Guitar firebrand Billy Strings and his band set the Aiken Bluegrass Festival main stage ablaze with blistering fretboard pyrotechnics and a musical firework display that mesmerized all within earshot. It doesn’t take long to understand the hyper-positive, well-merited buzz around Strings’ hastening ascent within the bluegrass world. More than just a virtuoso, Strings shows a unique songwriting voice that blends his connections with rural America with his penchant for visiting the musical outer realms of reality.

Though his roots are so solidly planted in the Midwest, with East Nashville as his current home, Strings is quickly finding that he has built a rabid fan base across the country. This comes as no surprise to any who have seen the man play. His forays into the electric guitar are impressive, but his speed, precision, and melodic heart truly shine through in his acoustic work. Strings’ explosive, supersonic runs are made possible by the rock-solid band he has assembled. Multi-instrumentalist Billy Failing delivers cutting, rapid-fire banjo rolls over the plucky rhythms laid down by bassist Royal Masat. With the man on the mandolin, Jarrod Walker, adding both percussion and a higher picking tone to the mix, Strings has more than enough floor underneath him to soar as high as he wants without fear of losing the song narrative.

Besides his own headlining set at Aiken, Strings hosted a late-night “Psychedelic Circus” set, sat in with Leftover Salmon, and was even one of Greg Burns’ musical “friends” for a special set. The Aiken Bluegrass Festival, which recently partnered with Friends with Benefits, is built on these intertwining jams and friendships. String, Leftover, even Greensky have made multiple appearances at this fourteen-year-old event, and the love they all feel for it was plain to see in the passion with which they played. Check out the clips below for a peek into why Billy Strings’ future is brighter than the lights he plays under. Enjoy!

“While I’m Waiting Here > Meet Me At The Creek”

“China Doll > In Hiding”

“Slow Train”