Django in June 2011 is in the bag and just wanted to give my compliments to Andrew Lawrence and staff for making this such a great event. Last time for me was 2008 and while it was great then, it was even better this year. For those who were there, you know what I am talking about. For those who could not make it.......
The most improved aspect for me was how the headline players/staff have been integrated with the attendees. This is by design I suppose, but it is done with pleasure and skill. World class players who on Friday and Saturday nights would give never-to-be-forgotten concerts were giving work shops AND jamming with players of all stripes in the days and nights before. They regularly and unobtrusively joined in-progress jams w/ players of all levels. As we played together, we all learned and become more comfortable with each other. I suppose we are all somewhat shy around great players, but we sometimes forget it can be tough for them too. I think the interaction worked well both ways.
The workshops were even better organized this year. Having all the rhythm classes in the morning and all the lead classes in the afternoon is a simple but very effective change from 2008. Workshops came in four levels and the instructors were rotated through the levels so there was alway something for everyone.
Facility wise, Andrew Lawrence and crew really put on the dog. The Smith College venue is just incredible. Rooms in the old King and Scales dorms are perfect for this event. The workshops and jam spots are right there in multiple large, furnished rooms on the ground floor with excellent acoustics. The semi circular shape if the building cradles a wonderful outdoor area for jams. The Hills Chapel is a great concert spot and though one occasionally wishes for air conditioning and opera house acoustics, it still a very good spot. The Smith College cafeteria food is very good and efficient so little time is taken away from the main event.
Other high points for me included:
Michael Bauer's guitar expose and demonstration of ~ 15 high end new and vintage guitars on Wednesday night. Selmers, Busatos, Castellucias, Favinos, Holos, Di Mauro, Shopis, Duponts, etc. The displayed instruments were played one song each, sequencially by a trio of guitarists (Ben Wood, Dennis Chang, Emmet Mahoney and at the end Benoit Convert). After the demos, everyone in attendance got to play whatever guitar they wished. Raised GAS to a whole new level. On top of this, Michael generously held court in room 101 and it was common to see a half a dozen players of all skill level jamming away on some of the best guitars on the planet at most any hour.
A new feature was the Thursday-night-in-town-restaurant-gigs. Andrew organized five groups and sent them into town for two hour gigs at participating restaurants. The rest of us trailed along in support but most of the places were packed already The two performances I saw were outstanding. Another great idea which helps integrate the Django in June players with the Northampton community.
And of course, the very best part is the catching up with and playing with old friends and new in the GJ community. I talked to some players who had attended over six years. What a pleasure. Hope to see you all next time!
If you haven't before, consider doing so. It is truly a unique and satisfying event.
Django in June 2007, 2008 and 2011