Michael Bucayu had neither the resources nor the money to organize another BOTO Fest, the downtown gathering that filled the void left when the International Bluegrass Music Festival moved its annual convention and FanFest to Nashville in 2005.
But George Garrett wanted to help.
It turns out the lack of resources for another gathering was but a molehill. The pickers decided to show up and pick anyway, giving birth to “Itchin’ to Pick,” a festival that, in a word, isn’t. With no scheduled shows, no itinerary and no organization, really, it’s pickers playing for the sake of it.
“All you do is get a room and pick with a bunch of people,” said Bucayu, who curates the weekly Wednesday night bluegrass jams at Bluegrass Brewing Co. in St. Matthews.
All of the promotion for Itchin’ To Pick has come word of mouth and through an electronic flyer making its way around the Internet. Garrett said he put an announcement up on the Internet one morning, and within six hours, he had 250 hits. He said he expects 500 to 1,000 pickers to show up, and that’s a conservative estimate.
It’s free. If you plan to stay both nights, the Galt House has offered the pickers a discount on hotel rooms at $129. You can donate if you want, but no one will hassle you for cash.
“As a promoter, no matter what you do, when you throw $25,000 or $30,000 out there, it’s a roll of the dice,” said Garrett, who organized the Little Eagle Creek Bluegrass Festival for years in Westfield, Ind., north of Indianapolis.
Itchin’ to Pick, however, is “like going to a family reunion. This is something that everyone can afford,” he said.
The hotel has stipulated that all picking in hotel rooms stop by 10 p.m. both nights, but veteran IBMA attendees know this is merely another chance to take over the gigantic common areas of the Galt House, circle up and play until dawn.
Even though there are no “shows,” in the traditional sense of the word, pickers should keep their eye out for high-caliber players who have shared the limelight with Alison Krauss and J.D. Crowe and The New South, among others. Danny Jones, who played mandolin for Bill Monroe, might show up, and fiddler Michael Cleveland, too, “if he’s not busy,” Garrett said.
Bucayu said the Galt House is ideal because the airport and interstates are close, as are the museums that attract families year-round.
With the buzz on the Web already growing, could there be another Itch? “To me, anything to keep a bunch of bluegrass in this town,” he said. “I’ll do whatever I can to help.”