Show Review: Billy Strings Nine-Night Streaming Tour 2020, Part 2

Show Reviews

Billy Strings Streaming Tour 2020 — photos by Jesse Faatz Photography;

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Billy Strings continued the 2020 Streaming Strings tour Wednesday night, sliding into a new venue, this time, the City Winery in Nashville. Having played two shows at the Station Inn, and prior to that, two more at the Brooklyn Bowl, it would seem that Apostol and his merry band of pickers have basically owned Nashville the past week. The music has been furiously inspired and the assembled special guests have simply been out of sight. This is one of the most fascinating bands in any genre right now to my way of thinking. For sure, they’re one of the most innovative and clever bands playing, and their ability to play this caliber music night after night is just insane to think about. Despite months off the road, it really seems the band has gelled back together rather effortlessly, and through these livestreams, given us an opportunity to watch it happen. So, lets take a look at the shows from the City Winery.

Wednesday night had the boys well rested (I assume), and roaring to go. On Monday night, Apostl had returned the favor to his friend, and sat in with Marcus King’s band for a couple of songs. With the venue change, there was also a different stream. Tonight’s streaming provider moved over to Nugs, and with an archive of shows under their belt, Hopes were high. Unfortunately, I had difficulties connecting, and missed the opening “I’m Still Here,” coming in after the segue into “Last Train to Clarksville> “Running.” Almost immediately, it was apparent there wasn’t an ounce of momentum lost from the days off. “Everything’s the Same” was a barely contained fire, threatening, but curiously kind of restrained. The foundations of the songs and the solos were tight, and the jams transitioning between certainly were spacey, but they were also noticeably structured. Things seem somewhat reminiscent to the last night at the Station Inn. Best part for me through the first set was watching Jarrod Walker pickin’ that mandolin like a madman all over the place. Just check out “There Is a Time” and Leftover Salmon’s “Down In The Hollow.” Even better, we’ve even seen Royal Masset rumble out a turn in the solo rotation during “Doing Things Right.” Together, Walker and Massett have seemingly joined forces this evening, carving out a funky piece of real estate all for themselves. Billy throws out a loving nod to his late pal Jeff Austin with cunning “Rundown,” before the set closing “Black Clouds” rolls in, and breaks down into epic status. Billy switches to an electric tone and pushes and nudges the envelope of psychedelia menacingly before handing off the controls to Billy Failing. “Failing” sets the controls for the sun, digging in on that five string banjo like no other. “Failing” is fun to watch, and particularly fun to see evolve. I’ve always been a banjo guy, and Failing is quickly becoming one I look to first to fill that need. The “Black Clouds” was one of my favorite versions to date and one hell of a way to close a first set.

Set two never skips a step, getting underway with“On the Line> ”Train 45.” They’re on tonight, and they know it. Walker got my vote for line of the night following the opening duo of songs by uttering: “Sir, don’t rush the stage”. Get it? Empty venue……anyway. Billy seems to really be enjoying the electric tone tonight, dropping it in prominently through a hot run-through of Widespread Panic’s“All Time Low”>”Midnight on the Highway” (Hot Rize). A nearly perfectly rendered “Sitting Here in Limbo” gives Royal another chance to shine, and ends up being one of my favorite cuts of the night. The traditional “Blue Mule” led to a bold and adventurous “Highway Hypnosis” that still has me thinking about it days later. Joining the festivities tonight, was Fruition’s Mimi Naja. Naja lent her talents for a tetrad of first-time played songs. First, Flatt & Scuggs’ “Don’t This Road Look Rough and Rocky?” then her own “Labor of Love”. Finally, they wrapped up the night with Gillian Welch’s “Caleb Meyer” and another dose of Jeff Austin love with “15 Steps.” A really solid show, start to finish, and a lot of fun.

