On Sunday night, Greensky Bluegrass returned to Red Rocks for the third and final night of their weekend run. As the night went on, it became clear that the gravity of their three-night stand at this iconic venue was not lost on the band.
Billy Strings (William Apostol) started off the evening with his band’s first-ever Red Rocks show, leading them through a number of tunes from his latest album as well as a couple of well-selected covers. The picking prowess in this band cannot be understated as each and every member is truly a master of his craft. They encored with “Tinfoil and Turmoil” before ceding the stage to their friends from Michigan. You can watch Billy Strings’ first song and listen to an audio recording of the band’s opening set below:
Billy Strings – “Dust in a Baggie” – 9/15/19 [Pro-Shot]
Billy Strings – Red Rocks – 9/15/19 – Full Audio
[Audio: Rob OBrien]
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I’m at a loss for words. Completely overwhelmed with emotions of love and gratitude. I really don’t know what to say besides thank you to @greenskybluegrass for having us along and to all our friends and fans for the love and support. Cannot believe we played Red Rocks yesterday. It was like a dream. 📸 @onthedlphoto
“What You Need” opened Greensky’s first of two sets, and it quickly became obvious that this would be a jam-heavy night. Dobro monster Anders Beck took the song for a quick ride before bringing it back around and dropping into “Wish I Didn’t Know”, another song off their latest album, All For Money.
Greensky Bluegrass – “What You Need” – 9/15/19 [Pro-Shot]
They followed with a bust-out of Phish’s “Rift”, seamlessly executed by mandolinist/vocalist Paul Hoffman. “Rift” moved through some dark space before leading the band deeper into their catalog with “Bottle Dry”, taking the pace down a bit and allowing to Hoffman to stretch out on vocals.
Paul also took a moment to note how incredible it was to be playing at Red Rocks for a third night, thanking the fans for making it all possible. “Lose My Way” and “Jaywalking” followed before the band closed out the set with a massive take on “Run or Die”. As bassist Mike Devol held down the low end, the band worked through the most impressive segment of the first set with guitarist Dave Bruzza and banjo player Michael Arlen Bont both getting into the thick of it and leading the band into setbreak.
The second set started off with a brief “Casual Wednesday”-turned-“Red Rocks Sunday” before dropping into another new tune, “All for Money”. Things got darker, deeper, and more evil in the second half of the show, and this was the beginning of it. Hoffman and Beck never cease to amaze and surprise with the tones they can produce, and they worked some serious magic on this tune before a smooth segue into “In Control”.
Greensky Bluegrass – “Casual Wednesday ” – 9/15/19 [Pro-Shot]
“In Control” took things back onto slightly more stable ground before blasting off once again, with all five members pulling some weight through the jam. “Letter to Seymour” provided a moment of fast structure for a collective deep breath before the part of the evening we’d all been waiting for: Kill Billy!
After “Last Winter in Copper Country,” the band welcomed out Billy Strings (William Apostol) for “I’d Probably Kill You”, a song that they seemingly love to play with the talented young musician. Strings’ mind-bending guitar work was quickly on display and, of course, the band did not forget the trademark lyric change to: “I’d burn your house down, if I was somehow sure Billy Strings was in there.”
Jarrod Walker and Billy Failing of Billy Strings came out to finish off the set with a huge sandwich of “Don’t Lie > Meet Me at the Creek > Don’t Lie.” Another lyric change noted “haven’t left Red Rocks in three days” instead of “haven’t left the house in three days” and what felt likes second later, the band was in the thick of it again. Adding three more members, the already massive wall of bluegrass sound became an even greater force to be reckoned with, going deep on “Don’t Lie” before handing the reigns over to Billy for one of his classic tunes. “Meet Me at the Creek” was another monster of a jam and a well-deserved final bow for Strings, who perfectly led the tune back into “Don’t Lie” to cap an incredible second set of improv.
Greensky Bluegrass w/ Billy Strings (William Apostol), Billy Failing, Jarrod Walker – “Don’t Lie” > “Meet Me At The Creek” > “Don’ Lie” – 9/15/19
[Video: Kyle Isaac]
The boys returned for their encore around a single mic, with Anders Beck telling a story about someone he talked to before one of their very first shows at Red Rocks, someone who told him how much it meant to play there and how much it should be enjoyed. That man was none other than the late Jeff Austin. “Hug your friends,” a noticeably teary Beck said. “We hope you had a good-ass time, cause we did.”
Then, a cold breeze came through the venue and, gathered around a single mic as most bluegrass bands start, the five of them dropped into a tasteful cover of The Rolling Stones’ “No Expectations”, a song which Jeff was largely responsible for bringing into the greater bluegrass canon. It was an emotional moment for many, including the guys on stage. Nevertheless, it felt like the perfect tribute to a man whose impact cannot be understated. Jeff Austin introduced so many to this genre, and it’s safe to say we will be adjusting to his absence for years to come. In that space, bands like Greensky have fortunately come to fill the void, reminding us why we love this music so much and why we love each other even more. Greensky Bluegrass earned this spot at Red Rocks over many years and never lost sight of what was truly important: their fans and each other.
Greensky Bluegrass – “No Expectations” [Rolling Stones cover, for Jeff Austin]
[Video: Kyle Isaac]
With one of the kindest, most genuine fanbases across the jam scene, they have made mid-September at Red Rocks a magical moment in time and a very special place indeed. Until next year…
Greensky Bluegrass – Red Rocks – 9/15/19 – Full Audio
Check out a gallery of photos from Sunday night’s show below courtesy of photographer Conrad Meyer.
For a full list of upcoming Greensky Bluegrass tour dates, head here.
Setlist: Greensky Bluegrass | Red Rocks | Morrison, CO | 9/15/19
Set One: What You Need (1), Wish I Didn’t Know > It’s Not Mine Anymore, Rift, Bottle Dry, Lose My Way, Jaywalking, Run or Die
Set Two: Casual Wednesday (2), All for Money, In Control, A Letter to Seymour, Last Winter in Copper Country, I’d Probably Kill You (3)(4), Don’t Lie (5)(6) > Meet Me at the Creek (5) > Don’t Lie (5)(6)
Encore: No Expectations (7)(8)
(1) – w/ Guido Batista (vibraslap)
(2) – Lyric change “Red Rocks Sunday “
(3) – w/ Billy Strings
(4) – Billy Strings lyric change
(5) – w/ Billy Strings (William Apostol), Billy Failing, & Jarrod Walker
(6) – Lyric change “I haven’t left Red Rocks in three days”
(7) – Single mic
(8) – Devol on acoustic bass
(setlist thanks to Camp Greensky member Andrew Sturtz)