A spectacular is defined as "a large-scale, elaborate production." That fits the First Annual Indoor Bluegrass Spectacular witnessed by 10,000 fans at the Capital Centre yesterday afternoon.
There were 14 groups, each limited to four songs. Doc Watson and Bill Monroe did only three each, but the Osborne Brothers kept things even by sneaking in a medley and an encore. The snow consisted of, as one emcee put it, "all the bluegrass talent you can stand." Indeed, that philsophy may have led local favorites, the Seldom Seen, to a cryptic choice for their closing gospel number: "(Makes Me Feel Like) My Time Ain't Long."
Huge indoor arenas are not particularly conducive to the intimacy and gregariousness of bluegrass music, though the giant overhead screen helped bridge the distance. And having so many performers give so little of themselves -- Bill Monroe simply ended the show with a whimper and the lights went on -- deprived both the audience and the musicians of any emotional or kinetic energy. It was like tasting more than a dozen homebaked pie and being satiated -- but not satisfied.
There were highlights -- Wilma Lee Cooper's rough-hewn energy, the Seldom Seen's unsurpassed harmonies and a lot of fine picking from a lot of fine pickers. But continuity and a sense of musical community were missing. This spectacular seemed like nothing more than a preview of the upcoming outdoor festival season.