Billy Strings continued his summer tour on Saturday with the first of two shows at Champlain Valley Fairgrounds and Exposition Center in Essex Junction, Vermont.

Strings and his band comprised of banjoist Billy Failing, bassist Royal Masat, mandolinist Jarrod Walker, and violinist Alex Hargreaves kicked off the night with a first set highlighted by the debut of The Beatles’ “I’ll Cry Instead”, which featured rare lead vocals by Masat. The set also featured the all too pertinent “Watch It Fall” and a strong set-closing sequence that mixed new-grass with old-, jumping off from “This Heart Of Mine” (New Grass Revival) before bouncing from “Dealing Despair” to “Rank Stranger” (The Stanley Brothers) to “Hellbender” to “My Love Come Rolling Down” (The Doc Watson Family) and finally “Hide and Seek”.

Billy Strings – “Bronzeback” > “Secrets” – 7/22/23

The second set likewise bridged new and old, with covers of Jimmy Martin, Béla Fleck, Jeff Austin, and The Stanley Brothers, not to mention the band’s own Billy Failing, who took the lead on his song “So Many Miles”. The set also featured Jack Bonus‘ “The Hobo Song”, a song recorded by Peter Rowan, Jerry Garcia, and David Grisman bluegrass band Old & In The Way. The band capped off the set with “Pyramid Country” > “Paul & Silas”, another Stanley Brothers tune, and then ended the night with a single-song encore, selecting “Uncle Pen” by Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys.

Billy Strings returns to Champlain Valley Fairgrounds & Exposition Center tonight, Sunday, July 23rd before heading to Boston’s Leader Bank Pavilion for two sold-out shows. The shows are available to stream free for nugs subscribers.


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Setlist [via BillyBase]: Billy Strings | Champlain Valley Fairgrounds & Exposition Center | Essex Junction, VT | 7/22/23

Set 1: Bronzeback > Secrets, Watch It Fall, Way Downtown (Traditional), Fire Line > Reuben’s Train (Traditional), Doin’ Things Right, I’ll Cry Instead (The Beatles) [1][2], This Heart Of Mine (New Grass Revival), Dealing Despair, Rank Stranger (The Stanley Brothers), Hellbender, My Love Come Rolling Down (The Doc Watson Family), Hide and Seek

Set 2: Sophronie (Jimmy Martin), Slipstream (Béla Fleck), Red Rocking Chair (Traditional), Thirst Mutilator > So Many Miles (Billy Failing) [3], Everything’s The Same, Shady Grove, Must Be Seven > The Hobo Song (Jack Bonus), 15 Steps (Jeff Austin), How Mountain Girls Can Love (The Stanley Brothers), Pyramid Country > Paul & Silas (The Stanley Brothers)

Encore: Uncle Pen (Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys)

[1] Royal Masat on lead vocals
[2] FTP- The Beatles
[3] Billy Failing on lead vocals