Monday, December 31, 2018

The Infamous Stringdusters & The Drunken Hearts 12.30.18 (Photos)

Saturday, December 29, 2018

The String Cheese Incident w/ Sam Bush & Darol Anger 12.28.18 (Photos)

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Billy Strings 12.21.18

Asheville Music Hall
Asheville, NC

Words by Jason Mebane
Photos by J. Scott Shrader Photography

The Billy Strings Asheville show was sold out. So sold out that three hours before the doors even opened there were thirty people waiting in a line in the freezing rain. They were hoping to get their hands on one of the dozen or so tickets that the Asheville Music Hall was re-releasing. It was a very different scene than my first Billy Strings experience, when fifty or so people showed up to see a fairly unknown bluegrass guitarist playing in a Seattle backyard venue dubbed The Spotlight. It's amazing how much things have changed for Billy in just the last few years. Back then he was playing in a trio with mandolin player Don Julin. Now he is fronting his own four piece band that is turning heads, blowing minds and creating a plethora of new fans everywhere they perform. One thing I found interesting was how many people seemed to have traveled to attend tonight's show. I personally talked to people that had come from Atlanta, Ohio and Indiana to join in the fun. When people are willing to travel that far to watch a band play it is quite a testament to how good the music really is. As we were in line waiting for the doors to open we were joined by a fleet of Asheville Fire Department trucks lining the street in front of the Music Hall. I couldn't help but wonder if the trucks were on hand to put out the fire Billy Strings was about to light inside.

Billy and his band took to the stage at exactly one minute after 9:00 PM for the first of their two sets. It didn't take long for them to begin their attempt at blowing the roof off The Asheville Music Hall. By the second song, "Pyramid Country," off last year's Turmoil & Tinfoil release, the crowd was already in as much of a frenzy as Billy's hands were as they worked their magic on his guitar strings. The instrumental gained momentum and intensity until it eventually climaxed, and seemingly out of nowhere, dropped into a version of "Bird Song." The Deadhead filled crowd was smiling and dancing as Billy and bass player Royal Masat harmonized wonderfully on the heart tugging Robert Hunter lyrics. It was then mandolinist Jarrod Walker's turn to shine as he led the band through a fiery version of "New Camptown Races" that at one point detoured into the classic bluegrass tune "Unwanted Love."

At this point in the program the quartet expanded to a quintet as the band welcomed Hot Buttered Rum fiddler, and Asheville resident, Zebulon Bowles. The thirty minutes that followed was the kind of music that is quickly making Billy one of the hottest things on the bluegrass/jamgrass scene. The four song medley of John Hartford's "I'm Still Here," Billy originals "Thirst Mutilator" and "Dust In The Baggie" and The Dead's "Deal," was so intense I couldn't help but cross my fingers that the Asheville Fire Department was still on stand-by outside.

Many people cover John Hartford, but very few are brave enough to add their own verses to his classic tunes, but Billy wasn't scared. He added a few lines that sounded like they could've easily been a new verse to the upcoming "Dust In The Baggie."

"My cigarettes are gone and so is my money.
So are all my nerves and all my teeth.
My hair is falling out & I'm getting skinny.
My friends are either dead or on relief."

The interplay between "Zeb" and Billy during the instrumental "Thirst Mutilator" made it seem like they'd been playing together for years. It was evident that the band was enjoying the collaboration as much as we were out on the sticky, sweaty dance floor. "Dust In The Baggie" has pretty much become one of the biggest jam vehicles of Billy Strings' repertoire and tonight's version did not disappoint. I mean a Bluegrass song about today's drug epidemic that weaves it's way through head-banging heavy metal AND reaches the deepest depths of psychedelia? How could you not love this song? Especially a version that eventually makes it's way into quite possibly the fastest and jammiest version of "Deal" in the history of the world. Normally I'm not a fan of set breaks but tonight it was not only welcome, but also very needed. As the band brought the first set to a close with a trippy vocal jam to end "Deal" the crowd seemed happy to have a few minutes to pick our jaws up off the floor and catch our breath before the second set.

