by Mark Dvorak
About 670,000 people live in Memphis and it is the largest city in Tennessee. Memphis is located on the 4th Chickasaw Bluff, south of the confluence of the Wolf and Mississippi Rivers. Memphis was the last home of Elvis Presley, and has always been the home of St. Jude's Children's Hospital. Memphis is famous for barbeque, the blues and Beale Street. Memphis is famous for Furry Lewis and the Cocaine Blues. Civil War historian Shelby Foote called Memphis his home, as did playwright Tennessee Williams. B.B. King is from Memphis and novelist John Grisham grew up in nearby Shelby County.
Memphis is also the conference home of the International Folk Music and Dance Alliance, which is now twenty-something years old. More than two thousand musicians, agents, disc jockeys, presenters and others interested in the unfolding art forms based around acoustic and aural traditions will be rubbing elbows, greasing palms, networking and goofing off. There will be all night parties and barbeque expeditions. There will be meetings and gripe sessions and showcase performances and video cameras and interviews. Some will strut around promoting and advocating, others will find themselves lurking and learning, taking it all in.
After only a single visit to the International Folk Music and Dance Alliance, one will rest assured that there is no shortage of musicians, and writers and singers and pickers and caring people carrying forward the many splinters of our common folk tradition. By and large the music made by this group expresses an instinct for the natural bonds of community, for the on-going wellness of the planet, for justice and equality. This group of individuals is looking for a good time and looking to leave their mark. Some are already famous and some want to be famous. The not-so-famous, the unknowns and hoards of other in-betweeners will be seeking out each other and avoiding each other, looking for a connection and looking for a sandwich. There will be moments filled with anticipation and there will be glassy-eyed afternoons from too much to see and too much to listen to and too much to put up with. They will wander the catacombs of the hotel and the conference area passing strangers from all over the place and they will celebrate with friends till late into the night and you will find them in the soft chairs in the atrium surfing the internet, making phone calls and reflecting in the quiet groggy hours of the morning.
I will be among them all, starting tomorrow, greeting good friends, finding some new folks to know, and like many of the others, hopefully landing more than a few jobs in the coming year. My bags and instruments are packed, boxes of CDs and promotion materials ready to load on the bus at 9 am tomorrow. See you in Memphis.