I Am a Stranger- New Release for The Infamous Stringduster’s Jeremy Garrett

Wintergrass 2010 performer Jeremy Garrett of the Infamous Stringdusters new release on Sugar Hill Records  “I Am a Stranger” is going to be available on March 31st, 2009.  The cd features members of The Infamous Stringdusters, Jamie Dailey,Julie Elkins, Abagail Washburn & Shawn Lane.

Jeremy will be at Wintergrass 2010 playing fiddle and singing with The Infamous Stringdusters. Early Price tickets will be available until April 16th 2009. And if you have not filled out the Wintergrass Survey it is still available at the Wintergrass Website.


Wintergrass Survey-Win A Pair of Tickets for Wintergrass 2010

The Wintergrass 2009 Survey is still available on the Wintergrass website.  Wintergrass would love to hear from you to help them improve the festival. There will be randomly  awarding  one pair of tickets to Wintergrass 2010 to one lucky  person who fills out the survey.

Wintergrass 2010 Early Tickets are also available on the site until April 16th, 2009.

Wintergrass and The Hotel Murano-Interview Leads To 24 Hour Jamming!

main10Thanks to all of you who completed our Wintergrass post-festival survey. We mean it when we say we value your input. We’ve read every single comment, both positive and negative, and take all of it to heart.
First, let us gratefully acknowledge the overwhelmingly positive comments about the festival. Many of you heaped all kinds of praise on our volunteers, the friendly, cheerful atmosphere, the variety of music and the overall quality of the event. Thank
you.  This year we also received an exceptional number of complaints about the Hotel Murano. These complaints extended beyond the people who actually stayed at the hotel and emanated from many sources. While many folks had an entirely pleasant experience at the hotel, many didn’t and threaten never to come back again. We heard a lot of dire warnings about this being the last Wintergrass ever.
Of course this is of grave concern to both the festival and the hotel. We sat down with the management and staff of the Hotel Murano and had a conversation about your concerns. Tom Ebner and Karol Teague have been with the hotel during the entire history of the festival and have always worked closely with us. This kind of conversation is possible because they really are part of the Wintergrass family. We’re grateful for their very hard work on our behalf.
The following conversation involved multiple members of both the festival and hotel staffs and is a compilation of meetings over the last several weeks. Although this is quite lengthy, we invite you to read on and take a front row seat as we both respond to you, our friends, our family, and our community.

For those of you who’d rather just hit the highlights, here’s the short version:
24 hour jamming returns
jamming and quiet floors established
likely reduction of required 3 night stay
credit card only to secure reservation

they love us, they really do
The Interview:

