Two Nights of Greensky Bluegrass 3.1 & 3.2

The Fox Theatre
Boulder, CO

Words & Photos By Kevin Hahn
Audio By Phil Rollins

Greensky Bluegrass Live at Fox Theater on March 1, 2013.

After living in Colorado for the past six years, I have started to realize that finding a true local of this great state is quite difficult to do. I came here to attend CU Boulder for college (like many others) and fell in love with the city, state, and culture as my college years progressed. Born and raised in the Bay Area (California), I craved a new adventure, new scene, and especially new music when I was choosing between the various colleges I was accepted to. So when I chose to move to Boulder, Colorado I expected native Coloradoans to be everywhere, but I quickly found out this was not the case at all. Boulder, much like other big cities in Colorado has been taken over by us “Transplant Natives.” We bring our cultures, our sayings, and our quirky traditions to the Rocky Mountains and then decide to never leave because Colorado is just where we are supposed to be. From what I have seen in the past six years, the two states that have transplanted the most people from their respective homelands are California and Michigan. Both states bring with them an array of their cultural necessities and thankfully great musical roots are one of them.

I was lucky enough to see an awesome Michigan band come through town this past weekend, Greensky Bluegrass. This bluegrass quintet has really hit its stride in the past couple of years extending their tours to the far coasts on each side of the United States and being featured in many festival lineups across the country. They even made it onto the exclusive Jam Cruise boat this year and rocked our world with a variety of covers, guest sit-ins, and surprise performances. This past weekend at the Fox Theater in Boulder was no different as the Kalamazoo-born group ripped through bluegrass classics such as “Can’t Stop Now,” “Broke Mountain Brokedown” and “How Mountain Girls Can Love” with beautiful timing and exquisite string transitions which reminded me of what the String Cheese Incident used to sound like. Each night had a variety of unique and downright awesome covers, which included “Midnight Rider,” “Where the Streets Have No Name,” “Boogie on Reggae Women” and my personal weekend highlight the Coolio hit “Gangsta’s Paradise.” As I watched Ryan Montbleau (the weekend’s opening act, who has an amazing voice) belt out the high notes as the Michigan boys ripped those rap chords apart on their respective string instruments, a perfect harmony was formed and the crowd’s appreciation was well noted.

Each time I see this band from the state of Great Lakes I fall deeper and deeper in love with their sound, especially Paul Hoffman’s powerful voice. The lead singer/mandolin player has a commanding presence on stage and his string picking skills go hand in hand with the beautiful voice he possesses. With Paul leading the charge each member of the band has a unique way to contribute to each song. On night one of the Fox Theater run, dobro player Anders Beck was highlighted in many of the songs and the distinct twang of his magical instrument bled through the Fox speakers like an open wound. With every finger pick made Anders gained the attention and adoration of more and more young Boulderites who yearn for good bluegrass whenever they can get it. Standing next to Anders is guitar player David Bruzza and his amazing mustache. Not only does Mr. Bruzza have great facial hair, but also his guitar skills and vocal capabilities fit perfectly with this quintet and were quite evident throughout the entire weekend. Heading up the rhythm section (as there is no drummer) is stand-up bass player Mike Devol. Much like his counterpart Travis Book of the Infamous Stringdusters, Mike does a great job at keeping the band on track and even steps up to the microphone once in awhile to let out some beautiful deep vocals. Michael Bont is the banjo player via stage right and his animated playing style easily brings a smile to any on-lookers face, as does much of the music this quintet produces each night.

Greensky Bluegrass Live at Fox Theater on March 2, 2013.

As with any recent Greensky Bluegrass show I left the Fox Theater wanting more goodness, more bluegrass, and especially more vocals from Paul Hoffman. Even though they didn’t play my favorite cover “Road to Nowhere” by the Talking Heads (Yarmony a couple years ago was amazing due to this group), I can proudly say that I have fallen for these Michiganders. I have seen them in a variety of settings, venues, and festivals without ever walking away disappointed and I truly hope this continues as these guys along with the Stringdusters are going to be the new faces of jam-grass. In my opinion it would be a travesty to miss Greensky open up for Galactic at the mighty Red Rocks Amphitheatre this summer, as I will most certainly be there raging with the thousands of other Michigan transplants to move here recently. All you have to do is look for the Bells Brewery bottles or Red Wings attire and those Michigan kids stick out like sore thumbs. Luckily most of those hockey loving, perch-eating, and bluegrass dancing fools are pretty awesome people, and one thing is for sure they come from a land of Green Sky and Blue Grass!

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