Look Good/Play Good (I know that's bad English) - 11/26/2014

     People often comment about how we dress up for stage.  In 2008 or so, we started wearing dark suits with ties onstage.  I had seen a picture of Bob Dylan and his band in Rolling Stone at the time wearing dark suits, and it looked so crisp that it really caught my eye.  Johnny Cash’s stark look always appealed to me as well.   Dressing up is nothing new for bluegrass bands; so many of our heroes like Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, and Del McCoury had always done so.  However, we had gone through a stage of everybody in the band wearing whatever felt comfortable.  I see pictures of us from those days and cringe now. We all had different ideas about what looked ‘right.’   I don’t think the guys in the band were too crazy about the change at first.  However, every man enjoys it now.  Clayton will say cheerfully after he sets down whatever book he is reading in the green room, “Well, it’s time to suit up.”  Mike Barber is almost always the last one to dress.  He was probably the least happy about the change, but now has embraced it.  That man knows how to tie a tie, in several different styles.
     We have talked about it as a band and all agree that dressing up makes us feel like we’re ready to go to work.  I just feel more confident in a sharp black suit and blue tie (at my wife’s urging, I always wear blue.  I wore a gray tie for a television taping.  Her response was, “Gray brings out the gray in your hair.  You should wear blue”).  Left to my own devices, I am a mess.  Leigh has joked about how many Dallas Cowboys shirts I have.  I got picked on by the other teachers when I was in the profession for one day wearing a striped shirt with a spotted tie.  Even I can’t mess up a dark suit and simple tie.  
     I felt we were on the right track with this idea at Thomas Point Beach in Brunswick, Maine.  I had been vacationing with my family and had arrived at the festival ahead of them.  I turned around to see the guys walking towards me all dressed up.  I was taken aback by it.  I thought, “Wow.  I’m a part of that.”  The word TEAM entered my mind.  I’m a baseball guy and always took pride in looking sharp on the field.  Coach Shutts was old school (“look good/play good”) and I like to think we are as well.  I like our team a whole lot.  I feel confident stepping on any stage with these guys and I think our ‘uniform’ helps enhance that feeling.
     We get comments sometimes like “Oh, the Men in Black are here” or “Where’s the funeral?”  I’ve heard “This is bluegrass, not Wall Street.”  Some guy saw our new album cover and said we looked like we were more of a law firm than a bluegrass band.  That’s fine.  Not everybody is going to love you no matter what you do.  And I have to say that some of my all-time favorite bands went in the opposite direction dress-wise and it totally worked for them.  Sam Bush just looks RIGHT in a baseball jersey killing it up there.  If it’s really hot, we’ll take the suit coats off.  We’re not martyrs, and I don’t think anyone in the crowd enjoys seeing the performer uncomfortable on stage.
     Award-winning radio personality Katy Daley likes our dress.  She said, “I always dress up to go to a show.  It’s nice to see the band make an effort.”  I think this works for us.  Like I said, it’s hard to mess this up.  This isn’t trendy.  I want our look to be timeless.  I want our dress to reflect the way I hope we sound.