A while back I had some shirts printed up with a catchy little slogan on the front: Kennedy, My Second Favorite Artist.
They make sense, you know? Because honestly, who can really say they’re someones favorite at anything with complete and utter certainty? Not me– no way. I’d never be that brash.
Second favorite? Okay. That works.
It’s humble, and it’s probably true.
Honesty and humility are good things– they’re good qualities to have, and I think people respond to those types of things.
So, just how humble and honest am I in regards to this whole Second Favorite thing?
Well, a few weeks ago I competed in the prestigious Troubadour Competition at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Telluride, Colorado.
And I finished second.
TRUTH AND HUMILITY EMBODIED IN COMPETITION!
Thank you, dear reader, for allowing me to entertain myself with the sentences above. And now, your regularly scheduled blog
So, yes, I went to Telluride to participate in a songwriting competition. No, I’ve never entered a contest like that before. Yes, I find the notion of competition through song– through something that I personally feel compelled to compose on a regular basis… something that I would feel compelled to compose even if the rest of the world suddenly lost the ability to hear music– to be an abstract concept. And no, I didn’t win. I finished in second place (out of around 500 entrants, and eventually the top 10)– thus the little t-shirt diatribe above.
And it was awesome.
I don’t really care that I didn’t win– the nine other finalists were fantastically talented and wonderfully kind and deserving of victory– I was just hoping to find a little musical camaraderie in a foreign land.
And in that quest, ladies and gentleman, I succeeded.
My fellow competitors were awesome. They were friendly, determined, focused, and all-out great writers. Some of them were veterans of the road, while others only gig from time to time. Some were older than me. Some were younger than me. All were wonderful. A guy named Reed Waddle won. I called his victory after hearing his first song. You should check him out– he’s quite good and I think you’d like his music very much.
And then came the people behind the competition– the folks at Planet Bluegrass. They were supportive, and funny, and kind. I loved each and every one of them.
And then came the festival attendees…
These people are truly the stars of the festival.
I arrived with my camping gear in hand on a Wednesday afternoon. After taking several laps around the campground, weaving in between groups of people camping in tiny centralized locations, I finally stopped to weigh my options.
I could set up my gear in one of the few open areas I saw– among rocks or in places that didn’t get shade all day– or I could… I could… I wonder if maybe I didn’t see the entire campgrou–
I looked up.
“You looking for a place to set up your tent?”
I nodded, and then I remembered something that the festival staff had told me in an email– tell people that you’re in the Troubadour Competition and they’ll do anything to help you.
“I’m in the Troubadour Contest,” I said.
“RIGHT THERE,” the man pointed. “You put your stuff right there. You’re camping with us.”
And that was it. The man’s name was Bevin, and he was for all intents and purposes the group leader of one of these aforementioned camps (this camp was called Kamp Duk Tape). There were about 20 people, all of whom had been coming to the Bluegrass Festival for quite some time, who were a part of the camp.
And they were awesome.
They came to each of my 6 performances throughout the festival. They treated me like I, too, had been coming to the festival and camping with them for years. They offered me food and drinks and jokes and encouragement and high fives and just about anything else you might imagine. Basically– if they had it, it was mine.
I came well stocked, of course, but their generosity was endless.
So, there I was– in one of the most beautiful towns in Colorado, hearing four days of some of the best music being heard anywhere, meeting 9 other troubadours and enjoying their talents, feeling completely accepted by a group of strangers, AND I finished second.
Yeah, right– second. Ha!