genres. You just cannot expect a large venue event to adhere to a strict definition put forth by one group of people. Music is a living thing. Music is an art form. Performed by artists. The truly great artists create music in their own special ways. Just think about the many great bluegrass performances that include covers of songs that began in other genres.
Think of it this way: many more people came to the festival to hear those more progressive acts. I am pretty sure that over the weekend, they were exposed to much more traditional sounds, something they may never have listened to before. A little tolerance and understanding would go a long way towards fostering new bluegrass lovers.
On the other hand, perhaps 2014 should just go down in the annals of history as the year of the great lawn chair incident(s). From my viewpoint, a lot of the “trouble” was not even about the music. Some follow a hallowed tradition of staking out their little kingdom on the grass in front of the stage, plopping their stuff down, daring anyone to infiltrate their space at any time of the festival, whether their butts are planted in their chairs or not.
Those people who felt moved to dance with the music inevitable stumbled upon the rows of empty chairs. The chair owners were upset to find their chairs out of place the next morning. Call it entropy. Call it gravity. Forget physics and call it youthfulness.
As for drug use, I did not see any, and no drug arrests were made, so anything about illegal substances is hearsay as far as I am concerned. Yes, there was drinking, but there were no major incidents (well, except for lawn chair vs. dancer accidents). As for the opinions of some “longtime attendees” about the influx of new music and music lovers, here’s mine: music evolves. ‘Nuf said.
Has Huck Finn gone through some changes? Definitely, but haven’t we all. You may love a certain bluegrass sound, and someone else may prefer a more progressive one. We all love music, and shouldn’t that be the focus? If you cannot or will not accept any type of change, chances are nothing I say will change your feelings. I am sure your musical taste is impeccable (as is mine) but you cannot expect an entire festival to satisfy the desires of just one niche of music. “The times, they are a-changin.”