“It’s Wednesday night in Pittsburgh during an extensive tour, perhaps Billy Strings will let off the gas pedal tonight and it will be a pretty non-eventful show,” thought the skeptics. Oh, they couldn’t have been more wrong.
The concert rewarded those that made the weekday trek with numerous highlights, including a tease-turned-jam tribute to late rapper and Pittsburgh native Mac Miller on “What’s the Use?” as well as the debut of the Grateful Dead live staple “Peggy-O”.
Billy Strings opened the show with fellow bluegrassers Leftover Salmon’s “Down in the Hollow” ahead of the original instrumental “Libby Phillips Rag”, inspired by an ID card found in a Nashville Airbnb with the title’s namesake on it. The band then plucked through a cover of the bluegrass tune “I’ve Just Seen The Rock of Ages” credited to The Stanley Brothers.
Billy Strings – “I’ve Just Seen The Rock of Ages” (The Stanley Brothers) – Pittsburgh, PA – 8/11/21
The crowd really started making noise for “Hide & Seek” when Billy took the helm for a wild and exhilarating jam through uncharted territory as his trusty mates, Jarrod Walker, Billy Failing, and Royal Masat dazzled the sea of jolly folks in Pittsburg, PA with their dexterous plectrum techniques.
Originals “Watch It Fall” and “Dust in a Baggie” came next, before the audience was treated to a rare Bad Livers cover “Lumpy, Beanpole & Dirt”.
The ever-pleasing “Ice Bridges” came next, followed by a Frank Wakefield cover “End of the Rainbow” to end set one.
Billy Strings – “Watch It Fall” – Pittsburgh, PA – 8/11/21
Set two spewed off with a molten-hot “Fire on My Tongue” that burned some doubt into the brains of the audience “…I don’t trust the ashes of my mind.” Strings then told us how he used to sing and play this next song when he was just six or seven years old called “Stone Walls and Steel Bars” by The Stanley Brothers, containing very complicated subject matter for aspiring little William.
Next came “Turmoil & Tinfoil” with Royal Masat’s bouncing bass beat leading his fellow string-men through the tumultuous tune as they took turns plucking into oblivion. Billy then sent the crowd into an uproar when he segued into a tribute to Pittsburg native and rapper, the late Mac Miller with an instrumental jam of “What’s the Use?” Billy channeled Thundercat for a very fun rendition of the song including another tease with “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash before melting back into “Turmoil & Tinfoil”.
Next the band dove into original tune “Thirst Mutilator” ahead of Johnny Cash’s “Big River”. The quartet then graced the audience with a debut of “Peggy-O” for a beautiful rendition of the traditional cover favored by the Grateful Dead. Jarrod Walker serenaded the crowd as he feathered up and down his mandolin with ease. A timeless tale of “Daisy Red” accompanied by some of Billy’s lightning-fast flat-picking kept the grassheads stomping.
Billy Strings – “Pittsburgh Story” – Pittsburgh, PA – 8/11/21
Billy and the gang then offered up the new single “Fire Line” from the forthcoming album Renewal, wherein he shared his disdain for the negative impact oil consumption is having on our environment before the boys aptly expressed that discourse with their befitting stringed tools for sonic exploration. From there the band traveled into the traditional tune “Reuben’s Train” and then surprised fans for a reprise of “Fire Line” to end the set.
But the men weren’t done yet, as they hopped back up for the Stanley Brothers “Rank Stranger” where Strings showed his power to evoke emotion with his vulnerable lyrics for the new original “Know It All” coming out on the new album Renewal next month.
The moral of the story, for all those who expected a weekday snoozer: don’t sleep on Billy Strings. He will be in or near your town on his expansive tour of the U.S. And if you can’t catch him live, sound engineer Andy Lytle is doing the good work over at Billy Streams on Mixlr, streaming every show that does not have a live video stream.
Setlist: Billy Strings | Stage AE Outdoor | Pittsburgh, PA | 8/11/21
Set One: Down In The Hollow > Libby Phillips Rag, Rock Of Ages, Hide & Seek (1), Watch It Fall, Dust In A Baggie > Lumpy, Beanpole & Dirt (2), Ice Bridges > End Of The Rainbow
Set Two: Fire On My Tongue, Stone Walls and Steel Bars, Turmoil & Tinfoil (3)(4) > Thirst Mutilator > Big River, Peggy-O (5), Red Daisy, Fire Line (6) > Reuben’s Train > Fire Line
Encore: Rank Stranger, Know It All
(1) 3rd Stone tease
(2) Death Trip tease
(3) What’s the Use Jam (Mac Miller)
(4) I Can See Clearly Now tease
(5) First Time Played
(6) Gypsy Queen Jam (Santana)