After a short twenty five minute break the gang came back from the break firing on all cylinders. They opened with a smoking version of "On The Line" before settling into a second set that relied heavily on cover songs. The first cover of the set was a beautiful version of Mac Wiseman's ballad "Shackles And Chains." Billy Strings may be known for fast energetic bluegrass picking, but he used this song to prove to everyone that he hasn't forgotten the traditional roots of the music he plays. His vocals on "Shackles And Chains" paired with the minimal lilting instrumentation behind them would not have sounded out of place on an old bluegrass album from the 1950's. Banjoist Billy failing was then given a turn under the spotlight as he led the band through a version of his own song "So Many Miles."

The most crowd pleasing moment of the night followed. As Billy strummed the familiar opening guitar part of "Midnight Rider" the crowd erupted with euphoria. The version itself was very short, sweet and to the point but that didn't stop the entire crowd from singing along in unison at the top of their lungs. The jubilation didn't stop there however as they followed "Midnight Rider" with "Freeborn Man." Billy masterfully took his time with the intro, playfully picking little runs on his fret board in between his drawn out vocals on the first few lines before dropping into a version that was played at break neck speed. Each band member took turns trading solos and seemingly attempting to outshine one another. Sensing we may need another cool down they lowered the intensity a notch and broke into a beautiful banjo driven version of Billy's own "While I'm Waiting Here."

Another pair of covers "Train, Train" and "Lonesone L.A. Cowboy" were up next before Mr. Bowles re-emerged with his fiddle in tow. What followed was fifteen minutes of "Meet Me At The Creek" that at times got so psychedelic I'm not sure it could any longer have been categorized as Bluegrass music. It got so rowdy that, afterwards, the crowd was left almost collapsing into a communal heap on the floor of the Music Hall. Even Billy seemed extra pleased with the performance as he remarked before the encore "there is sawdust falling from Royal's bass...he played the shit out of it."

After a quick traditionally played encore of "Roll On Buddy, Roll On" we found ourselves at the end of an amazing evening. Billy and his band came to town and led us on the type of journey that very few performers could pilot. He worked the room so masterfully you kind of forgot he is just in his mid-twenties. My hunch is that this will be the last time Asheville gets to see Billy Strings in a "small venue". I foresee that as the days roll on and as more and more people experience moments like these his fan base will grow exponentially. Thank you Billy, please hurry on back to Asheville. We will be waiting.

Scott's Photo Gallery

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

MusicMarauders Best of 2018

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats 12.19.18 (Photos)

The Ogden Theatre
Denver, CO

Photos by Laura Collins (Lateralus Photography)

View Laura's Full Photo Gallery Here!

Friday, December 21, 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: The Motet's Death Or Devotion

Words by Brad Yeakel (Opti Mystic Outlooks)

In the world of music, funk has undergone a unique evolution. It’s history extends into the future and the past simultaneously. From funk samples in rap to funk leanings in rock and roll and country, funk’s sensibilities are as influential as any style in music history. In modern years, a true funk renaissance appears to be in full swing as bands like Vulfpeck, Turkuaz, The New Mastersounds, and The Motet are staples of a live music scene that extends to venues and festival stages nationwide. In Colorado, funk’s home team has been anchored by Boulder-based collective, The Motet for years.

Death or Devotion
, their latest effort, sounds like a musical time capsule that was contributed to by heavyweights like Teddy Pendergast, The Neville Brothers, Zapp and Roger, Tower of Power, and Earth Wind and Fire. As The Motet’s lineup has morphed, it’s core still hangs on the timely drumming of Dave Watts, the impeccable bass of Garrett Sayers, and the tasteful artistry of guitarist Ryan Jalbert and keywizard, Joey Porter. With more recent changes in vocalists and horns, Parris Fleming (Trumpet), Drew Sayers (saxophone), and Lyle Divinsky (vocals) have inspired a vintage authenticity that makes them all the more unique in an era where a lot of funk has been moving towards an electro-future-funk vibe.