Wintergrass: “We want to first thank you for really listening to our community and taking the time and energy to thoughtfully address the concerns raised. We’ve worked with most of you for the entire 16-year history of Wintergrass and count you as friends and members of our community. We know you care about this event and about the people who come. And we know that your business is hospitality so understand that when people say they do not feel welcome at the Murano, that strikes right to the heart and soul of what you are about.”
Hotel Murano: “We love you guys! Really, we do. You are a completely unique event and the highlight of the year for our entire staff. We love the people and the music and always look forward to Wintergrass week. We’ve undergone an enormous transformation over the last two years and have had tremendous challenges as we shift from one identity to another. However, you’re right, at the heart of our business and our passion is a desire to take care of people and make them feel comfortable and welcome. No matter what the physical transformation, caring for our guests is at the heart of who we always have been and always will be.”
Wintergrass: “Give us a little history. What happened two years ago?”
Hotel Murano: “The Sheraton was purchased by new owners who decided to change the hotel into a boutique, destination property. These owners are known for their visionary work with other properties in Seattle and Portland at the Hotel Max, Hotel Deluxe and other NW venues. Each hotel is designed around a theme. The Murano obviously takes its cue from the importance of glass art in Tacoma. The hotel underwent a $25 million dollar renovation and features art from all over the world. The hotel was
barely done when Wintergrass 2008 happened.”
Wintergrass: “We remember! We saw the furniture coming out of the boxes on Monday and Tuesday of Wintergrass week. And we remember the wallpaper guys were still set up on Friday afternoon on the 4th floor right in the middle of that good jam space. I think our favorite story from that year, though, was the glass guys getting the doors to the Fitness Center installed 30 seconds before the dobro class started for the Academy.”
Hotel Murano: “We really didn’t change anything in 2008. We know you. You are our best clients. We didn’t anticipate any problems at all.”
Wintergrass: “Neither did we. We’d worked with you all year, changed a few things around, but really, just figured things would go smoothly, as they always do.”
Hotel Murano: “Indeed. The reality is, a huge amount of damage was done to the new furnishings, the fresh paint and some of the art. Every piece of new furniture in the lobby had to be sent out for repair or replacement. And it felt to us like the crowd had changed. It caught us off-guard.”
Wintergrass: “We know. It caught us off-guard too. Our fans have always been self-regulating. We hire Bob the cop and call it good. But in 2008 we know there were a lot of problems and very bad behavior. We were embarrassed. But we also know that 99% of our fans are great.”
Hotel Murano: “We know that too. But as we considered 2009 we had to figure out a way to protect our investment while still creating a welcoming atmosphere for the Wintergrass community. We couldn’t risk the amount of damage suffered in 2008. We figured one of the best things we could do was to make sure that the hotel was full of true Wintergrass fans. We never worry about those folks.”
Wintergrass: “That’s where the 3 night minimum, pay everything in advance idea came from right?”
Hotel Murano: “Yes. We give over the entire hotel and convention center to the festival. We’ve never charged for space rental because we expect that the festival will fill the hotel. Most years it has with no trouble at all. In 2008 we had a huge number of last minute cancellations, which meant a lot of rooms were empty. That’s bad and we didn’t want that to happen again.”
Wintergrass: “Of course, we understand that.”
Hotel Murano: “We meant well. We set up that requirement not to punish the best folks, but to make sure we got the people who really, truly wanted to be here. But it turned out to be a bad idea. We realize that. Next year, we will likely drop the required stay to 2 nights and are simply requiring a credit card to secure the reservation. No big payment in advance… There will be a cancellation fee of one night room and tax if a reservation is cancelled less than 30 days prior to arrival.”
Wintergrass: “Thank you. In this economy particularly, that adjustment to something simpler is much appreciated. We are not raising prices at all this year and in fact are extending the super-early-bird rate so that more folks can get in on that deeply discounted ticket.” Wintergrass: “Let’s talk about jamming. We know the hotel endured an unreasonable amount of damage in 2008. None of us wanted to see that repeated and certainly the festival is in no position to pay for such damage. So we
worked with you all year to come up with a plan that would be both safe and welcoming. We had a lot of arm-wrestling over how to do that and didn’t land on a final solution until about a week or so before the festival.”
Hotel Murano: “Yes, that’s right. We started with no jamming in just about any public space and came all the way to jamming just about anywhere except for a couple of sensitive places.”
Wintergrass: “We know we sat around the table with you many times last year talking about how to make this work for both of us. On paper the final plan seemed ok to us. What happened that made some people so upset?”
