REVIEW – Greensky Bluegrass
“Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day” sumarizes how I felt leading up to see the titular band Greensky Bluegrass. The progressive midwestern bluegrass band took to the stage on September 9th at Summerfest to an extatic crowd. The now jam band legends have acrewed quite the following in the 21 years they’ve been playing and they were ready for it. As the show began the genlteman to the left of me welcomed me to the experience I was about to live through and likened it to seeing The Grateful Dead to the first time. As the band began their famous first song “Past My Prime” I was engulfed in a swarm of furious bluegrass sounds and lights.
The band was formed in the fall of 2000 by Michael Arlen Bont (banjo), Dave Bruzza (guitar), and Paul Hoffman (mandolin), who initially played together at an open mic night. As newcomers to the bluegrass scene, the three drew upon an array of influences and varied musical backgrounds, reflected in their May 2004 release of Less than Supper, recorded with bassist Chris Carr and dobro player Al Bates. Both Bates and Carr left the band shortly thereafter. Classical cellist Michael Devol had approached Greensky with an offer to assist in management, but ended up joining the group as bassist in the fall of 2004. The group describes their commendatory as more of a brotherhood than a band. Which can be seen on their on stage presense as they like to reminisce about their past times in Milwaukee, drinking beer and wearing blue tuxedos at a New Years Eve performance at the Riverside Theater a few years back.
The man who was talking to me as the show started did not lie when he said that the show was much like a Grateful Dead show. By that I mean that each of the songs had their own separate jame sessions for each of their members which each seemed to send a different audience member into a dancing flurry. It was a different feel for a Summerfest show in terms of a freestage. The over 2 hour show, rare for a Summerfest show, did not seem to slow any momentum throughout their runtime, both band and audience alike.
As with most jam band shows it’s hard to tell where one song begins and the other ends, something that Greensky Bluegrass did well was taking breaks. I know that some people may disagree with me on that but in this case it was clear the band needed a breather as did the dancers in the crowd. During these breaks the band took some time to talk to the audience about their love of the city and how happy they are to both be back and playing shows again after the time we’ve spent away.
The set itself was a medley of older songs, newer songs and crowd favorites that left everyone happy with each of their favorites were being handled. One of the standouts for me was when they played “A Day In The Life” and the mixture of sound mixed with their spectacular light show, another Summerfest rarity, seemed to get everyone moving. As the show came to a close we got to hear the real crowd favorites of both “Time”, a cover by Pink Floyd and their stand out single, “Windshield”.
Everyone has a differing opinion on how jam bands make you feel. Some love that 20 minute solo or some just hate songs that go on longer than they should. In Greensky Bluegrass’s case they absolutely nail the proper amount of jamming in my opinion. No one solo felt that it overstayed it’s welcome and in this case added fantiscally into each song. Greensky Bluegrass really hit the nail on the head for me when it comes to jam bands. If you get a chance to see them and are into this type of music, I highly recommend checking them out!