Greensky Bluegrass, The Civic, New Orleans
Jazz Fest in New Orleans is a wonderful place to be a music fan. After eight hours of music taking place at the fairgrounds, you may find a couple dozen shows within walking distance of your hotel. I was lucky enough to have Greensky Bluegrass playing within a block of where I was staying. I had barely listened to their music and I knew next to nothing except they had quite a reputation as a progressive bluegrass band. If this band was as good as their reputation, I was bound to have a good time.
Greensky Bluegrass is a five piece band founded in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2000. Members Michael Arlen Bont [banjo], Dave Bruzza [guitar], Mike Devol [upright bass], Paul Hoffman [mandolin/vocals]) and Cris Jacobs [guitar], filling in for Anders Beck [dobro], who was on leave due to a family emergency, performed two sets of electrifying music with a visual backdrop not usually seen in the genre.
The Civic provided a perfect setting for the band. The attentive bar staff, relaxed security, and space to dance leant a surprisingly pleasant atmosphere. It felt like an intimate private party with a great light show for the close to capacity crowd.
“Jaywalking” started things off and then “Screams” allowed the band to explore the psychedelic and improvisational hallmarks of progressive bluegrass. The band’s performance was nothing like their recordings. Songs were often drawn out to ten minutes consisting of aspects of jazz, rock, and bluegrass. The entire time the band was backlit in a kaleidoscope of reds, purples, and pinks. Cris Jacobs was an integral part of the band’s sound. This was his third performance with the band, and the guitarist seamlessly weaved in and out of each jam. Over two sets the band played for close to three hours weaving in and out of songs.
The band’s reputation as a progressive bluegrass powerhouse is well earned. Pleasantly, the focus was never on an individual band member but rather the music being made. The familiarity and admiration between the band and audience reminded me of the early String Cheese Incident scene. It was refreshing to be in that environment. I entered The Civic as an inquisitive spectator and the band easily converted me to an impassioned fan.
Intro, Jaywalking, Screams, Give A Shit, All Four, Monument, Be My Stars, Worry For You > Don’t Lie
Intro, Past My Prime, Bone Digger, New & Improved, In Control, A letter To Seymour, Grow Together, What You Need, Kerosene, E: Reason To Stay