The first song, “Highly Compatible,” is prototypical Motet, spanning the funk gamut. The blend of sounds incorporates disco, funk, electro-funk, and soul, and it reads like a groove encyclopedia. Evocative of “Disco Inferno,” the main theme paired bouncy bass lines with smooth vocals and vintage production. Divinsky’s vocals on this track are quintessential soul, almost a little too light for my tastes, but vibrant and polished.

“Whatcha Gonna Bring,” has had some exposure already this year as Headcount used it to support their “get out the vote” mission. This track is more my speed than the album’s opener. Divinsky’s vocals had a little more grit, muscle, and depth. Also, understated guitarist, Ryan Jalbert delivers thrills with his fills, even if he says, “pocket pays the bills.” The fact that this solo is one of very few I’ve ever heard him take is a testament to the “group” mentality of the band. Everyone serves the whole over themselves.

“The Jokes On Me,” asserts itself quickly as a bass driven number with tight horn arrangements that create a multi-layered groove. This tune sounded closer to a Lettuce jam than a Motet one, but that line is blurry already.

The title track was the first tune on the album that featured Joey Porter’s keyboard flash. Porter’s sound shares a lot with Zapp and Roger’s mercurial synths. When he takes the lead, aural confetti fires from laser cannons as auditory disco balls bathe Studio 54 in light.

As if each tune was designed to showcase a different member, “That Dream,” kicked off with Dave Watts’ signature snap on the drums. This might be my favorite track on the record. Everyone in the band is firing on all cylinders. I have other observations I could convey, but they all seemed trivial next to the fact that my 2 year old son smiled at me and started to dance when the tune hit. Kid tested, father approved!

“Get it Right,” launches with aggressive funk bass. The composition of this song rests heavily on Garret Sayers’ bass. Each other element works around the bass line in an interlocking pattern of happy noises. I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge the obvious similarity to Parliament Funkadelic’s, “One Nation Under a Groove,” as well. The resolution of this song is exemplary psychedelic funk. It doesn’t get much better.

“Kneebone,” is a sludgy, thick, heavy type of thang that immediately reminded me of the funk rock fusion of “Faith No More.” While the Horns dragged the tune away from the alt-rock vibe, the bass and drums continued down the path of 90’s industrial funk (perhaps a sub-genre that doesn’t exist, but should because of this song).

By “Supernova,” the full arsenal of musical weapons have been introduced, and the rest of the album has a casual confidence. This track in particular has a bit of a Jamiroquai vibe. Near the middle of the song there was a vocal section that really reminded me of the layered harmonies of some of Parliament’s choral arrangements as well as newer phenomenon, Childish Gambino.

“Contagious” is quintessential Motet. The production is smooth and consistent with everything they’ve released. The vocal layers, horn arrangements, driving rhythms, and expert mastering fit together like the gears in a ‘64 Impala.

If “Contagious” drove like a 6-4, “Speed of Light” is when the hydraulics and disco ball engage. This song has serious digital effects, futuristic UFO synths, ripping guitar, and a relentless groove that carries this intergalactic hooptie into the great beyond.

Death or Devotion is an apt title. With their lineup changes, musical history, and longevity, the only reason they haven’t “died” is their devotion. It is evident in this impressive and tenured effort. The sturdy foundation on which this band was built still stands, albeit with some remodeling. This album fits nicely in their catalog and cements them as stalwarts of funk’s new era.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Trey Anastasio 12.15.18 (Photos)

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Travelin' McCourys & Pick and Howl 12.15.18 (Photos)

Monday, December 17, 2018

Trey Anastasio 12.14.18 (Photos)

Macky Auditorium
Boulder, CO

Photos by Derek Miles (Miles Photography)

View Derek's Full Photo Gallery Here!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Allen Stone & Nick Waterhouse 12.7.18 (Photos)

Gothic Theatre
Englewood, CO

Photos by Charla Harvey

View Charla's Full Photo Gallery Here!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Warren Haynes' Christmas Jam 12.8.18 (Photos)

US Cellular Center
Asheville, NC

Photos by Paul Stebner

View Paul's Full Photo Gallery Here!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Thom Yorke & Oliver Coates 12.11.18 (Photos)

