Two weekend-long musical festivals almost back to back? Two cities taken over? How could you not come away wanting to make some comparisons and more importantly declare an overall winner? So I decided on a few categories of comparison and wanted to run through them with Cara and decide which festival did it better. To be completely honest I would go to both again this weekend if I could. This is not to take anything away from either the Gentlemen of the Road Stopover or the IBMA Bluegrass Wide Open events but why not compare one to another and see who did it better?

  • The Music line-up?
    [Anthony – #TIE / Cara – #WOB13] How do you beat Mumford & Sons, John Fogerty, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes? You can’t. But you also can’t top Del McCoury, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas, Mark Schatz, the Punch Brothers, Danny Paisley, Ronnie McCoury, Jason Carter, Alan Bartram, Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers. I am going to call this one a draw with a slight favor for Wide Open Bluegrass. I can’t take anything away from either but it is hard to top the talent that was on stage in Raleigh.
  • Music venue? (Francis Field vs. Red Hat Amphitheater)
    [Anthony – #WOB13 / Cara – #WOB13] Francis Field was better dressed than Red Hat but the seats and the extremely courteous staff makes Red Hat my pick for better venue. Both venues had a great downtown location with a lot to do outside the gates so it wasn’t an easy decision but even if they were completely equal Red Hat would have won on their excellent beer selection.
  • Host city? (St. Augustine vs. Raleigh)
    [Anthony – #GOTRSTAUG / Cara – #UNDECIDED ] So comparing St. Augustine (oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement in America) and Raleigh isn’t fair. St. Augustine is a beautiful city with a remarkable history and a ton of landmarks. Unfortunately Raleigh has another couple hundred years before they catch up with that. This one goes to St. Augustine. Raleigh is great and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else but as far as places you want to visit it doesn’t rank quite as high as St. Augustine.
  • Reception from the host city?
    [Anthony – #WOB13 / Cara – #WOB13] When we left Florida my one hope for Wide Open Bluegrass was it would receive the same reception that Gentlemen of the Road did in St. Augustine. I think the reception was different but definitely great in Raleigh. The two cities were similar with several stages around the downtown area with free music but Raleigh shut down their main street (Fayetteville) for the celebration. I think both cities brought their ‘A’ game but Raleigh wins on the magnitude of their performance.
  • Hashtag? (#GOTRSTAUG vs. #WOB13)
    [Anthony – #GOTRSTAUG / Cara – #GOTRSTAUG] So #GOTRSTAUG is short but very informative – #WOB13 not as much. I would love to see next year’s hashtag incorporate the location – maybe #RALWOB?
  • Festival icon? (Moustachioed Lighthouse vs. Banjo playing Sir Walter Raleigh)
    [Anthony – #GOTRSTAUG / Cara – #GOTRSTAUG] So mustaches took over St. Augustine – every store, bar, everywhere – the lighthouse being what I would consider to be the main icon. Unfortunately Walt dresses up for almost every large event in town. I am going to give this one to GOTR. I would love to see Raleigh have a contest next year to bring more Wide Open Bluegrass icons around the city – cover the downtown with banjos? That will put you over the top.
  • Ticketing system / package?
    [Anthony – #GOTRSTAUG / Cara – #GOTRSTAUG] This is another one that GOTR takes by a mile from the early emails to the passports to the check-in / check-out arm band tickets. Every component leading up to the show built anticipation for the show. WOB fell short by comparison with only day of arm bands and not a lot of certainty on whether or not we would be able to go in and out on the day of the show. Everything worked out but GOTR communicated the expectations much better.
  • Festival merchandise?
    [Anthony – #GOTRSTAUG / Cara – #GOTRSTAUG] Another big win for GOTR. WOB was really short on merchandise selection stopping at t-shirts and posters. GOTR had pins, patches, shirts, posters and a variety of unique memorabilia for the show and the individual bands.

Final analysis?
[Anthony – #WOB13 / Cara – #UNDECIDED] I am going to go with function over form and select Wide Open Bluegrass as the better show. I think Gentlemen of the Road had a lot of the rough edges smoothed off but the enthusiasm of Raleigh and the line-up give it a slight edge. Since it appears Mumford & Sons may be “taking a break” there may not be another Gentlemen of the Road Stopover but I am really looking forward to the next two years of Wide Open Bluegrass. I expect they will sand off a few of the rough edges and if this year is any indication we may have this festival for years to come. Another couple of years of this? I see nothing to complain about.