The Infamous Stringdusters & Fruition 5.6.16

Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Morrison, CO

Words By J. Picard
Photos By J. Mimna Photography

There is something special about one's first Red Rocks show of the season. For many, the occasion marks the beginning of summer. We arrived at the Colorado landmark and pulled down into the second entrance box office where we secured our credentials. We met up with photographer and all around great guy, Jim Mimna, who would be shooting the show for MusicMarauders. Collectively we drove up, making a handful of turns down the small two lane roads leading towards the venue and it's upper lots. We arrived at Upper North, where we secured a spot, opened our hatchback, pulled out our chairs and began drinking an assortment of Colorado brews including Elevation's First Cast IPA and Crazy Mountain's Mountain Livin' Pale Ale. Jim headed down to the lower lots to prepare to head into the famed venue and as rain fell sporadically, we hopped into the car to avoid the incoming moisture. Throughout our time in the lot we we approached by folks registering voters, selling goods and friendly faces passing innocent smiles. The doors opened and a short time later Fruition took the stage triggering our climb into Red Rocks for what was sure to be a great evening of music!

We entered the venue through the upper entrance and in the distance we could hear Fruition getting started as we hit the restrooms and grabbed a couple of beers before heading down to row 50. At Red Rocks it's important to plan ahead, as the hike from the seats to the restrooms and concessions and back are lengthy.

With a solid early crowd in attendance, Fruition dug into a set of originals and covers that combined components of acoustic and electric music for a beautiful sound. The beginning of their set was relatively mellow and focused mainly on song writing and vocals with the intermittent trading of guitar licks. It wasn't bluegrass, it wasn't rock, it wasn't pop, but damn it was good. Fruition had a sound that was all their own and was accentuated by the guitar playing of Jay Cobb and the mandolin playing of Mimi Naja. About three quarters of the way through the set they brought out Jeremy Garrett of The Infamous Stringdusters for some added fiddle. Jay announced that they would do one more song, to the disappointment of the Colorado crowd. They announced that they would fit in two, triggering a large roar from the peanut gallery. They jumped into a fast-paced picking frenzy and finished with a song that was credited to Colorado's own, Tyler Grant.

Folks poured into Red Rocks hugging friends and high-fiving with excitement to see one of their favorite bands. An extended break following Fruition eventually translated into the Stringdusters taking the stage. With smiles on their faces and a frenzied crowd craving a dusting, the band began with "No More To Leave You Behind" off of their 2007 release Fork In The Road. Up next was Johnny Cash's "Big River," with a sing along ensuing and following Jeremy's lead. The ever-so-sweet "Summercamp" came next with Travis Book dragging his bass to the front line to contribute clean and well executed vocals.

The band brought up Nicki Bluhm as their first guest of the evening for "See How Far You've Come" off of their new album, Ladies & Gentleman. Her added vocals were beautiful and the harmonies among her and the band were near flawless. It was clear that they had just come off of an extensive tour and were firing on all cylinders. Nicki remained for another cut off of the new album in "Run To Heaven." An unexpected song came in the form of Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody To Love," with Nicki nailing the Grace Slick vocals. The Stringdusters returned to a five piece for "Peace of Mind," from their 2014 release Let It Go! The Instrumental "Sirens" made an appearance before the band welcomed their next guest to the stage. The band called Grammy-winner country music star Lee Ann Womack up for "I believe," a song that she performed on Ladies & Gentleman.

"Do you know what a dream come true it is to play with musicians like this?" Lee Ann said, as Andy Hall waved his hand at her as if to say "psh."

"The Way I'm Livin'," a song off of Lee Ann's new album followed in "Stringduster style." It was the most country sounding song of the evening, which featured hauntingly beautiful vocals and captivating instrumentation. It's not to suggest that Lee Ann should get a new band, but their collective sound was incredible. The Stringdusters returned to a five piece for "By My Side" off of Let it Go, followed by the classic "Tragic Life" off of Fork In The Road with Travis returning to the mic on both. The latter of the two, was a near ten minute rendition that included some wild and developed improvisation from a group of seasoned professionals. The relative traditional by Howard Tate, "Get It While You Can," came next as the crowd committed to another sing along. We made our way from row 50 center up towards the top of the venue for a big picture perspective. The crowd, though decent in size, only filled the venue about three fifths of the way.

Another instrumental followed with a quick pickin' "Black Rock" that had the crowd dancing wildly. In the middle of the composition the band broke into Phish's "First Tube!" I quickly realized that no one in our vicinity seemed to recognize the song. It felt lost on the bluegrass crowd, but was extremely cool none the less. The set wound down with the self-titled track off of Let It Go. Nicki Bluhm returned to the stage for Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" to close The Stringdusters set. When it came time for the vocal chant "you know our love will not fade away (claps)," the song seemed once again lost on the crowd who seemed aloof.

Overall the set was enjoyable and tight, reflecting a band on top of their game. With the proper pairing, the band should be starring down the barrel of their first Red Rocks sellout in 2017. Up next was JJ Grey to close the evening. With limited attachment to his music and the mountains beckoning for our return, we departed around 9:30 PM with a whole evening of relaxation in the mountains ahead of us. We headed up Coal Creek Canyon singing "So look up to the mountains, where an old dirt road ends, if you wanna see me again..."

Setlist: No More To Leave You Behind, Big River, Summercamp, See How Far You've Come, Run To Heaven, Somebody To Love, Peace of Mind, Sirens, I believe, The Way I'm Livin', By My Side, Tragic Life, Get It While You Can, Black Rock, Let It Go, Not Fade Away

Jim's Photo Gallery


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