A few years back, I was lucky to have been present more than a handful of times at the Cantab Lounge’s Bluegrass Pickin’ Party in Cambridge, MA. The weekly jam session featured some really solid musicians from the Berklee School of Music, one of which was my good friend Chris Pandolfi.
Chris now holds down the banjo spot for an amazing young bluegrass band, The Infamous Stringdusters. I had the incredible pleasure to see the Stringdusters for the first time a couple of weeks ago and man, was this show a long time coming. Bluegrass is such an amazing genre of music: unadorned to the general listener, but below the surface the music is layered and remarkably complex. The Stringdusters played to this description of the genre perfectly during their show at the Old Town School of Folk Music on a beautiful Sunday night in Chicago. Take a listen to some of the tunes from the night throughout the review.
The show itself was amazing, helped by the fact that the Old Town Folk Music School was built specifically for acoustic music (though no pics allowed, sorry). The sound is perfect and there’s not a bad seat in the house. The Stringdusters maintain a playful atmosphere while on stage, sandwiching tunes with shout-outs to family & friends and playfully poking fun at one another. When the band does get down to business, it is only that; every single member of the band is a complete bad-ass at the instrument in hand and they let it fly when given the chance.
The band opened up with a tune from their upcoming self titled album called “Glass Elevator”. The song featured strong soloing from dobro player Andy Hall and guitarist Andy Falco, with bassist Travis Brooks on vocals. The band then slowed it down for the next few songs, allowing for some really nice harmonies on vocals, and showing off some of the band’s versatility.
The crowd was again treated to a new a song which wound through a Civil War story. The remainder of the first set was an excellent mix of some traditional covers and songs from their IBMA winning debut album, Fork in the Road. The guys move seamlessly between soloing and none of them ever fail to garner a hoot from the crowd at the end of a jam.
The second set opened things up to some heavier jamming by the Stringdusters. Getting dirty right off the bat, they pulled out a crowd favorite, “Fork in the Road”, for the second song. Guitarist, Andy Falco killed his solo during this song, riding the low end of the guitar until the crowd gave a holler. Falco has been a really great addition to the band with his charging style. He owned the seconded set, continually making my jaw drop with his riffs.
For me, the highlight of the night was the closer “Moon Man”. Maybe because its a tune written by a good friend but this is an incredible piece of music that really opened up in the live setting. The tune is definitely on the more complex side of most bluegrass songs. For anyone who has listened to a lot of Bela Fleck, the similarities in composition are remarkable. The band jammed on the song for a good bit and left the stage at the highest point of the night. Thanks to the Stringdusters and Old Town Folk Music School for the great evening, I only wish I could spend all of my Sundays just like this.
The Glass Elevator
Poor Boy’s Delight
Three Days in July
She Won’t Be Coming Back
Dream you Back
Lonesome as It Gets >
Fork in the Road
G Grass ?
The Way I See You Now
Travelin’ Teardrop Blues
Get It While You Can
You Can’t Handle The Truth
Thanks to Tapecat for the tracks and setlist…