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IBMA's World of Bluegrass festival returns to Raleigh this week

 Street vendors lined up in Raleigh for the 2021 World of Bluegrass festival.
Rob Laughter
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Street vendors lined up in Raleigh for the 2021 World of Bluegrass festival.

Raleigh's largest downtown festival is back this week. The banjos, mandolin's and fiddles will be jamming on streets and in venues throughout the city beginning Friday night.

It's the finale for the week-long International Bluegrass Music Association's World of Bluegrass, which includes a business conference and an awards show.

Raleigh-based PineCone is the host for the event. It's Executive Director, David Brower, stopped by WUNC to talk about it.

This is an excerpt of an edited transcript of that conversation. You can hear the full interview by clicking the LISTEN button at the top of this post.


You were one of the first events to be back in-person last year during the pandemic.  Are things a little more relaxed this year?

“They are, as compared to last year, and so we're really hoping to see a full crowd back up towards where we've seen in years’ past. And in years’ past, this event has drawn over 200,000 people downtown, generating an economic impact of more than $18 million for Wake County. So, all signs are good for us to get back to that spot.”

Highlights for me include Molly Tuttle, who's been doing some Americana-pop records. Is she coming back to bluegrass?

“Oh yeah, absolutely. Molly Tuttle was up for Guitar Player of the Year. The awards will be handed out this coming Thursday night. She's also on our mainstage this weekend. Molly Tuttle is a shredder. She is really one of the one of the best guitarists out there today.”

A new event features a gospel music mashup. What's that going to be like?

“The Capital Stage of the festival is devoted to gospel music from all around the South. So, we're going to be pairing string bands from the Bluegrass tradition with quartet gospel from the Black church tradition. We've got the Dedicated Men of Zion, we've got the legendary Cockman Family up there, and we've got this fantastic 10-year-old singer from Greensboro that I hope you get out to see – Caleb Serrano – he will light up the stage.”

Can hip-hop and bluegrass banjo co-exist?

“Well, they do. And the band that I just mentioned, Gangstagrass, they're closing down both Friday and Saturday night on the street fast. They pulled together freestyle hip-hop with banjo and guitar rhythms. Gangstagrass bring the show.”


Free events during the IBMA’s World of Bluegrass conference and festival get underway throughout downtown Raleigh on Friday and run through the weekend. The conference officially begins on Tuesday.


David Brower is a former program director at WUNC.

Eric Hodge hosts WUNC’s broadcast of Morning Edition, and files reports for the North Carolina news segments of the broadcast. He started at the station in 2004 doing fill-in work on weekends and All Things Considered.
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