Billy Strings traveled to the bluegrass stronghold of the Blue Ridge Mountains on Thursday to kick off a three-night run of shows at Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary, NC. The first concert saw the bandleader pay tribute to the region by debuting a cover of “Blue Ridge Mountain Blues” to open the show.
In addition to the new cover, Strings also busted out his harmonica for a twofer show-opening surprise. After that Strings, Billy Failing (banjo), Royal Masat (banjo), and Jarrod Walker (mandolin) performed the original “This Old World”, which led the group back to the mountains with a segue into Leslie Keith‘s “Black Mountain Rag”.
Billy Strings – “Blue Ridge Mountain Blues” (Traditional), “This Old World” > “Black Mountain Rag” (Leslie Keith) – 6/23/22
Strings teased the audience throughout the show with instrumental passages of other songs, going so far as to throw a red herring “Pyramid Country” intro onto the beginning of “While I’m Waiting Here”. The teases weren’t done, as Billy also nodded to the Grateful Dead with “Hell In A Bucket” before ultimately transitioning into a Dead favorite from the band’s early acoustic sets, “Ole Slewfoot”.
The bluegrass picker bid audiences to “Show Me The Door” next with Walker’s original composition, followed by his own ecological lament, “Fire Line”, which traveled across Frank Wakefield‘s “End Of The Rainbow”, and came out as “Ice Bridges” on the other side. The Robert Hunter-penned “Thunder” fulfilled its role as a late-set jam vehicle before Billy and the gang squeezed just another drop out of the first frame with “Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor”.
Returning for the second set, the band immediately tapped into the “Heartbeat Of America”, before dialing back the intensity with “In The Morning Light”. The increasingly-frequent one-two punch of “In The Morning Light” followed by Widespread Panic‘s “All Time Low” followed, displaying the group’s ability to leap from one emotional extreme to the next.
During “All Time Low”, the band teased Nirvana‘s “All Apologies” before a segue into yet another geographic tip of the hat with the traditional “Raleigh & Spencer”, paying tribute to the North Carolina hub just over Cary’s border. “Thirst Mutilator” came next and with it the final tease of the evening with an instrumental reference to Pink Floyd‘s “Brain Damage” ahead of a segue into “Hollow Heart”.
The grief-stricken “Enough To Leave” followed prior to Tony Rice‘s “Tipper”. Strings and company dug in for one final major jam of the evening with “Meet Me At The Creek” before a quick run through “Shady Grove” put a cap on the encore-less performance.
Check out an assortment of videos from Thursday’s concert below. Strings and company are back at Koka Booth Amphitheatre tonight, June 24th, for their second of three shows.
Billy Strings – “Ole Slew Foot” (Traditional) – 6/23/22
Billy Strings – “End of the Rainbow” (Frank Wakefield) – 6/23/22
Billy Strings – “End of the Rainbow” (Traditional) – 6/23/22
Billy Strings – “Meet Me At The Creek” – 6/23/22
[Video: Billy the Kid]
Setlist [via BillyBase]: Billy Strings | Koka Booth Amphitheatre | Cary, NC | 6/23/22
Set One: Blue Ridge Mountain Blues (Traditional)  , This Old World > Black Mountain Rag (Leslie Keith), While I’m Waiting Here   > Ole Slewfoot (Traditional), Show Me The Door, Fire Line > End Of The Rainbow (Frank Wakefield) > Ice Bridges, Thunder (Robert Hunter), Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor (Traditional)
Set 2: Heartbeat Of America, In The Morning Light, All Time Low (Widespread Panic)  > Raleigh & Spencer (Traditional), Thirst Mutilator  > Hollow Heart, Enough To Leave, Tipper (Tony Rice), Meet Me At The Creek, Shady Grove (Traditional)
 Billy Strings on harmonica and guitar
 Pyramid Country intro tease
 Hell in a Bucket tease
 All Apologies tease
 Brain Damage tease