A Weekend With The Infamous Stringdusters 8.2 - 8.4.13
Words & Photos By Kevin Hahn (Split Open & Shoot Photography)
What do you do when a planned event whether important or not, does not go exactly how you wanted it to? I am talking about something that has been talked about for months, discussed for hours, and even causes a debate about just how awesome it really is from time to time. What am I speaking of you may ask? Well, in my life there are few things that are as special as a weekend spent with The String Cheese Incident in their home away from home, Horning’s Hideout, Oregon. Unfortunately, this year I was not able to financially make the trip work, so I watched as packs of my Cheese Phamily/Friends prepared for the journey and take off down that Cheesy Road. So what to do now? Well, to save the day the amazing state in which I now live in (Colorado) was able to entice one of my absolute favorite bands to come down our way and grace us with their musical brilliance. Not only did they save the day, but also I am pretty god damn sure what I witnessed over those three days was some of the truly best live music I have seen in a very long time.
This was my first time seeing a show at State Bridge. I attended YarmonyGrass a few years prior, but the festival was held up the road at Rancho Del Rio. Arriving to a packed house of smelly wook’s and Colorado music loving freaks is always a good sign and from the looks of how ready people were to rage this was going to be an awesome weekend. Located directly across from the Colorado River, the State Bridge live music experience is truly one not to be missed whenever the chance arises. The venue, now rebuilt after previously burning down, is beautiful and feels like it was meant to be there all along. Incorporating the natural beauty of Colorado, the close proximity to the river (and the Amtrak train-tracks), and having some of the best star-gazing sky you will ever see are just some of the highlights of seeing a show at State Bridge. For me personally, seeing one of the best bands going right now only made the trip more worth the weekend endeavor and just solidified how much I love our Colorado music scene. This particular Stringdusters run was part of their American River’s Tour, which was a specially planned collaboration with the nation’s leading river conservation organization, American Rivers – currently celebrating its 40th anniversary – to raise money and awareness for protecting and restoring rivers and clean water nationwide. Making this State Bridge run even more special was the fact that the Colorado River was just named the most Endangered river according to the American Rivers Foundation, so all the more love for the Stringdusters doing their part in helping our great state of Colorado and it’s incredible natural beauty.
"17 Cents," "Don’t Think Twice," "It’s Alright," and an insane dedication to two newly engaged friends in the crowd were thrown in the first set with such force that the musical beauty was almost too much to handle. Mr. Andy Falco provided vocals for "Don’t Think Twice" and "It’s Alright," which just about made every woman in the audience fall to their knees as if his guitar skills weren’t enough. The man is a musical machine and the precise timing of each guitar pick or strum is so perfect it would make Billy Nershi cry in appreciation. A well-timed and definitely well-received Police cover of "Walking on the Moon" was a definite highlight and once again proved that these jam-grass playing gentlemen could play pretty much anything if they set their mind to it. As night one wore on, the Infamous Stringdusters continually blew the minds of each person in attendance. It was becoming quite obvious that this weekend was not going to be just a typical trip in many more ways than one. Not only was I surrounded by hundreds of die-hard Duster fans, but also most of the people attending the State Bridge shows were just ready to rage at all costs. This created a very fun, yet rowdy crowd that if you weren’t careful could distract you during the show due to the excess noise and horseplay. But with pieces such as "The Hitchhiker" the Dusters were able to capture that sense of ready to rage energy and put on a clinic of musical epic-ness.
