Written by: Kyle McCabe
In thinking about Bluegrass Pride, I keep coming back to the CBA meeting in Turlock last spring. We heard many voices of support and a few that spoke out against the CBA sponsoring a float in the Pride Parade. While there were some different religious and moral arguments against it, the main theme of naysayers was that it would attract the wrong type of crowd, bringing the types of people who wear only t-shirts and nothing else. Shirt-cocking aside, there was a healthy fear that somehow the CBA would change. It was in response to this overwhelming fear of the other that I was moved to voice my opinion in support of the CBA sponsoring a Pride float. I felt very strongly that members were giving their individual revolutionary power away due to fear of the other.
Individuals who are afraid of change seemingly view change as a one-way street. That whatever new group that comes in will wipe out all of the old ways. But, this completely negates the transformative power of the group that is absorbing new members. Why would new members be attracted to the scene if there was not something of redeeming value that brought them there? In this case, the bluegrassers were worried that people were going to change what they have come to love about the CBA. One fired up old man fond of wearing aloha shirts and singing gospel, castigated the supporters of Pride as sinners. It struck me. If this man truly believed in his personal power of singing, of sharing beautiful gospel music, wouldn’t he view this an opportunity to reach out to a whole new demographic? Jesus walked with prostitutes and the disabled and the homeless, his whole message was about inclusion. He saw those disadvantaged in society and sought to raise them up. How is Bluegrass Pride out of step with this gospel?
In Turlock, I spoke about the danger in people judging others based off of preconceived ideas, rather than judging individuals based on their actions. There are many different types of people in this world and as individuals, there are some we get along with, some we don’t. We do not need to be friends with everyone, rather we need to accept each other's differences and give people the respect to conduct their own lives. Just because someone identifies as gay or straight does not make them a good or bad person. Assholes and jerks come from all walks of life. Everyone has their own free will to speak to who they want to, pick with who they want to, and camp with who they want to. To use one’s sexuality to judge what type of person someone is is a dangerous choice, and that is why I felt compelled to raise the issue last year.
Having not grown up a part of the bluegrass scene, and entering into it as a 20-something who liked hippy jam bands, the High Sierra Music Festival, and psychedelics, I felt like an outsider at my first Grass Valley Father’s Day Fest. I had never been to a festival like it before. People were very straight-laced (except for excessive alcohol consumption), and not many people danced. This didn’t make the jams less fun or the seminal Father’s Day experience any less worthwhile, but it was noted. I will never forget dressing up in a Fred Flintstone costume, and sitting at the main stage drinking a Coors Light only to have an older representative come up and tell me that I was “everything that’s wrong with CBA”... If a 6’5” straight white guy from an upper middle-class family in California dressing up as Fred was the epitome of wrong in the eyes of this rep, what was the right thing to be? What would people of color do? How would people who checked no boxes of “status quo” be received? After this interaction, and spending more time gathering perspective on the bluegrass scene, I was skeptical of the CBA. I seemed to me like they picked from the same group of individuals, and the old guard wanted to keep their sandbox the way they liked it. Whether this was justified or just sour grapes is another piece, but the feeling of uneasiness was real.
Bluegrass Pride was the catalyst for getting myself and many others back behind the CBA. The openness, the willingness to grow, and the action behind these words leave me fired up and wanting to participate. There will be people from all walks of life free to pick whatever music moves them, and I think it is a noble cause of the CBA to reach as many people as we possibly can. Giving way to fear of the other and blaming it on God, politics, or personal judgment directly undermines the point of roots bluegrass music. Judge people based on their actions and intentions. As “Bill Monroe” said when he donated to Bluegrass Pride last year, “Hate ain’t no part of nothing”.