Words by: Tim Markham
Greensky Bluegrass :: 02.29.08 :: Stage Stop :: Rollinsville, CO
Greensky Bluegrass rolled into Rollinsville for a show on Leap Day 2008 and what transpired can only be described as epic. Shows like this are what make the Stage Stop special for fans and musicians alike. The night started off with a 30-minute set of solo acoustic work from former String Cheese Incident frontman Bill Nershi. He treated the early arrivals to a nice version of "Good Times Around the Bend" (dedicated to his visiting nephew) and a rocking version of the Allman Brothers' "Jessica." We would see much, much more of Nershi as the night progressed.
Greensky wasted no time getting down to business, opening with a tight and ripping version of "Radio Blues." Strong banjo work from Michael Bont got the show off to a bouncing start. From there, the band moved to the more traditional sounding "Hoxeyville," which featured some extended instrumental breaks for the entire band. Next up, we were treated to the excellent harmonies on the lover's lament "Can't Make Time."
In bluegrass music it's nice to see bands recognize their roots and play traditionals, and when they also branch out and convincingly adapt rock/pop tunes to the genre you know you're dealing with some real pickers. The middle of Greensky's first set did not disappoint as they tore through a traditional version of "Sittin' On top Of the World," an adaptation of Bruce Hornsby's "King Of the Hill" that made this longtime Hornsby fan smile, and a nice up-tempo version of "Hard Hearted."
When the band dove back into their catalog of originals the energy never subsided. The fellas then invited "their good buddy Billy" up to the stage for a great little run to close the set. Starting with Greensky's instrumental "Hot Dogs (On Parade)," Nershi and the band were clearly well rehearsed and in good spirits. Next up, they tackled Dolly Parton's "Those Memories Of You," a tune that I had seen Nershi perform recently with the Emmitt Nershi Band. This slower version was superior to earlier readings I had seen, benefiting from Greensky's energetic backing. The tempo picked up for a crowd pleasing closer of "Groundhog" into a breakneck romp on Bill Monroe's classic "Wheel Hoss."
Herman & Nershi with Greensky Bluegrass
For the second set the band came out with strong a cappella harmonies to open their version of the Talking Heads' "Road to Nowhere." Local boy Anders Beck added strong dobro before the band came crashing back into the final verse to loud cheers from the crowd. Next up was Beck's composition "Broke Mountain Breakdown," a fast and furious instrumental that included great instrumental breaks from banjoist Michael Bont. Follow-up "Old Barns" fit the setting perfectly given that the Stage Stop is a converted barn, celebrating its 140th year in 2008.
Then, the band welcomed Bill Nershi back and the rest of the set was relentless – great picking, great song selection and topflight guest appearances. Nershi took over vocals for "Is It True That I Lost You," which included more great dobro work from Beck. A fiery version of the old time fiddle tune "Gold Rush" followed with Beck noting the ironic absence of an actual fiddle on the stage. Mandolin player Paul Hoffman was first out of the box and did not disappoint, Bont again devoured his break and was followed by an extended jam from guitarist Dave Bruzza, which inspired Nershi to flash his own flatpicking chops.
Leftover Salmon frontman Vince Herman, who had been in attendance for most of the show, was summoned to the stage to lend vocals to Bob Dylan's "You Ain't Going Nowhere." Greensky, Nershi and Herman traded verses beautifully with Herman improvising a verse about "Friday night, way up in the sky." It was a moving rendition and the sort of special moment that only a place like the Stage Stop can provide – an up-and-coming band with two of the genre's masters onstage with them, covering a classic Dylan song to a couple of hundred hardcore 'grass fans. The audience and musicians were all grinning from ear to ear.
Austin & Nershi with Greensky Bluegrass
The strong covers kept coming with Bruzza belting out a version of "One Way Out" that would have made Elmore James smile. Nershi and Beck traded slide and dobro licks like they were Duane and Dickey at The Fillmore East. Yonder Mountain String Band's Jeff Austin made his way to the stage to lend his impeccable mandolin chops to the rowdiness. "Shuckin' the Corn" was well played and full of energy and warmed everyone up nicely for a fierce version of Townes Van Zandt's "White Freightliner Blues." Nershi sang us "Dim Light, Thick Smoke" and then a well-jammed version of the Grateful Dead's "Cassidy" closed the set. For an encore we were treated to one last tune with just the Greensky Bluegrass boys, the aptly titled "What's Left Of the Night."
Greensky is a band with tremendous vocal and instrument chops. They write strong songs and know how to choose a cover and make it their own. That three of the biggest names in the genre would come and spend an evening enjoying the show and picking with them is a testament to just how talented this band is.
You can download this show at www.archive.org...
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