Article by Miles Hurley and Chris Snyder
Photographs by Miles Hurley
If you haven’t yet jumped on tour with Greensky Bluegrass and The Infamous Stringdusters, here’s a personal recommendation from The Jamwich, saying: there’s still lots of time.
Both of these five member bands are unarguable leaders on the forefront in progressive bluegrass today. And normally, in past years, each of these bands would tour the country individually, blowing out spacious and decorative theatres and clubs with their own powerful nightly energies. But their decision to spend their 2022 Winter Tour doing it all together was an exciting new move, and so far through five shows the pairing has proved to be a highly successful endeavor. The collaborative tour started last Thursday evening with an opening show at The Palace Theatre in Albany, NY.
For us at The Jamwich, the tour party started in Philadelphia’s cool inner sanctum that is World Cafe Live, home of WXPN Radio. The Infamous Stringdusters delivered an exclusive one set performance for a room full of very happy duster diehards. The band, clearly hyped for the beginning of tour, reserved some unique gems for this radio performance, like a cover of Bill Monroe’s “Toy Heart” and the live debut of their original “I Didn’t Know.”
That evening they helped Greensky Bluegrass kick this mighty tour into gear with a big showing at The Met Philadelphia. Already, five shows into this huge tour, the two bands have manifested some amazing collaborative magic. This has primarily happened via Greensky inviting up members of the Stringdusters on stage to bring home powerful closing sets of the night. At The Met Philadelphia, Greensky jammed with Chris Pandolfi for an extraordinary, far reaching performance of “Past My Prime” and “Don’t Lie.” What started off as ever so slightly rocky, with Pandolfi finding his footing at first, became an impressive collaborative session and a live cut that you should just put everything down right now to hear. At the next night’s throwdown at Port Chester’s The Capitol Theatre, it was Duster fiddler Jeremy Garrett that was invited to rip it up, on a version of “Fixin’ To Ruin” with Greensky (and boy does that fiddler really rip).
The Cap night was also made doubly special with some even more unique collaborations: the band’s tour photographer and production manager, Dylan Langille and Guido Baptista respectively, added percussion parts throughout the evening.
Old favorites and nifty covers helped put a festive sheen all of the premium jamgrass going down at these shows. One of the highlights of the whole weekend was the Infamous Stringdusters’ bouncy bluegrass energy on a jam between “Scarlet Begonias” and their own instrumental “Black Elk.” Meanwhile Greensky blasted Port Chester into orbit for the start of their portion of the night with a driving rendition of “Leap Year.”
But the superstar of the tour overall so far has been Stress Dreams. Greensky’s new albumshines, on and off the record. On the record, the studio release is a new beacon of bluegrass songwriting, long-loved penchant for hard-hitting emotion and depth with some truly unique song structure. You know that string wizard that’s about to play four sold out nights at this same place The Capitol Theatre? Ask him who is number one favorite songwriters are, and at this point in time he’ll probably just hit play on Stress Dreams as an answer.
Off the record, the new album’s songs have become the band’s most visceral, intense performances on stage of late. The beautiful ballad “Reasons to Stay” headed off a big set two at The Capitol Theatre, its touching first half anchored down by a muddy funky second half. Songs like “Cut a Tooth,” “Give a Shit,” “Monument,” “Grow Together” and fit right into Greensky’s live on stage persona as an indie jamband disguised as a bluegrass quintet.
Whereas The Stringdusters command more off the wall dexterity, using instrumental interplay to hit tension peaks—they had a couple moments where the entirety of The Capitol Theatre floor was freaking out—Greensky creates the arena experience, with these deep, heavy songs being colored by more poised, methodical improv.
The two bands roll on with their collaborative 2022 Winter Tour with a performance tonight at Buffalo Iron Works in upstate New York. Later this week, they’ll hit Burlington, Portland, and two nights in Boston. Further on in February will see the bands play shows farther west such as Cleveland, Milwaukee, Louisville, and others.
Check out some photos below of the bands’ sets at The Met Philadelphia and The Capitol Theatre.