Dem Bones Dem Bones

BONES FEST VII

in Review

Kentucy Theatre

SUMMARY BY GIL AND LINDA HIBBEN

Bones Fest VII was hosted by us, Gil and Linda Hibben, in Louisville, KY, on July 25, 26, &, 27, 2003 at the Kentucky Theatre. This historic theatre was a great place to hold a Bones Fest with great acoustics and side rooms for jamming and practicing.


Bones players who were here a day early were featured on 3 separate TV shows, all very early morning news programs. We also had a very god article in the Louisville Eccentric Observer which caters to the arts community...the result of the combined publicity brought quite a few people to the Kentucky Theatre for the Saturday night performance.

Friday night was a reception at the Theatre with heavy hors d'ouvres and drinks. There was plenty of jamming and with the stage this was one of the best jam scenes we have had. Steve Brown received the Meritorious Service award and then showed off his winning All-Ireland style. He is indeed a champion.

Saturday morning opened at the Theatre with coffee and pastries and the show began...what fun!! Everyone who wanted to get up and play had the opportunity and everyone was fantastic!! Both lunch and dinner were served at Cunninghams', a very well know Louisville restaurant, just 1/2 block away from the Theatre.

Saturday night was the public performance and it was awesome. The 200 seat theatre was packed and people were standing in the aisle. The publicity paid off, especially since the public performance was free. People who never heard of "Playing the Bones" were grinning from ear to ear and clapping like crazy after each performer finished.

The finale was great. We were up front and what a joy it was to see everyone playing bones together. Jerry Barnett counted at least 65 people playing bones in the Congo line, so we must have some closet bones players as only 51 signed up as bones players.

Sunday morning was a brunch at our place in LaGrange, a bit of a problem for those who needed transportation from downtown, but it all worked out in the end.

The following is some individual highlights. There are people we didn't mention that were brilliant, but we ran out of space. Sorry.

We noticed a lot of the double beat technique this year instead of just triplets as in the previous Fests.

Shorty Boulet and Ernie Duffy played great and brought along Sky Bartlett who is one of the most awesome young talents that we have ever seen. Sky initially was very timid. Gil remembers when he came to his first bones fest in Chattanooga. He didn't know where he stood with other bones players and discovered that he could rattle with them. Anyway Gil invited Sky up when we were just warming up and when he got his feet under him he turned out to be one of the stars at least for his age.

Spike Bones is such a virtuoso. He is "Mr. Bones" you know. You put him and Joe Birl together and who is the real one; that is the guy who kind of represents the vaudeville era. I'll have to admit that Spike did entertain the troops. We sat next to some people who obviously hadn't ever seen rhythm bones played before and I watched them. I saw a few smiles come upon their face and people reacting to being entertained.

We had John 'Mr Bones' Cahill himself. As far as we are concerned he should be in the history books. Sally Carroll represented the ladies by playing very well.

Vivian Cox is a shining star and what a doll. She shows how long you can play rhythm bones for joy and happiness. She is indeed beautiful and played wonderfully.

The Cowett family shined again and they were fun. They have become a tradition and a delight. To get the family involved is a fun thing. Fun stuff.

Thanks, as in major thanks, is due to Dan Cowett, the sound man, who came from NC and took over the Theatre sound system in a matter of minutes - Dan, you are a genius!! And no Bones Fest would be complete without the effervescent personality of our MC, Al Cowett - way to go guys!! And, to Martha Cowett for the name badges.

When Jonathan Danforth got up, he whistled and played the bones. It was almost a meditation. Jonathan also brought his fiddle and provided live music for several performers. He played very well on this impromptu thing. A big hearty thanks to him.

Don DeCamp is incredible. Inspiring. This guy is one awesome bones player and I really admire him.

The Frazier family probably didn't know what they were getting into, but I think they left the Bones Fest a lot more comfortable. We felt like we had new friends in our family and hopefully they felt the same way we did. What they did was surprise father Norris by coming to the Fest without him knowing about it. They did a great job playing bones and hopefully we will se a lot more of them in the future.

Mel Mercier is one awesome bones player and another big star of the Bones Fest, both playing two-handed and one-handed. He invited Tim Reilly to play with him and Tim did extremely well. Mel is a good ambassador from Ireland and a delight to listen to and to get to know. Mel is a virtuoso.

Jerry Mescher and Bernie Worrell, both world champions, are absolutely first class. They are elegant and the precision of their rhythm bones is outstanding.

Scott Miller performed with his kids Jake and Erica. While they didn't know now to play the bones, he did get his family involved.

Russ Myers makes it look so easy and I love his humor like his story about being in the military and being a bones player. He is like the foundation of all of us since he has been playing so long and a real fine human being.

Mike Passerotti represented rock and roll through what he called God rock. He marches to a different tune.

Tim Reilly played with Jonathan Danforth and his playing is so unpretentious and his style is inspiring.

Barry Palmerton wearing the uniform of a Civil War doctor and playing bones was very entertaining.

John Perona played to Red Wing, a very good song for the bones. He represents an old tradition except he played silver spoons bones style. Randy Seppala played bones accompanied by Perona on the accordion. They are using music as a medium to be good friends.

Sandor Smolovits is a guy that can sing and play the bones. We got one of his CDs and he is a trained musician. He did a great job.

Hank Tennebaum got up and played the bones without any music, a difficult and impressive feat.

Kim Thounhurst is a beginner who got up and faced the audience playing well. This will make the second time a whole lot easier.

Parker Waite has improved like so many from when we first heard them years ago. Much improved.

Bill Vits is a profession percussionist with a symphony orchestra and an incredible percussionist. His playing of 16th notes on the bones was great and I think we're all going to be working on that lick. Walt Watkins was much improved. It a neat thing about these bones Fests is to observe people who were once a one-handed bones player now can play with both hands. He did a great job and I would put him down as much improved.

Steve Wixson came up with a whole board of different bone shapes and I thought was another of the most improved players since I first me him. I also thought the tambourine thing was outstanding. I liked his tribute to Matteo, the castanet player who presented castanets so nobly and thrilled us all at Bones Fests III and IV. Matteo inspired Gil also.

What is unique about the Bones Fest are the unique personalities and different methods of playing the bones. People are holding them high and holding them low - different grips. It's so fun to get together. It was such a pleasure for Linda and I as hosts to see the different styles of rhythm bones playing and how well they were played. There are so many people I didn't talk about that were absolutely brilliant.

We like the impromptu thing like passing the bones and we need to keep that in the future. We don't know about you, but Gil loves playing the bones to something he's never heard. He loves the challenge which adds a lot of spice and excitement. Walt is given credit for passing the bones though it was probably an old idea from the jazz days. Maybe a variation would be to draw names to see who you would play with. Of course we did see several players rehearsing over in the corner. It would be fun to have teams.

It was fun to see world class bones players having fun with the art. The excitement, the camaraderie, and actual love that we all experienced in this medium of rhythm bones playing. A lot of bones playing and new friendships occurred over the weekend. We hope everyone had as much fun as we did. It was a joy, an honor, to host Bones Fest VII. We are all looking forward to Bones Fest VIII.
Linda and Gil Hibben

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