Billy Strings continued his speedrun from talented up-and-comer to bluegrass legend on night two of his third annual Renewal Festival at Cottonwood Meadows in beautiful Buena Vista, CO. After an action-packed first day that saw Strings trade sit-ins with members of Leftover Salmon, Billy popped in on Shadowgrass’ set earlier in the day and then welcomed members of the band to sit in during his headlining set.
At this point in his life, Strings’ nigh unnatural quickness on the fretboard is mirrored by the whirlwind of events in his life. After his recent wedding (which had the most epic wedding band of all time), he gathered his bandmates, banjoist Billy Failing, bassist Royal Masat, mandolinist Jarrod Walker, and violinist Alex Hargreaves for a weekend of hot tunes, cool weather, and fun at their own spotlight event. This was on top of a seemingly never-ending series of sold-out shows and nightly bluegrass explosions.
The first set Saturday night perfectly illustrated the reverence Strings has for the form and tradition of bluegrass. There were beloved originals like “Red Daisey”, “Away From The Mire”, and “Cabin “Song”, traditional and old school covers including Bill Monroe‘s “Bluegrass Breakdown” and traditional tune “Train 45”, as well as more eclectic modern fare like Drew Emmitt (Leftover Salmon) and Billy Nershi’s (String Cheese Incident) “New Country Blues” and the late, great Jeff Austin‘s (Yonder Mountain String Band) “Run Down”.
The rocket ship of a second set launched with a crisp-as-the-mountain-air “Dust In A Baggie”, before passing into Pink Floyd’s seminal “Brain Damage”. Strings then ran the gamut from fast to slow, traditional to psychedelic, and original to cover as he showed just a smidge of his well-earned swagger and passed the spotlight equally to his stellar band—his name might be on the marquee, or festival bill in this case, but the band is truly a unit.
Billy Strings – “Dust In A Baggie” > “Brain Damage” (Pink Floyd), “Love And Regret” – 9/23/23
Speaking of sharing the spotlight, to close out the set and the encore, Strings brought out Shadowgrass members Kyser George (guitar) and Clay Russell (banjo) to sit in on a string of tunes, including David Grisman’s “E.M.D. (Eat My Dust)”, Jimmy Skinner’s “Doin’ My Time” > the traditional “Train 45”, and the encore, “Uncle Pen” by Bill Monroe.
Check out footage of Billy Strings sitting in with Shadowgrass at Renewal Festival below.
Next up, Strings and his band head west for shows in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, and Utah. He will then make stops in Missouri and Michigan before traveling across the pond for a run of European tour dates, followed by additional U.S. dates and a New Year’s Eve run in New Orleans. For a full list of upcoming shows and to purchase tickets, visit his website.
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Shadowgrass With Billy Strings – “99 Years (And One Dark Day)” – 9/23/23
[Video: Timothy O’Malley]
Shadowgrass With Billy Strings – “Roll On Buddy, Roll On” – 9/23/23
Setlist [via BillyBase]: Billy Strings | Renewal Festival | Cottonwood Meadows | Buena Vista, CO | 9/23/23
Set 1: Red Daisy > On The Line > Train 45 (Traditional), Away From The Mire, New Country Blues (Emmitt-Nershi Band), Fire Line > Running The Route > Blue Grass Breakdown (Bill Monroe), Hellbender, Cabin Song, Old Man At The Mill (The Dillards)  > All Fall Down (John Hartford), I’ve Been All Around This World (Traditional), Run Down (Jeff Austin)
Set 2: Dust In A Baggie > Brain Damage (Pink Floyd), Love and Regret, Doin’ Things Right, This Old World, Ernest T. Grass (Bowen & Tyminski)> Secrets, Home, E.M.D. (Eat My Dust) (David Grisman) , Doin’ My Time (Jimmy Skinner)  > Train 45 (Traditional) 
Encore: Uncle Pen (Bill Monroe) 
 Last lyric changed to “Gents all fall down”
 With Shadowgrass’s Kyser George on guitar and Clay Russell on banjo