Billy Strings‘ loyalists were in heaven on night one of his weekend residency at Indianapolis’ spacious TCU Amphitheater at White River State Park on Saturday. The sea of smiling faces Strings saw and the huge cheer show openers “The Fire On My Tongue” and “John Hardy” elicited were for more than just the fiery opening jams though. Between the city’s Pride Parade and festivities, a local convention, a baseball game, and other downtown events, just getting parked and to the venue was a journey in and of itself so those first few tunes seemed like the reward at the end of a near epic quest. It also didn’t hurt that the band, as a whole, sounded so good and tight that Billy felt the need to throw them some love after finishing the intro tunes.

Billy Strings – “The Fire On My Tongue” > “John Hardy” (Traditional) [Pro-Shot] – 6/10/23

From there it was off to the races as the lightning-quick Strings knocked out songs almost as fast as his fingers flew up and down the fretboard. The effects-laden intro of “Away From The Mire” gave Strings a moment to catch his breath while affording mandolinist Jarrod Walker a chance to show off his own speedy chops.

Bassist Royal Masat did all he could to make the lives of the melodic members of the band a little easier by providing a rock-solid pocket for everyone else to groove, pick, and grin on. Whether it be on a traditional song like “John Hardy” or a Widespread Panic cover like “All Time Low”, Masat was right there ticking away as reliably as any clock the Swiss ever even dreamed of making.

Keeping Strings company in the Lightning Fast Club, banjo wizard Billy Failing threw in some incredibly dexterous finger rolls and runs. Failing’s sweet twang offsets the ludicrously crisp lines Strings lays down perfectly and keeps that bluegrass spirit alive even when things get a bit trippy. The two Billys did a tremendous job making the first set Jimmy Skinner cover “Doin’ My Time” a real gem. The set closing twofer of John Hartford’s “I’m Still Here” and the final tune, a red hot “Dealing Despair”, featured a fun duel between Failing and Hargreaves before the boss man came in and wrapped everything up in a flurry of licks and fills.

Related: Billy Strings Honors Austin Songwriters At Moody Center Debut [Photos/Videos]

A quick setbreak came and went and the bandmembers came back out and started right where they left off with “Run Down”, a cover penned by the late, truly missed Jeff Austin (Yonder Mountain String Band). While Billy runs a moderately tight ship, that’s not to say he doesn’t throw his fellow pickers the occasional curveball. Spotting a sign in the crowd requesting “Mountain Dew” he decided to see if he could summon the words and tune, which, naturally, he and the band nailed.

Thanks to the many folks who contributed to the still remarkably young Strings’ musical education, his vast knowledge of the great catalog of bluegrass standards is reflected in his love of time-honored covers like “Dew” and “I’ve Just Seen The Rock Of Ages”. The wildest thing about how much Strings’ much-discussed speed can be, he’s equally dangerous when he goes slow and low, like his menacing approach to Eddie Noack’s “Psycho”.

Rapidly running out of time, fiddler Alex Hargreaves made sure the fans remembered his presence by turning in some stellar work on “Thunder” and haunting bow runs on The Moody Blues‘ signature classic “Nights In White Satin”. Due to the TCU Amphitheater’s location, it has fairly hard and fast restrictions on noise so the set closing, blistering “Turmoil & Tinfoil” was the end of the evening for Billy and his band of merry music makers, but the biggest thing made this evening was an impression that won’t be fading anytime soon.

Yes, as always the focus of most of the onlookers’ attention was the guitar superstar who rocked the house like he was born to do, but without the support of his four on-stage brothers, he simply couldn’t be the musical supernova he surely is. It’s a true testament to Strings’ special nature that he so regularly and humbly shouts out his backing band and a promise that we will only see more amazing work for this fine set of players for years and years to come.

Billy Strings – “All Time Low” (Widespread Panic) – 6/10/23

[Video: Doug Heck]

Billy Strings – “Run Down” (Jeff Austin) > “Pretty Daughter” (Bad Livers) – 6/10/23

[Video: Doug Heck]

Billy Strings – “Mountain Dew” (Traditional) – 6/10/23

[Video: Ohio Grown Live Music]

Billy Strings – “Psycho” (Eddie Noack) > “Thunder” (Robert Hunter) – 6/10/23

[Video: Doug Heck]

Billy Strings – “Nights In White Satin” (The Moody Blues) – 6/10/23

[Video: Ohio Grown Live Music]

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Billy Strings – TCU Amphitheater At White River State Park – Indianapolis, IN – 6/10/23

[Audio: mot77]

Setlist: Billy Strings | TCU Amphitheater At White River State Park | Indianapolis, IN | 6/10/23

Set One: The Fire On My Tongue > John Hardy (Traditional), Away From The Mire, Long Forgotten Dream, In The Morning Light, All Time Low (Widespread Panic), End Of The Rainbow (Frank Wakefield), Ice Bridges, My Alice, Doin’ My Time (Jimmy Skinner), Libby Phillips Rag, I’m Still Here (John Hartford)> Dealing Despair

Set Two: Gone A Long Time, Run Down (Jeff Austin) > Pretty Daughter (Bad Livers), All of Tomorrow, Home, Mountain Dew (Traditional) [1], I’ve Lived A Lot in My Time (Jim Reeves), I’ve Just Seen The Rock of Ages (John Preston), Psycho (Eddie Noack) > Thunder (Robert Hunter), Nights In White Satin (Moody Blues), Turmoil & Tinfoil

[1] Requested by fan with sign