Billy Strings on Thursday returned to The Peach Music Festival where he assumed his place as a headliner. His two-set performance, which featured fiddler Alex Hargreaves for the entirety, witnessed the debut of Clayton McMichen and Jimmie Rodgers‘ “Peach Picking Time In Georgia” for a fitting closing cover.
In a marked change of pace, Thursday’s 21-song performance featured only one cover. Instead, Billy Strings used both sets to showcase the original catalog that has catapulted him to headliner status, fetched him a Grammy, and just the day before earned him the attention of Trey Anastasio.
Opening with “The Fire On My Tongue”, the quick romp led straight into the instrumental “Bronzeback”. Strings and his bandmates Billy Failing (banjo), Jarrod Walker (mandolin), and Royal Masat (bass) along with Hargreaves moved swiftly through their 150-minute allotment (including set break). Accordingly, Thursday’s show did not dive headfirst into improvisation, but rather acted as a fitting showcase of original material. And what better showcase than the “Heartbeat Of America” that followed, a well-rounded Renewal gem that is the 2021 album’s jewel just as “Away From The Mire” is to Home. Billy’s choice of wardrobe—a Sopranos cardigan sweater—took on added meaning during “Heartbeat” as it contains the line “And I was waiting like patience on a monument”, uttered by Corrado “Junior” Soprano in the acclaimed HBO series (though William Shakespeare technically said it first).
Billy Strings – “The Fire On My Tongue” > “Bronzeback” [Pro-Shot] – 6/30/22
Strings tried a little tenderness with “In The Morning Light” next ahead of the aforementioned “Away From The Mire”. A typical set two, near-closing vehicle, the song kept the first set momentum up and opened up for the most significant improvisation displayed thus far. Billy then beckoned audiences to listen to the echo of their “Long Forgotten Dream”, before dialing back the intensity with “Love Like Me”.
The travel-weary crowd then headed back out onto the interstate for a bout with “Highway Hypnosis”, the traditionally-wandering track instead mapping out a driven destination before “This Old World” closed set one.
Billy Strings – “Highway Hypnosis” – 6/30/22
[Video: Ryan Mogel]
Coming back for set two, Billy opted for the reliable opener “Taking Water”, which he linked up with “Ice Bridges”. The brisk pace of set one carried on into what would prove a 12-song second frame, as “While I’m Waiting Here” paired with the focused jamming of “Pyramid Country”. The band was still not done yet, as the backdoor of “Pyramid Country” opened up into “Know It All” to complete a seamless 20-minutes of music. During “Know It All”, Strings tossed out a reference to the festival by amending the line to “Let me learn from my mistakes and try to pick up all the peaches.”
Taking the vibe down with the eulogy of “Enough To Leave”, Billy opened up his “Hollow Heart” before giving Failing his time to shine with “So Many Miles”. A good old-fashioned traveling bluegrass song, it opened up into the final bout of extended improvisation of the evening prior to the delightfully cynical “Everything’s The Same”.
With the clock winding down, lent his “Secrets” to the wind as his words flew 1,000 miles to livestreams all over the world. After Billy bid audiences to “Show Me The Door”, the bluegrass picker and his bandmates forewent an encore break and hung around onstage to deliver their first-ever take on “Peach Picking Time In Georgia” to close the show with a final reference.
Full-show audio of Billy Strings at The Peach is available thanks to taper cabinetmusic. The festival continues today, July 1st, with livestreamed performances from Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Steel Pulse, Kitchen Dwellers, The Bogie Band, Marco Benevento, and Eggy, streaming free to all existing nugs subscribers. Stay tuned for a full Peach recap from Live For Live Music.
Billy Strings – The Peach Music Festival – Scranton, PA – 6/30/22
Setlist [via BillyBase]: Billy Strings | The Peach Music Festival | Scranton, PA | 6/30/22
Set One: The Fire On My Tongue > Bronzeback, Heartbeat Of America, In The Morning Light, Away From The Mire, Long Forgotten Dream, Love Like Me, Highway Hypnosis, This Old World
Set Two: Taking Water > Ice Bridges, While I’m Waiting Here > Pyramid Country > Know It All, Enough To Leave, Hollow Heart, So Many Miles, Everything’s The Same, Secrets, Show Me The Door, Peach Picking Time In Georgia (Clayton McMichen, Jimmie Rodgers)
With Alex Hargreaves on fiddle for the entire show