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Sunsquabi 12.7.18 (Photos)

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Warren Hayne's Christmas Jam 12.7.18 (Photos)

Monday, December 10, 2018

Warren Haynes' Christmas Pre-Jam 12.6.18 (Photos)

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

California Honeydrops 11.28.18 (Photos)

Boulder Theater
Boulder, CO

Photos by Charla Harvey

View Charla's Full Photo gallery Here!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Billy Strings 12.2.18 (Photos)

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Elvis Costello 11.25.18 (Photos)

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Boogie T & Griz 11.24.18 (Photos)

Monday, November 26, 2018

Leftover Salmon 11.24.18 (Photos)

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Boogie T, Lessko & Duffy 11.23.18 (Photos)

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Generation Axe feat. Vai, Wylde & Malmsteen 11.13.18 (Photos)

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Lettuce with Colorado Symphony 11.10.18 (Photos)

Monday, November 19, 2018

Voodoo Dead 11.11.18 (Photos)

The Fox Theatre
Boulder, CO

Photos by Derek Miles (Miles Photography)

View Derek's Full Photo Gallery Here!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Voodoo Dead 11.10.18 (Photos)

Friday, November 16, 2018

Suwannee Hulaween 10.25 - 10.28.18

Spirit of Suwannee Music Park
Live Oak, FL

Words by Charla Harvey
Photos by Derek Miles (Miles Photography)

Hulaween is a festival that words just can’t do justice. (But I’m going to try). This is only their sixth year, and they sold out! First of all, Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida, is absolutely beautiful. The 800-acre park is open year-round, and Hulaween only uses about eight acres of it for the festival! We were surrounded by Spanish moss-draped oak and cypress trees. The ground was mostly sand, which helped absorb some of the rainwater better than mud would have. It rained the first two days, but then it was mostly sunny in the day. It got cold at night, but most campsites had fire pits that were well-utilized. Hulaween advises people to pack for all types of weather, and thank goodness for that!

Spirit of Suwanee had amazing art installations that are only put in for this festival. There are giant wooden creatures like trolls and tree people. There was a wooden spider that you could crawl into from the backside. Spirit Lake has affectionately and aptly been referred to as a “psychedelic playground.” And though it’s fun to look at in the day, at night the art literally lights up, and it is mesmerizing. The lake has glass lotus flowers on lily pads that are lit up, and there is a hologram displayed in the middle of the lake that mostly said “Hula 2018,” but sometimes had other messages. There was a fox that breathed fire from its mouth and a gigantic flower that lit up. Someone hooked a keyboard up to the flower, and it started emitting electric waves from the top.

Also by the main stage, there were huge letters spelling “HULA.” They were solid yellow during the day but at night they displayed videos. Sometimes it just showed moving designs but other times it showed a skeleton ripping another skeleton’s head off.

Onto the main attraction! Hulaween graced us with four days of music (including the pre-party on Thursday). The impressive and generous lineup had a good variety of music genres. They had Vulfpeck, Jamiroquai, Janelle Monae, Mavis Staples, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Sound Tribe Sector 9, Lettuce, Turkuaz, Garaj Mahal, Wood Brothers, Galactic, Medeski, Martin, and Wood, Knower, Trevor Hall, The Revivalists, and of course String Cheese Incident (who had seven sets!), just to name a few! This lineup was genuinely a gift.

Turkuaz dressed up as each other for their set. Shira Elias, who usually wears yellow, wore red. Josh Schwartz, who usually wears purple, dressed up as yellow. He even dyed his hair for this!

Of course Jamiroquai was a main attraction, seeing as they are from London and rarely play in the US. All day Saturday you could hear festival-goers saying “Happy Jamiroquai Day!” to their friends and anyone who passed by. One person even had Jamiroquai’s lead singer Jay Kay’s face as their totem! Jamiroquai is an acid-jazz band that formed in 1992. The name Jamiroquai stems from the lead singer’s passion for the Iroquois tribe and Jam music. He changed the spelling of Iroquois then combined the two names. Jamiroquai’s set was definitely unique. Jay Kay wore his iconic Automaton helmet, which fit well with the Halloween theme of this weekend. You can get your own here! Psymbionic and Clozee both had sets during Jamiroquai, but it seemed like the entire festival was at the main stage for Jamiroquai.

