Last night in front of a packed house at The Saint Rocke club in Hermosa, California, Greensky Bluegrass continued to put a footprint on bluegrass in 2012. Some have dubbed it newgrass in the same company as the talented Punch Brothers and Cornmeal but I just dub it some damn fine music. The band formed in 2000 in Michigan played a fierce two + hour show, including a 2nd set that had a few head-turning jams.
I first saw the band about 4 years ago and to this day they’ve stayed in the “See them whenever they play within 50 miles” category. A High Sierra Music Festival staple the past few years, the band has proven with countless sets they are in a small group of musicians willing to take a risk night in and night out. Their eclectic catalog was on display in Hermosa with a focus on their album released late last year, Handguns. Despite some sound issues in the first set, where the vocals were tough to hear the band pressed on delivering a jam-worthy 2nd set. A cover of Duran Duran’s Hungry Like a Wolf was one of the highlights, showing us how well an 80’s pop tune can translate to bluegrass.
What seems to set Greensky apart from what our parents and grandparents remember as bluegrass is the use of certain effects on the mandolin, guitar and dobro. Still sticking within their traditional bluegrass roots, Dave Bruzza (guitar) and Paul Hoffman (mandolin) take the jams into more psychedelic territory, easily festering into a familiar cover or original song of theirs. The improvisational element is at an all-time high and you can sense the influence the Grateful Dead had on their live performances especially in how much effort they put into crafting a unique show each time out.
They wrap up the month of April with a show in San Diego @ Winston’s on Saturday night and a set at the Stagecoach Festival in Indio, CA on Sunday. After a short break they are back on the road with stops at Summercamp, Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and the High Sierra Music Festival with a slew of shows in between and after. Check to see if they are coming to a town near you on their tourdates page.
Here are a few photos I took from last night (@phortin) :