As the band exited the stage and all of us hippies filed out of the State Bridge Amphitheater in anticipation of night two, only pure excitement and joy could be felt. There was not an upset, angry, or disappointed person in sight as the Dusters had truly blown people's minds with their jam-grass perfection. So how in the hell would they back up this performance? Well, starting off with "In God’s Country" for night two isn’t a bad way to try and upstage night one as Andy Hall and his dobro played each note with such beauty. Other than Anders Beck from Greensky Bluegrass, Andy Hall is the most impressive dobro player I have ever laid eyes on, and I would be inclined to say that he is, along with Beck, leading the charge to take over Jerry Douglas’ throne atop the world dobro rankings (If there is such a thing). "Well, Well," "Night on the River," and a new Andy Falco song "If I Had a Block of Wood" made their respective ways into the first set of night two and all featured Mr. Falco taking the lead and seamlessly conducting the group through a variety of chord changes and tempo progressions. The bluegrass staple and John Hartford classic, "Steam Powered Aeroeplane," was sung by Travis and featured all five members of the group with small solos throughout. Song after song it was evident that the Duster boys had not decided to take it easy for night two and I was pretty sure that Jeremy Garrett was going to break his fiddle in half at one point during the set.
"All the Same," "My Destination," and "Lovin You," which are all Duster songs, made their way into the second set and each let a different member of the band take their turn at lead vocals. Whether it was Jeremy Garrett, Travis Book, or Andy Hall belting out the lyrics to the respective song, they each have a beautiful and unique voice which plays perfectly into the way the Dusters do things. They are a group of five insanely talented individuals who have come together for the common good of us all and decided to make music together for hopefully a good while to come. What comes next is hard to put into words... for a tribute to the father of jambands Mr. Jerry Garcia and his August 1st day of birth, the Dusters decided to do a run of Grateful Dead/Jerry songs that would make any DeadHead proud. The songs included "Deep Elem Blues" > "Let It Go" > "He’s Gone" > "I Know You Rider" > "Jack-a-Roe." This run of songs was pure bliss in my opinion. The vocal harmonizing during "Let It Go" brought the crowd to a silent halt as the five voices combined to make one of the best versions of that song truly come to life. It was awesome to see the Duster boys take songs that so many people know, love, and appreciate while putting their own spin on it and doing it their way. It was an amazing sight to witness, and I am sure that Mr. Garcia was smiling down upon us dancing hippies while his famous lyrics rang up to the insane amount of stars above.
I am ready to roll and head out on Duster tour. I am sold on this band, 100%. For a band to take my mind off the despair of missing the magic of Horning’s Hideout is a tough thing to do, and the Dusters not only made me not miss being at Cheese, but they made me forget about it completely. The Infamous Stringdusters are one of the most talented quintets on the scene right now, and I promise they will be here to stay. Do not miss them at Cervantes on September 13th as it will be one hell of a journey.
"Night on the River" opened the second set and seemed to fit perfectly with the Mish now having re-opened the river section of the venue to much delight from its paying patrons. The Dusters seemed to not miss a beat on night three of this American River Tour and the last two nights up at State Bridge didn’t seem to have left them too tired to rock it the fuck out. "I’ll Get Away," the Grateful Dead classic "Let It Grow," and "Uncle Pen" got the Fort Collins crowd rocking and rolling with varying solos coming from Andy Falco on one side and Andy Hall on the other. "Walking on the Moon," another cover (by Police), provided Travis with a vocal platform and let him mesmerize all of those in attendance. I couldn’t help but be continually impressed with each performance the Dusters gave. Even though they were playing some of the same songs from the epicness of State Bridge, it felt as if a new spin was being put on them. With Pandolfi and Andy Hall leading the way for most of the night, the Dusters charged through their second set with a Sunday night ferocity that is very uncommon for traditional bluegrass bands. Sunday’s are known for being a slow and calm evening, but with the Dusters that was the complete opposite of what took place.
"You don’t know where you’re going, and you don’t know where to go." These lyrics stayed with me throughout the weekend, as I really do think at the moment I did know where I was going. I was going to two of the most epic music venues known to man to see one of the most talented and exciting bands going today. As well, was going to hang out with one of my best buddies and enjoy what Colorado had to offer. What a weekend, what a trip, and what a journey. Just make sure to take a chance and let it go...
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