String Cheese’s sets were all different. They had a Halloween-themed one, and they had one set that focused on female empowerment. They brought out multiple different female singers to help sing covers.

Janelle Monae’s set left the entire audience speechless. That woman is a powerhouse. She exudes confidence and appreciation for the feminine. She also took the time to encourage and plead for the audience to vote in the upcoming election.

Trevor Hall brought a loving vibe. The audience was hugging each other throughout the set.

Vulfpeck brought their usual energy and sense of humor. They played at the same time as Tipper, but they still had quite a big audience. Cory Wong and Antwuan Stanley also graced the stage, lucky for us!

Members of Lettuce made guest appearances on multiple stages throughout the weekend. They played with Galactic, Vulfpeck, Break Science, and more!

Besides music, there were opportunities to do yoga, guided meditations, receive sound healing from gongs, pick from multiple silent discos, engage in conscious breathwork, etc. Kyle Hollingsworth also had his very own craft beer tent called “Kyle’s Craft Beer Corner.” They had over thirty different beer and cider options! They had multiple tastings and jam sessions. There was even an ENO station set up where people could just lay in hammocks. There was also a Ferris wheel by the main stage. Like most festivals, of course, there were plenty of shops and places to get food.

Being so close to Halloween, most people dressed up in costumes. What a joy to have four days to wear costumes! I even heard some people say, “I already had my Halloween,” when being asked what they were doing for October 31. Many people obviously put a lot of effort into their costumes. There was a girl dressed up as Marvin the Martian. One man wore a Mr. Peanut costume that he’d handmade out of cardboard. There was a group of friends who wore “Vote for Pedro” shirts, and one of them dressed as Pedro and one was Napoleon Dynamite! They busted out their dance moves when Jamiroquai played "Canned Heat" (featured in Napoleon Dynamite). There was also a group of friends who dressed up as the toy aliens from Toy Story, and they had the claw as their totem! Countless people donned onesies, many of which came from the seemingly mandatory pre-festival trip to the nearby Walmart.

Hulaween advises on their website: “If you are planning to celebrate by dressing up in a costume at this year’s Hulaween, consider the impact your decision might have on others. If your costume is racially, ethnically, or culturally based, ask yourself why you are choosing to wear that costume. What message are you sending? What is your intent by wearing that costume, and what might the impact be? If you do not belong to that group of people, we strongly encourage you to pick a different costume so as to respect and be inclusive toward all festival attendees." For the most part, it seemed that people heeded this message!

The security ran like a well-oiled machine. When entering the festival grounds (from the campgrounds), everyone had to have their bags checked and had to scan their wristband against a reader that lit up green to show it was valid. Security was very vigilant in making sure each person scanned their wristband. They were also always available to help when needed. Hulaween even had their own radio station you could tune to in order to facilitate smooth entry to the grounds. Also, the Hulaween app was very helpful. You could pick which sets you wanted to go to, and the app would alert you fifteen minutes before the set. You could also see which of your friends were planning on going to that set too. They also send notifications to changes, like alerting us that Action Bronson canceled his set!

There were ample spots to camp. Many people decorated their campsites or their RVs with unique decorations—often Halloween-themed. The decorations and lights helped people know they were in the right spot. It would have been helpful if there were more signs indicating where the different stages were and where the various camping sections were (A-J).

As for the environmental impact, I do wish they had better options. There didn’t seem to be anywhere to compost, and most drinks came in plastic cups. Many venues have switched to compostable cups, and I hope such a huge festival as Hulaween will follow suit soon. The trash receptacles seemed to be constantly overflowing, and there were not ample opportunities to recycle.

Overall, Hulaween is an outstanding festival. There is enough variety that each person can find something they will enjoy. The music, environment, people, art, and costumes make this festival one of the best!

