Magic: Investigating the Vibrations @ UWC2010


New member
May 15, 2009
Reaction score
This is stupid long, so read it or don't read it, but don't say I didn't warn you. . .


Reviews of the 2010 Ukulele World Congress tend to share a certain vocabulary: unbelievable, surreal, mind-blowing, magic. Why should this be so? On paper, does it seem amazing to learn that friends from the internet are made of flesh and blood and are able to move around the planet from point A to point B? On paper, is it incredible to think that some of our favorite YouTubers would play some of our favorite songs and that they would sound as sweet? Perhaps not. Ukulele festivals and get-togethers take place with some regularity, and skilled ukulele players sound great wherever they travel.

There is a temptation to attribute the power of the Ukulele World Congress to the collision of two worlds, the physical reality we all eat, work and live day to day in, and the realm of cyberspace where we’ve created a community built on common interests, evolving relationships, exchanged emails and shared videos. The two worlds collided, certainly, but I think it goes deeper than that.

The Ukulele World Congress became, for a short time its own universe, separate from the normal boundaries of space and time. It’s difficult to describe to those who weren’t there, but the UWC party field felt to me a sort of Narnia, or the island from Lost, a place that did not fully exist until we arrived, and a place that made the rest of the world seem somehow less real.

First, there is the remoteness of the location. Some folks came from Europe, some from Australia, and there were people from all over the United States. I think of MonkeysWithLadders, making the journey solo , chewing up miles and spitting them out back of his Triumph. I think of FourteenTwelve, who was tripping through time and space in such a way as to land in California some time BEFORE she left Australia. Everyone made their own trip, locking up homes and saying good-bye to family and co-workers, and it’s true that traveling great distances will serve to make the destination location seem more novel.

But I tell you this: Even the brief journey from nearby Nashville to the UWC party field seemed a worm hole, transporting the traveler from the known world through to the Congress. We traveled skinny, twisty, hilly country roads, the kind that would not forgive quickly a missed turn. It was rare to see another vehicle on these roads, and the way the trees crowded their shoulders and bent over their lanes added to the tunnel effect. Upon arriving, the feeling of isolation from society was total.

There was no cell phone coverage. This may seem a small thing, or possibly even a hindrance, but it was just another piece to the puzzle. No ringing phones marred the performances, or the quiet constant of nature’s own song. Conversations ambled along at their own pace, undeterred by the compulsion to check one’s email or facebook. This was an experience exclusively for the people who were there; sharing with the larger world would have to come later.

There was no light pollution. Clouds eventually claimed the night sky early Sunday morning, but for most of both nights, the Congress was treated to breathtakingly clear views of stars shining in numbers far, far greater than those normally seen by city dwellers. In the woods which served as the festival’s natural border, the show above was complemented by the endless pulsing of fireflies.

There was no schedule. This was no oversight, not a task simply left undone. When there is no schedule, it’s impossible to get behind schedule. It’s hard to overstate the significance this had on the general mindset. Take a moment to consider the changes in attitude that would take place at work if everyone was set free from the notion of being “on schedule.” When there is no schedule, there is no time. There was only “what’s happening now” and “what may happen later”.

These forces and others combined to impart a real sense of wonder to the assembly. Also, some were drinking heavily at times- an important factor not to be overlooked, but by no means common to everyone. And while it’s tempting to write that “everyone” was there, “everyone” clearly was not. The Congress was missing more than a few outstanding personalities, a shortfall that only the passage of time and next year’s opportunity can correct.

Anyone who’s seen the photos knows how many incredible souls were able to make the voyage, and meeting with everyone who was there was mind-bending. A peculiar feeling, akin to that of a class reunion prevailed. Only, members of this class weren’t assigned by ZIP code; this was a class of people that had chosen each other as teachers and friends, and the weekend’s sojourn served as way station on the journey that had begun some time ago and would continue for some time to come.

Also (to continue the metaphor just a bit further), if this was a class reunion, the school was a school for rock stars. The playing was as awesome as it was varied. It was constant and constantly rewarding. At times it was impossible not to be drawn to directly in front of the stage as heroes performed old and new favorites. Other times, the music from the stage, broadcast throughout the grounds by a sparklingly clean sound system, served as the perfect background to myriad satellite conversations. Side jams were struck up; anyone was welcome to join in at any time. Missed chords or forgotten lyrics were met not with shame, but with a shrug and a laugh (and as often as not, a vulgar improvisation).

While the players certainly occupied different tiers of musical ability, the people themselves were all on the same level: down-to-earth. There were a number of people there who I knew by face or reputation who did not already know me, but it seemed everyone was just as glad to meet me I was to meet them - a common circumstance at the uncommonly excellent Ukulele World Congress. A feeling of community held the day, with everyone sharing what they had with whoever happened to have a need. Food, drink, light, ukes, tuners, songbooks, inspiration, advice and hugs were exchanged freely and often. I think of Little 6ster showing LonnaB how the French hand roll their cigarettes or NatalieLin6 treating Dirk to his first Twinkie.

And so it came to pass that by 3am on Sunday morning, with the rain that had threatened all weekend finally falling (and even then, only lightly), the Congress still would not end. More than one time over the weekend it was observed by more than one person that it was criminal that “real life” could not be as easy and friendly and rewarding as the Ukulele World Congress. Everyone in attendance was acutely aware of the fullness of the moment. We’d stepped through a porthole and entered a truly magical world, playing, living and laughing together in a way that could not, would not be recreated at any foreseeable time in the future. Time was slipping past, the alcohol was running out, the obligations of Monday beckoned, but still we played on.

Finally, when the remaining UCB-ers dragged Adelle and Little 6ster out by their ears, the company was reduced to mainly those camping on site, and Lonna and I made our way to our hotel to catch a few hours rest before returning to Indianapolis to collect our children and our dog, leaving the magic behind.


I can’t say enough about Mike and the quality party he threw. Met lots of awesome people and had an incredible time! Thanks to everyone, from Mike and the MCs, to the players and crowd. That was one kick-ass time. Can’t wait for next year!
Last edited:

Finally, when the remaining UCB-ers dragged Adelle and Little 6ster out by their ears,....

Wish I had witnessed this.

Thanks for the great commentary, your renewed acquaintenceship, the UWC 2010 sticker and the totally awesome grilled cheese sammich!!!
Great post ukeyermind!

It was wonderful to have met you.
You are an excellent writer. This desribes it perfectly!!! A truly magical weekend, and I can't wait to do it again.
I had thought I would write a review of UWC2010 myself. Now I don't need to. Great post, great weekend, and great having met you. Hope I can do it again next year (and the next, and the next)....
Wow, what a wonderful capture of the weekend. I can't express myself how amazing it was. Thanks so much for that, it was beautiful!
That's awesome, ukeyermind! You summed it up perfectly!!! I think the only thing that snapped me back to reality during the magical weekend was occasionally hearing people say to each other "... and what is your name in real life?"
Last edited:
On my facebook page, I wrote that "the stories from UWC are almost not worth telling because there's no way to explain in words all the little details that made it so freaking incredible." Well, you just did an excellent job explaining what some of those details are and why they were so important to the complete utopia of the experience. It was amazing to meet you and hang out with you this weekend! You're right to say it was magical :D
Thanks for the feedback, everyone! Such a "time in a bottle" weekend - think I'm still coming down.