I knew that my trip to the Florence, Arizona Bluegrass Festival this weekend was gonna be great fun. I travelled with 20 or so of my close friends and we arranged to camp together. Once we circled our wagons at the festival, the jamming began.
After our first jam session, the organizers of the event came by our campsite to see if any of us would like to participate in the band scramble that night. Not because they heard us playing, but just because they were very nice and possibly desperate for participants.
I had never done a band scramble before and at first I declined. But then I realized this might be my last chance ever to play in a Bluegrass band. After all, what if I DROP DEAD TOMORROW?!
I signed up as did 5 of my friends. A total of five bands was created from the entries, but none of the bands contained more than 2 of my traveling musician friends.
Let's Get Ready To Scramble!
The exact details of what happened after that have been somewhat disputed. But I swear I did not cheat.
Once the organizers selected the members for the five bands, we all went off to prepare. When I joined my group I learned my fellow band members included a lady who played stand up bass, a 10 year old girl who played dulcimer and sang like an angel.
Also with us was Tom, a cracker jack banjo teacher in his eighties, and a young mandolin player, Zak, who I had seen compete at other festivals. This stellar group joined me and a beginner guitar player (the little girl’s dad) to round out our band.
After a quick discussion we chose our 3 songs. Our playlist featured the little girl singing with a dulcimer break and Tom playing dynamite hot licks on the banjo for our finale. We selected our band name, “Frosty Arizona Morn” and after a short practice were ready for bright lights and fame.
I stepped out onto the stage in front of 50’s (as opposed to hundreds or thousands) of people. Being out there on a professional stage was thrilling. Especially since all I had to do was play three chords over and over for the length of three songs. Shoot even I can do that.
And the Winning Band is...
As soon as the little girl sang the first note, the crowd went wild. Tom finished our set off with some crazy unique banjo licks. When the crowd’s applause was measured by DB meter for each group, my band was the clear winner. Stormy always liked to say, “It’s better to be lucky than good.” I sure got lucky with this group!
Tom Tears Up the Banjo playing "Woah Mule"
Other Highlights of Florence
St. Anthony’s Monastery just down the road from the Rodeo Grounds where we attended the festival was amazing. Featuring five incredibly ornate chapels and immaculately landscaped grounds, our tour here was a highlight of the trip. What an oasis to find in the desert.
Of course what trip would be complete without a stop at the local winery. Windmill Winery in Florence offered an eclectic setting for a tranquil and colorful afternoon of wine tasting.