20 November 2015 - The Ogden Theater - Denver, CO
for The Lot Scene by Parker
Band Members: Anders Beck - dobro, Michael Bont - banjo, Dave Bruzza - guitar, Mike Devol - upright bass, Paul Hoffman - mandolin
Set One: Cold Feet, Last Winter in Copper Country, Letter to Seymour, Dustbowl Overtures, Windshield, Through the Trees, I’m Still Here, All Four, Julius
Set Two: Just to Lie, Jaywalking > Just Listening, Tarpology>Into The Mystic>Tarpology, Pig in a Pen, Forget Everything, Don’t Lie
A sold-out show brought the voluminous audience into The Ogden Theater last Friday night, braving the cold and snow they weren’t to be deterred from their prize: an evening with Greensky Bluegrass in the heart of Denver, Colorado. And, as was apparent from the energy in the Ogden from the moment we walked in, this Colorado crowd was ravenous for some sizzling hot string music from Kalamazoo’s favorite sons. From banners hung for the band’s appreciation to the sardine-style SRO situation throughout the venue, there was no shortage of fervor and and excitement at what was in store. Once all the lovely reunions with friends, friendlies, and associates (After all, isn’t that one reason why we do this in the first place?) had occurred we scratched up a bit of real estate just to the left of the soundboard and settled in for a night of intensely good bluegrass music.
The GSBG lads opened up the show with a perfect selection for the evening’s chilly temperatures: “Cold Feet”. Featuring Dave Bruzza on vocals the song gave every member of the band a chance to step out, getting further warmed up with each solo, already building the vivacity up in the theater towards an incredible show. An intense and driving guitar and mandolin-heavy intro heralded the next song, the dark and mysterious “Last Winter in Copper Country” with Paul Hoffman taking lead vocals. The middle breakdown was a standout feature of this one — Anders with some effects on his dobro and Paul sawing away on mando alongside. Quite a lengthy ride, and a hell of a good one at that! Afterwards, Dave was back up to the mic for “Letter to Seymour”, an obvious crowd favorite. Lots of singing and dancing along to this madcap musical mania…so fast, so well-executed. Mike Bont took this as a nice opportunity to shred his banjo up for us and damn, can that man play! Fast pickin’ all around this band to be sure. More Paul Hoffman you say? Well, alright then. How about a little “Dustbowl Overtures” for you? And a very fine version of the song it was, too. What a crooner we have in Paul, no? Another fan fave was up with “Windshield” following “Dustbowl” and with Paul staying at the mic for more of that very crooning. And the crowd went wild for this one. Can’t say that I blame them with the sheer amount of energy this band puts into each and every song, each and every show. Truly it is becoming more and more the case that any Greensky show you are able to catch puts you in a very lucky elite, indeed. The caliber of their work and passion seems to know no bounds. And they so readily and freely share that amazing electricity with their fans, each time nailing the mark dead center. Tyler Grant (Grant Farm) joined the boys out on the stage for a couple of numbers, the first of which was the classic country sounding “Through the Trees”. The addition of Tyler’s electric guitar to the lineup incorporated just the right amount of increased enthusiasm and vibrancy to build things all the more with the help of a musical friend and contributed even further to that classic country sound. Mr. Grant and his guitar remained for “I’m Still Here”, a Bruzza lead, which was followed by rather big and bold “All Four” clocking in at 16:22. Talk about bang for your buck with a band, right? Another incredible Bont solo was one of the gifts to come from this monster piece of music. Bruzza wasn’t to be outdone, however, and laid down his own superb jam immediately following. So much good music happening all in one show! Then Paul was up to slam down some mando madness in fine fashion which led right into some badass Anders love on dobro for us. And then the slow, powerful central jam that gradually built and built and built to a powder keg at the ending? Crazy good!! But they weren’t done with this set yet! How about a magnificent Phish cover closer? And “Julius” to boot! It. Sounded. Unbelievably good. Seriously, no notes. It was just extremely fun all the way around, a great dance party, and a perfect way to close down the first set. Bravi, fellas!
After a much-needed set break for all, they party was ready to resume. And resume in full-force it did with Paul jumping up to the mic for “Just to Lie” which was peppered through with some top notch dobro licks from Mr. Beck and which featured a really fine solo from both Hoffman and Beck. It’s as if each new time they showcase their various talents on their instruments you realize they are just that much better than before somehow. Some kind of strange GSBG magic or bluegrass witchery, no doubt. Then it was time for a little “Jaywalking” another song clearly favored by this Colorado audience which they took directly into “Just Listening” though a minor and spacey connecting jam. Mike Devol threw down a really nice little bass solo for us during this one — always nice to hear a fat bass run. Some hard drivin’, fast pickin’ was in store next with “Tarpology” not to mention some pretty trippy exploration as well, all at great speed. Impossible to pick an instrumental favorite here as they all treated us to the very best of their playing in a round-robin fashion. Like a musical buffet, our ears were delighted by timbre after timbre as we danced and enjoyed this night to the marrow. This they managed to somehow take directly into a fantastic “Into the Mystic”, transitioning seamlessly and into such a lovely version of the song. Just beautiful. I think Van Morrison would be proud. Then it was right back into “Tarpology” to finish up that wild ride. Over 10 minutes of that wonderful weirdness later and it was time for “Pig in a Pen” with vocals by Dave Bruzza. Mike Bont led this speedy number off with some kickass banjo setting the fast pickin’ tone. And the rest of the boys were sure to pick up on that tone with some incredibly quick work on their own respective instruments. Always impressive to see such acumen at such speeds. “Forget Everything” came next down the line seeing Hoffman back up for lead vocals. This was followed by a truly epic (shudder at the word) and extremely long 24:13 “Don’t Lie”. Not a bad way to end a show, eh? The band took their time, slowly building instruments and energy with this one, drawing it up and out, making it something very special. Replete with “I Feel Like Bustin’ Loose” teases and “It’s Getting Hot in Here” quotes there was attitude a-plenty with this “Don’t Lie”. And then they were right into the song proper, steaming along with Hoffman at the helm. “I Feel Like Bustin’ Loose” teases permeated the remainder of the song, from the jam in the middle all the way to the electric ending breakdown. It all finally wound to an end with the closing of the song, the last lyrics and notes fading away into the cheers and hollers of a very happy and musically-satiated crowd. But, encore? You bet your boots! The band returned to the stage to delight us all with a light-hearted and bouncing “Frederico” bringing a smiling close to a supremely fabulous show. Man, are these guys on top of their game! Every time I see them they are just that much more incredible at what they do and this show was now exception. Always makes me look that much forward to the next time. How couldn’t it?