Billy Strings and company brought their tasteful balance of bluegrass and psychedelic jams to the Fox Theater in California’s Bay Area for the second night in a row Friday in Oakland and busted out some more nods to local legend Jerry Garcia.
Strings started things off with his signature hammering flat-picking for a grassed-out version of late country singer Jerry Reed’s “Likes Of Me”. The quartet then took us on a journey through the tumultuous sonic terrain of “Pyramid Country” as Billy steered us into delirium with his echoing reverberations.
Strings turned up the twang for Johnny Horton’s “Ole Slew-Foot”—a song favored during the Grateful Dead‘s late 1960s acoustic sets–before slowing it down for deliverance of an ultimatum on Jarrod Walker’s “Show Me The Door”. Billy then led us through the humbling tune
“Know It All” which will appear on the forthcoming album Renewal, due out later this month.
“What the hell we’ll just keep the bluegrass rollin’ what do you say?“ Strings exclaimed as he dove into the giddy-up tune “Will You Be Loving Another Man”. Woos and proper yeehaws could be heard throughout the crowd as the song settled.
The first overt tribute to our favorite Bay Area native Jerry Garcia came through the traditional tune “Shady Grove” that Jerry introduced to his ever-growing cult following on the famed Pizza Tapes with David Grisman. Garcia recorded a slew of bluegrass songs with Grisman and Tony Rice over two nights in February 1993 that they planned on releasing at a later point, but as the story goes, Jerry’s tape was given to a pizza delivery driver as a tip (other stories say it was stolen by the pizza boy) and the songs were leaked to the radio waves weeks later, much to his collaborators’ dismay.
Billy Strings – “Shady Grove” – Oakland, CA – 9/10/21 – Partial Video
[Video: Robert Morin]
Next came “Whisper My Name” where late in the song Strings queued Billy Failing to take it away and he most certainly did as he plunged his five-stringed weapon of choice into overdrive for a rapid alternation of deep and bright notes respectively.
The audience was then treated to the melodic and sentimental “Away from the Mire”. Jarrod Walker managed to invoke deeper emotions with his piercing mandolin licks and rhythmic strumming. Between verses, the band enhanced the airwaves with their special blend of electric bluegrass before receding into an acoustical backdrop for the last verse and chorus.
For the last song of the set, Billy flubbed the beginning lyrics to “Long Forgotten Dream” before quickly restarting the song and chuckling into the echoing mic after he amended the lyrics. It was smooth sailing from there as the music men took turns flexing on their respective instruments and guided us eloquently into the break after a stellar first set.
The foursome kicked off the second set with the deceptively named “Slow Train” that chugged right along into the contemplative original “Watch It Fall”.
Strings then surprisingly handed the reigns over to Walker for a rare positioning at lead vocals on “Nobody’s Loves Like Mine” which offered the listener a chance to hear the quartet from a new angle. To further the perspective, the lead role was handed on to Billy Failing for his Strings-adopted “So Many Miles” where he did not cease to amaze us with his unique voice and divulging of his prowess on the banjo.
Billy Strings took it back over for a beautiful rendition of the Bob Dylan tune and early 90s Jerry Garcia Band bust out “Señor” as another nod to the local hero. Next, Billy proposed “Let’s go give ‘er a dangle” for an instrumental he told us he wrote about fishing for “Bronzeback” bass, one of Strings’ favorite past times. This was followed by an enduring “My Love Come Rolling Down” by one of Billy’s biggest influences, Doc Watson.
Billy Strings – “She Makes My Love Come Rolling Down” (Doc Watson) – Oakland, CA – 9/10/21 – Partial Video
[Video: Kristin Russell]
With the balance of the set tilting toward the grassy side Strings busted into the jam catalyst “Hide & Seek”. The audience needed to strap in for this one, perhaps check for fire exits, or just say some last goodbyes before the lyrics expired and they would undoubtedly be catapulted into another dimension for the next several minutes. Bassist Royal Masat kept things upright while his horizontally fashioned string mates plucked their way into oblivion.
Billy Strings – “Hide & Seek” – Oakland, CA – 9/10/21 – Partial Video
[Video: Jason V]
The showman then thanked the audience and disappeared briefly before their last act which was a light-hearted cover of “Y’all Come” by Bill Monroe for a stomping sing-a-long and a gleeful send-off.
The boys have a few days off before heading north to their next show up in Spokane, WA 9/16 followed by Troutdale, OR 9/17, and Seattle, WA 9/18. For tickets and a full list of tour dates visit Strings’ website.
Setlist: Billy Strings | Fox Theater | Oakland, CA | 9/10/21
Set One: Likes Of Me > Pyramid Country > Ol’ Slewfoot, Show Me The Door, Know It All, Will You Be Loving Another Man, Shady Grove, Whisper My Name, Away From The Mire, Long Forgotten Dream
Set Two: Slow Train, Watch It Fall, Hold The Woodpile Down, Nobody’s Love Is Like Mine, So Many Miles, Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power), Bronzeback, My Love Come Rolling Down, Hide & Seek
Encore: Y’all Come