Billy Strings made his headlining debut at the historic Capitol Theatre on Friday night, performing a variety of originals and traditional bluegrass covers to a sold-out room. Born William Apostol, Billy Strings and his band—comprised of Billy Failing (banjo), Royal Masat (bass), and Jarrod Walker (mandolin)—also treated fans to a first set sit-in by banjo virtuoso Tony Trischka.
Strings, who is quickly rising among the country’s most sought after acts, began the show with four originals. “Taking Water”, off the band’s latest release Home, segued to “Thirst Mutilator”, from the 2016 self-titled EP. Following the originals “Dealing Despair” and “While I’m Waiting Here”, Strings launched into a rendition of Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs‘ “Doin’ My Time”.
Billy Strings – “Taking Water” > “Thirst Mutilator” > “Dealing Despair”, “While I’m Waiting Here”, “Doin’ My Time” – 1/17/20
From there they launched into the Robert Hunter-penned Grateful Dead staple, “China Doll”, before the Home track “Running”. Following a run through “Watch It Fall”, Billy Strings invited Tony Trischka to perform in front of the sold-out Capitol Theatre crowd. The newly formed quintet would cycle through four tunes to close out the first set. The original “Dos Banjos” preceded a cover of Yonder Mountain String Band‘s “Sorrow is a Highway”. “Highway Hypnosis” and Randy Travis‘ “Whisper My Name” then brought the show to set break.
Billy Strings w/Tony Trischka – “Dos Banjos” – 1/17/20
[Video: Chuck Melton]
Covers and segues dominated the electric second set. A lengthy rendition of Bill Emerson‘s “Home of the Red Fox” started set two and segued to the bluegrass traditional “Little Maggie”.
Billy Strings – “Home of the Red Fox” > “Little Maggie” – 1/17/20
[Video: Billy Strings]
They then played The Dillards‘ “There Is A Time” before the Home original “Everything’s the Same” which led to one of the night’s highlights. A monstrous rendition of John Phillips‘ “Me and My Uncle” ensued. Next, they segued to the Turmoil & Tinfoil original “Living Like an Animal” before a segue back to “Me and My Uncle”, topping off the John Phillips sandwich.
Billy Strings – “Me and My Uncle” > “Living Like an Animal” > “Me and My Uncle” – 1/17/20
[Video: Matt Frazier]
“Enough to Leave” followed before another massive sandwich. “Doin’ Things Right” segued to a cover of Bill Withers‘ “Use Me Up” before making its way back to the Turmoil & Tinfoil original “Doin’ Things Right”. “Love Like Me”, Keith Allison‘s “Freeborn Man”, and “Meet Me at the Creek” closed out set two for Billy Strings at his Capitol Theatre headlining debut. The four-piece made their way back to the stage for a one-song encore of “Freedom”.
In a Facebook post on Saturday, Billy Strings graciously thanked the fans and venue: “I feel like we are a giant community of best friends and I truly love you all…The Capitol Theatre is just such an EPIC venue and I still can’t believe we get to play music here,” he said. “So many greats have graced this stage…The Grateful Dead, Janis [Joplin], The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, etc. And last night I felt it.” Read the full Facebook post below.
Billy Strings will play yet another sold-out show at the Capitol Theatre tonight before continuing his mostly-sold-out winter tour at Mars Music Hall in Huntsville, AL on January 23rd. From there he will hit a couple of dates in Mississippi (1/25-26) before dates in Arizona, Kentucky, North Carolina, Colorado, Utah, and California. This winter tour also includes a few festival appearances such as WinterWonderGrass and Subaru WinterFest. Visit Billy Strings’ official website for tickets and more tour information.
Below, check out a gallery of photos courtesy of photographer Andrew Blackstein.
Setlist: Billy Strings | The Capitol Theatre | Port Chester, NY | 1/17/20
Set One: Taking Water > Thirst Mutilator, Dealing Despair, While I’m Waiting Here, Doin’ My Time, China Doll, Running, Watch It Fall, Dos Banjos, Sorrow is a Highway, Highway Hypnosis, Whisper My Name
Set Two: Home of the Red Fox > Little Maggie, There Is a Time, Everything’s the Same, Me and My Uncle > Living Like an Animal > Me and My Uncle, Enough to Leave, Doin’Things Right > Use Me Up > Doin’ Things Right, Love Like Me, Freeborn Man, Meet Me at the Creek
 Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs
 Grateful Dead
 w/Tony Trischka
 Yonder Mountain String Band
 Randy Travis
 Bill Emerson
 Bluegrass Traditional
 The Dillards
 John Phillips
 Bill Withers
 Keith Allison