A Brunch Column: Bluegrass Trolls

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If you are on the internet much, say on Facebook or Twitter, you will sooner or later run across the term “Troll”. Now in one aspect of my work I have to think about trolls, specifically intellectual property or patent trolls, and whether or not I actually want to become one, and in other aspects of my life I occasionally encounter trolls on social media, and even more occasionally I toy with the idea of buying a troll statue for my garden (they have a cult following almost as big as the pink flamingo garden ornament cult). Troll has become kind of a utility word that morphs into whatever one wants it to be. I mean, the original word that many of us learned came from Scandinavian folklore and described a mythical cave-dwelling being as either a giant or a dwarf, typically having a very ugly appearance. Jeez, that’s an eerily accurate description of some of my bandmates and bluegrass friends.

But think about this for a second, we have bluegrass trolls galore in our community. If one definition of troll is to “antagonize (others) by deliberately using inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content” or engage in the most outrageous and offensive behaviors possible—all the better to troll you with”, then all one needs to do is walk about the jams during the Father’s Day Festival. Listen carefully and you will hear conversations involving all sorts of trolls. I think one of the most common bluegrass trolls are the “attribution trolls” and they are obsessed with who did a song first and, even more importantly, what is the definitive classical bluegrass version. These trolls sometimes interrupt a rockin jam to expertly tell everyone that at that particular point in the song, in the definitive bluegrass version, first done by (choose your artist) there is a 1 cord and not whatever was being played. These trolls are closely related to the “crooked trolls” who insist whatever song being played is actually supposed to be crooked on the C part but only the first and third times through and crooked on the B part the second time through and crooked on the A part the rest of the time. And then there’s the jam-buster troll. These pickers go from jam to jam calling their favorite song….usually a very obscure tune and their routine goes something like “here’s a song ya’ll will like, it only has 5 cords and 3 parts and goes something like this” where they immediately launch into a 120 bpm rocket ride that leaves everyone looking at each other and wondering what to do. I’m actually quite fond of the J-B trolls, in spite of their nuclear bomb effect, because they often mean well and are some of the most enthusiastic pickers I have run across. I could go on, and maybe after this year’s FDF we can all get together on the CBA message board to categorize and list the different bluegrass trolls we observe in the wild. Kind of like a birding list, we could start something new in the bluegrass culture, a “troll list”.

So, during the festival you will find me trolling the campgrounds at Grass Valley, making notes on the species of bluegrass trolls that I observe, and at the same time trolling for new CBA members and volunteers. See you there!

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