Billy Strings
City Winery – Nashville, TN
Set 1:

I’m Still Here >
Last Train to Clarksville >
Running >
Everything’s the Same
There is a Time
Down in the Hollow
Doin’ Things Right
Rundown (Thanks to Jeff Austin)
Black Clouds

Set 2:
On the Line >
Train 45
All Time Low >
Midnight on the Highway
Sitting Here in Limbo
Blue Mule
Highway Hypnosis
Don’t This Road Look Rough And Rocky (1)
Labor of Love (1)
Caleb Meyer (1)(2)
15 Steps (1)
(1) with Mimi Naja
(2) FTP

Night two at the City Winery Nashville blew a bunch of minds, man. It also assuredly broke a few dreams of a no-repeat nine show run. Okay, I admit it, I was kinda bummed when the opening notes of “While I’m Waiting Here ” sounded, but c’mon. First of all, it’s a great song, and besides, what other band, so early in their career, can play 5 shows, 112 songs, at such ridiculous intensity and not have one repeat? I mean, that’s not just impressive, it’s down right nuts! On another note, I again had considered that maybe it wasn’t just “user error.” Apparently there were lots of issues, but like they say, the show must go on. I missed the the opening “Pike County Breakdown,” maybe an estimated five or six minutes of it, depending on how long they jammed out the song, Instead, I came in within the transition into the “How You Feeling Jam.” I probably didn’t miss much, but with this band, you just don’t know, and it’s worth it to absorb every minute you can. The nutty thing is, it’s completely understandable given the circumstances. The situation is fluid friends, with everyone still getting their stage legs under them, the stream providers as well. Still, I hope it gets figured out. But enough about that, we’re staying positive, and why wouldn’t we? Already, it’s apparent that Failing is on point tonight based on some epic early runs. Jim & Jesse’s “Airmail Special” dropped some heavy psychedelia with Billy swapping in that electric tone he was digging the previous night. Next up was that no repeat dream crushing, “While I’m Waiting Here.” Truthfully, it never gave you time to dwell on it, instead drawing you in as it puts on display just how much fun the guys are having tonight. Walker and Massat are steady in their roles, lighting a path for the others, and often times cutting the trail themselves. They’re in good moods, and Billy alludes to just that, comparing it to watching five episodes of Bob Ross. With the repeat barrier removed, they roll out “Long Forgotten Dream” before giving me all kinds of reasons to smile with robust version of the Hunter/Garcia classic “Dire Wolf.” The trippy explorations returned in a fiery “Dust in a Baggie” before “Enough to Leave’s” borders expanded to straddle a line somewhere between bluegrass and jazz. An adventurous “Home of the Red Fox” merged into a bold rollicking “Ole Slewfoot.” Just like that, this might be my favorite first set of the run. I guess we’ll see.

Set two began with a fun extended teas of “Uncle John’s Beard” a rousing “Must Be 7”, and an absolutely beautiful “Wild Horses.” Gordon Lightfoot’s “Cold on the Shoulder” (ala Tony Rice) and Billy’s own “Hollow Heart” were up next, before I got completely caught up in hypnotic spell that was the band’s take on Dylan’s “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power).” Seriously? That just happened? How do you follow that?Well, one sure way is to invite Greensky Bluegrass’ Dave Bruzza onstage. Bruzza dueled a little guitar and lead the band through a trio of Greensky songs, “Letter to Seymour,” an especially memorable “Reverend”as well as “Wings For Wheels.” Dave stuck around for the remainder of the set too, starting with Hartford’s “Get No Better” before all the fellas unleashed a filthy, tease filled “Pyramid Country” that nearly deified belief. Bill Monroe’s “Roll On Buddy” emerged from the other side, and just like that we came back to earth. Can’t wait to see what the Exit/Inn has in store for us Friday and Saturday finally wrapping things up on Sunday at 3rd & Lindsley. We all know that old adage, Never miss a Sunday show!

Billy Strings
City Winery – Nashville, TN

Set 1:
Pike County Breakdown >
How You Feeling Jam >
Airmail Special
While I’m Waiting Here
Long Forgotten Dream
Dire Wolf (1)
Dust in a Baggie
Enough to Leave
Home of the Red Fox >
Ole Slewfoot

Set 2:

Uncle John’s Beard (1)
Must be Seven
Wild Horses
Cold on the Shoulder
Hollow Heart
Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)
Letter to Seymour (2)
Reverend (2)
Wings For Wheels (2)
Get No Better (1)(2)
Pyramid Country (2)(3)(4)>
Roll on Buddy
(1) FTP
(2) with Dave Bruzza
(3) Don’t Lie tease
(4) Kerosene tease

Grasping a huge handful of integrity for the traditions, it’s pure joy watching the faces when it’s all clicking. Find more here:

I’d like to call out the Billy Strings Setlist page on Facebook. For someone still learning all the songs in the repertoire as well as the history behind them, it’s been a valuable resource and a friendly spot to drop in and research.. Thanks for doing what you do. Additionally, the Billy Strings Fanpage (Official) on Facebook is equally vital, and a fun growing community.

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