Derek's Photo Gallery

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Voodoo Dead 11.9.18 (Photos)

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

VetsAid 11.11.18 (Photos)

Tacoma Dome
Tacoma, WA

Photos by Eric Willacker (Willacker Photography)

View Eric's Full Photo Gallery Here!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Slightly Stoopid 11.11.18 (Photos)

Monday, November 12, 2018

Soja & Twiddle 11.4.18 (Photos)

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Consider The Source & Genetics 11.3.18

Hodi's Half Note
Fort Collins, CO

Words & Photos by Nicholas Stock (Fat Guerilla Productions)

Colorado is a wonderful place for live music. It’s just that simple. The majestic beauty of the Front Range coupled with its convenience as a stopping point for any given tour means we are utterly flush with concerts most nights of the week. That also means sometimes shows don’t get the attention they deserve. There was maybe a hundred souls in and out of Hodi’s Half Note on Friday night. The fact remains that given the caliber of music on the stage this show should have been a sell out. Consider The Source is a wild ride through progressive jam music with a focus on the sounds of the Far East. Genetics puts on an utterly distinctive concert experience taking viewers on a sonic journey through a myriad of musical landscapes.

Set One: Now That’s What I Call Music, Hexagonal, Harlequin, Space Peach> Massive, Air Blower, Moose

Genetics offered up a fresh batch of tunes including some that will be featured on an unannounced, forthcoming album. They started the night with a classic switcheroo during “Now That’s What I Call Music.” Jeff Ervine abandoned his guitar trading places with Nat Snow who normally plays drums for an extended opening jam. The music was deep and dark from these road tested veterans. Phil Johnson, the most recent member of the band, on keys was on point throughout the show. The tune “Hexagonal” was possibly a nod to their own name, but regardless it was a psychedelic circus jam featuring some gritty bass work from Mr. Joel Searls. This is obviously a new Genetics with fresh material ready to go. They wrapped up their powerhouse set with an unbelievable rendition of Jeff Beck’s “Air Blower” followed by a massive “Moose.”

Consider The Source, the self described “Sci-Fi Middle Eastern Fusion” band, is a power trio hailing from New York City. They are a full frontal musical assault on the senses. Gabriel Marin plays a double neck fretless guitar with an unbelievable array of pedals and effects at his feet. The sounds he creates live are unheard anywhere else. John Ferrara uses a slap style on the 5-string bass that is mesmerizing while drummer Jeff Mann holds it all together.

Set One: Moisturize The Situation, I’ll Fight for the Imp, It Is Known, Tihai For The Straight Guy, Sketches From A Blind Man, You Won a Goat!, Complex Complex , Unfulfilled and Alienated, Keep Your Pimp Hand Strong*

Encore: Absence of a Prominent Tooth**

*Bass Solo
**Drum Solo

They opened with the space plink-o jam “Moisturize The Situation.” Did I mention they have the best names for songs? “I’ll Fight for the Imp” was a pulsating rock tune punctuated by stellar work form the rhythm section. “It Is Known” was a bit of a breather before the rapid fire jams during “Tihai For The Straight Guy.” This song was the first time it felt like there was an actual sitar in the room… but there wasn’t one present. I checked. Marin has the ability to morph his sound into anything and that includes the music of the Far East coupled, extraterrestrial, Surf, rock, funk, and so much more. He is all over the map and I mean that in the best way possible. “Sketches From A Blind Man” was an ethereal jam anchored by Ferrara’s heavy bass lines. “You Won a Goat!” featured the undeniable talents of Mann behind the kit. Consider The Source would be an excellent Bar Mitzvah band if all of the kids were on acid… that’s the thought I had around this point in the show. Mann utilized a series of samples and effect pads during “Complex Complex,” before the entire band went insane on a new track entitled “Unfulfilled and Alienated.” Ferrara treated us to an extended bass solo into the show wrapping space funk tune “Keep Your Pimp Hand Strong.” Consider The Source returned to the stage to encore with the soaring CTS classic “Absence of a Prominent Tooth.” Consider The Source is a truly unique experience. Simply put, there are no other bands out there doing what they do. They are consummate musicians with a deep knowledge that manifests itself onstage in the form of jaw dropping jams and ridiculous solos. Consider The Source is an incredible way to spend an evening; I highly recommend checking them out.

