The Lil’ Smokies 4.13.18

Aladdin Theater
Portland, OR

Words by Emily White
Photos by Coleman Schwartz Media

On Friday the 13th, the Lil’ Smokies treated us to one killer set at the Aladdin Theater in Portland, OR. They opened the show with “The City” off their latest album, Changing Shades. A song that you can’t help belt out at the top of your lungs – and I did. It was appropriate that their next song was “Winded” because I sure was from all the dancing and singing. Matt Rieger (guitar) and Jake Simpson (fiddle) really blew me away with their solos. From there we were taken on a Tom Petty journey when they covered “Learning to Fly.” It was a crowd pleaser and quite the sing-along. You would think the last show of a two-month winter tour the boys would be tired (I’m sure they were), but the energy on stage made it feel like we were at the tour opener.

After some covers and new songs “Cheating Kind of Life,” “Irish Goodbye,” “Feathers,” and ”Fortunes,” the band started playing “The Toothfairy” from their first album and jammed into the classic “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones. This jam particularly slayed when Andy Dunnigan (Dobro) and Jake Simpson were feeding off each others solos and had every person up dancing and especially during Matt Cornette’s banjo solo, my feet would not stop moving!

Towards the middle-end of their set we were blessed with my favorite three Smokies songs in a row – “California, “Might as Well,” and “Miss Marie.” As a recent transplant from California, this toe-tapping, hip-shaking song always makes me nostalgic for home, especially during these cold and damp months in Oregon. If the show had ended after “California” I would have been happy but once I heard Jake Simpson play the first note on his fiddle, I knew we were about to enjoy a melodious, “Might As Well.” This song should be every human’s mantra; take chances, go out and follow your dreams because you never know what is going to happen. The Lil’ Smokies incredible harmonies are what really grabbed my attention when I first discovered them. When I finally heard the harmonies of “Miss Marie” live, it sent goosebumps up my spine and caused me to have to catch my breath.

Throughout the whole show they perfectly blended their originals that we all know and love, new tunes that have yet to be recorded and plenty of covers everyone could get into. After “Miss Marie,” Matt Rieger took over on lead vocals and sang “Run to You” before Jake Simpson took a turn on “Dust in a Baggie,” by Billy Strings. With the way he plays it’s hard to believe that he’s only been a part of this band for a little over two years. During the cover, Scott Parker’s bass breakdown was one the best things I witnessed that night.

Ending the set with a new unrecorded tune, “Rabbit Hole,” you could tell the energy was high and that no one was ready for the show to end, including the band members. They came back on stage, popped a bottle of champagne in celebration of tour being over, and came at us with three banging encore songs. Starting with a Zeppelin cover, “Going to California,” into another fan favorite, their own “Decades,” and finally ending with “Gone at Last,” by Paul Simon. I could not have asked for a better night of music from The Lil’ Smokies.

I’ve fallen in love with not only The Lil’ Smokies music, but their charismatic charm onstage and witty banter. My favorite part of the whole show is that Matt Rieger (or the Beyonce of Bluegrass as Andy Dunnigan likes to call him) sings every word to every song with his hair blowing in the wind, even when he was standing away from the mic. He looks like he genuinely loves every moment onstage. It's moments like this that separate the Lil’ Smokies from other bands. They take you on a journey and make you feel like you are a part of their family. You could feel and see the love and energy exchanging from the band to the fans and vice versa. The Lil Smokies are smoking hot right now and definitely should not be missed!

Coleman's Photo Gallery

Setlist: The City, Winded, Cheating Kind of Life, Irish Goodbye, Feathers, Fortunes, The Toothfairy>Paint It Black, The Sequence, California, Might as Well, Miss Marie, Run to You, Dust in a Baggie, Rabbit Hole

Encore: Going to California, Decades, Gone at Last


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