Hotel Murano: “Well, our intention was to simply protect the art and make sure the front desk people could hear and service guests as they checked in. Rather than worry about the lobby furniture, we ultimately decided to simply remove it. Although it took us a long time to get to this point, we decided that it was ok for people to jam in almost the entire lobby. We think the signs confused people somewhat. Our intention was to allow jamming everywhere but the bar area and the space right in front of the reservations desk. Everywhere else is ok. Just like it has always been.”
Wintergrass: “Let us just jump in here for a second and say that although we know people have always jammed wherever they wanted to, some places really are off limits. Anyplace that is a fire exit or affects the overall health and safety of everyone in the building really has to be kept clear. We understand that.”
Hotel Murano: “Yes, that’s true. So back to why some people got really upset. We did not ever want to make people feel like they were unwelcome or second-class citizens. In fact, originally we were going to hire a bunch of security guards to keep watch over things. Ultimately we decided that really was overkill. Instead, we simply relied on Bob the cop, your guy, and two other security guys, plus hotel managers. Our intention was simply to watch and enjoy what was going on. We also thought it would
be a good idea to close down the lobby at 2am so that our staff could clean the facility and get ready for the next day. We didn’t realize how offensive it is to jammers to be asked to move. We really thought we were being nice, most of the time, but actually learned a lot about the culture of jamming this year. Honestly, we didn’t realize we were making people mad. You guys are always so nice it’s hard to tell sometimes when you’re upset! We are also aware of a couple of unfortunate instances where
our people were not as nice as we’d like them to be. We apologize and will do better next year. ”
Wintergrass: “In many ways, you’ve spoiled us over the years. The freedom to jam anywhere, anytime, all the time, has become one of the main reasons people come to the festival. It is immensely important to us and to our fans that the tradition of jamming be respected and preserved. It’s a fundamental part of who we are. That said, we also respect your need to protect your space and so are happy to work with you to come up with workable ways to have the hotel and festival cultures
peacefully co-exist.”
Hotel Murano: “We think that is entirely possible and truly do want the festival, your fans and all the jammers to be here and know they are welcome.”
Wintergrass: “Do you think you over reacted a bit this year?”
Hotel Murano: “Yes, absolutely. I know people felt like we were hovering over them, and I suppose we were. But the good thing about that is the entire hotel management staff really got to SEE the real festival for perhaps the first time. And it was great. It reaffirmed in our minds that your people are the best and with a couple of tweaks to our policies we can make things better for everyone next year.”
Wintergrass: “Such as?”
Hotel Murano: “First, we’ll establish jamming and quiet floors. When guests make their reservations we’ll ask which they prefer. That should take care of most, if not all, of the noise complaints.”
Wintergrass: “You know, we were surprised to learn that Wintergrass people were making complaints about other Wintergrass people. Apparently there are those in our midst who actually like to sleep. Who knew? Earplugs people, earplugs…But we suppose quiet floors and jamming floors are a better solution.”
Hotel Murano: “Second, we’ve learned that it’s just not cool to move a jam. It breaks the energy. We  get that now. So, jamming will be enjoyed 24 hours a day. We’ll work with you to set aside plenty of good space for all night jamming. As long as people are not being destructive, we won’t bother anyone.”
Wintergrass: “Cool. We know that there will still be a couple of areas that will be set aside for nonjamming. People will respect that. We also know that jamming is not the problem. Alcohol is. Drink in your rooms. Buy a beer at the bar. But don’t bring a cooler full of booze into the lobby and set up camp. Not cool. Many festivals have a no-alcohol policy. We’re not going there because we know our people are good and want to pick way more than they want to drink. We’ll go to the mat to defend jamming privileges. But drinking…y’all know the rules.”
Hotel Murano: “The management and staff at Hotel Murano truly do look forward to the event and the familiar faces. We want you to know we heard you and we’re trying to make a difference for future festivals. There were difficult situations on both sides this year and I believe we are on the right track to making Wintergrass the best music festivals of its kind. We hope you’ll come back in 2010 with the expectation that it will be better than it ever has!”
Wintergrass: “We’re planning on it. Thanks!”Thank you for reading. We hope that you’ll take advantage of discounted ticket prices and get your Wintergrass 2010 Weekend pass before April 16th. Everyone who does so will be entered into the room reservation drawing for rooms at the Murano or the Courtyard Marriott. If ordering online be sure to email and let us know your hotel preference. Thanks for letting us know what you think. And thanks for listening.

Some Friends of Wintergrass Tour the Pacific NW

Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum who just played Wintergrass 2009 have a few shows in the Pacific NW area. Check out there website for details. http://www.laurielewis.com

Sometymes Why whose members have all played Wintergrass in the past with there “day jobs” will also be in the Pacific NW area this week. Kristin Andreassen (Uncle Earl), Aoife O’Donovan (Crooked Still) & Ruth Ungar Merenda (The Mammals) tour together whenever they have some time off. Crooked Still will be back at Wintergrass 2010! http://www.sometymeswhy.com