Nicholas' Photo Gallery

Friday, November 9, 2018

Billy Strings & Sammy Brue 11.1.18

Portland, OR
Revolution Hall

Words by Mitch Melheim
Photos by Coleman Schwartz Media

Less than two years ago, Billy Strings was playing a small bar in Portland named Bunk Bar, known more as a sandwich shop than a music venue. In fact, it was the first and only time I’ve ever seen a concert there. Twenty months later, he returns to town for his first headlining performance since and sells out the 850-person Revolution Hall on a weekday with Greensky Bluegrass playing just a mile away. This about sums up the fiery and flamboyant picker’s rapid rise toward the upper echelon of his genre. Never have I seen a bluegrass (or jam) musician catch on so quickly with the masses. It is unprecedented, yet well-deserved.

Opening the night was seventeen year-old singer/songwriter, Sammy Brue, who Rolling Stone recently labeled an “Americana prodigy.” At eleven years old, Brue was already sharing the stage with artists like Lucinda Williams and Asleep at the Wheel. In the years since, he has toured and recorded with Justin Townes Earle and was even featured on the cover of Earle’s Single Mothers record.

Brue was backed by a minimalist two-piece band that tastefully accented his scintillating story telling. The setlist was comprised almost entirely of original songs except for a noteworthy cover of Wilco’s “Jesus, Etc.” The best part of his whole set, or perhaps the entire night as it only continued once Billy Strings stepped on stage, was the predominantly older audience looking at each other in awe of what these young kids were able to pull off.

Strings & company didn’t ease into anything, opening with the blazing instrumental, “Pyramid Country,” and segueing directly into “Little Maggie.” Strings’ prison love song “While I’m Waiting Here” followed and is one of the better examples of his surprisingly great songwriting ability. Gaining popularity early on due only to sheer talent, mainly playing covers and bluegrass standards, it wasn’t until he finally released his debut album, Turmoil & Tinfoil, that the bluegrass world found out how good of a songwriter he was.

“Slow Train” and “Thirst Mutilator” went on to highlight the middle of the first set, with the latter bringing the most energy. That was until the set finale of Johnson Mountain Boys’ “Unwanted Love” and “Turmoil & Tinfoil,” the title track on Strings’ debut album. “Tinfoil” all but defines the Billy Strings sound. A little bit bluegrass, a little bit psychedelic, and above all else, dark as hell.

“Paul & Silas,” the Josh White tune made famous by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, provided the most excitement in the first half of set two with Strings’ ominous social commentary on “Dealing Despair” a close second. The Grateful Dead’s “China Doll” then took the show into a decidedly psychedelic direction and would’ve easily been the jam of the night if it weren’t for the always-raging “Meet Me at the Creek” that came later on. The “China Doll” performance was special though because it showed how Strings can play slow, emotional music just as well as he can rip it. In my opinion, that made this the most impressive display of music I saw from him all night.

“Dust In a Baggie,” the first original tune most people heard from Strings and still the catchiest to this day, came toward the end of the set and eventually led to an “On The Line” encore. “On The Line” is his 2018 version of “Eyes of the World,” speaking on behalf of a misunderstood generation’s lifestyle. The way he weaves these meaningful songs in and out of face-melting jams and deep psychedelia is reminiscent of fellow Michiganders Greensky Bluegrass, Strings’ “mentors,” if you will. We now know the heights in which that formula has taken them, but the question is; can Billy Strings take it even further? Well, he damn near outsold them on this night in Portland. There is no telling what the future holds for this kid.

Coleman's Photo Gallery

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Mac Sabbath & Franks and Deans 11.4.18 (Photos)

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Yak Attack 11.2.18 (Photos)

Rhythm & Rye
Olympia, WA

Photos by Eric Willacker (Willacker Photography)

View Eric's Full Photo Gallery Here!