Billy Strings was greeted with the warmest of welcomes this past weekend at Nashville TN’s Ryman Auditorium, where nights two and three of his weekend run were loaded with special guests including Bob WeirLes ClaypoolRonnie McCoury, and Marty Stuart. Saturday night saw Billy play an entire set of Grateful Dead songs with Weir, while Sunday featured a pair of Primus debuts with Les.

Following Friday’s show, which hosted a duo acoustic segment of Billy and guitarist Bryan Sutton, it was clear that anything was on the table for Saturday. The first set was a fairly conventional helping of Billy originals including the opening “The Fire On My Tongue” into “Must Be Seven”, which ultimately rolled into Jerry Reed‘s “Likes Of Me”. Strings was suspiciously cover-light in the first set, rattling off favorites like “Thirst Mutilator”, “Dust In A Baggie”, “In The Morning Light”, and a set-closing “Meet Me At The Creek”, making sure to fit in plenty of originals while he could.

Billy Strings – “The Fire On My Tongue” > “Must Be Seven” – 5/7/22

When he returned for set two, Billy was joined by Bobby for a duo interlude with the two guitarists playing acoustically. The segment began with “Wake Up Little Susie”, a Boudleaux and Felice Bryant cover favored in the Dead’s early days, before Bob picked up an electric guitar for “Dire Wolf”. Billy Failing (banjo), Royal Masat (bass), and Jarrod Walker (mandolin) then re-entered the chat for “Cassidy” and “China Doll”, with Bob and Billy trading vocals on the respective Dead classics. It’s no secret that Bob Weir’s tempo has been a moving target in the post-Jerry Garcia years, but playing bluegrass music demands a certain pace that the rhythm guitarist dutifully showed he can hit—should inspiration move him brightly.

Billy Strings, Bob Weir – “Wake Up Little Susie” (Boudleaux Bryant, Felice Bryant) – 5/7/22

[Video: Beth Boylan]

Billy Strings, Bob Weir – “Cassidy” – 5/7/22

[Video: Michael Wilker]

Strings and company continued to rattle off their ever-expanding catalog of Dead covers with a “Help On The Way” > “Slipknot!” > “Franklin’s Tower” movement, with Bobby taking all the vocals. The pair shared the mic on “Wharf Rat” ahead of a “Bird Song” that saw Weir switch from electric to acoustic mid-jam before a one-two punch of “To Lay Me Down” and “Tennessee Jed” closed out the set.

At one point, Strings remarked that the band had never played an entire Grateful Dead set before, to which Weir coyly retorted, “I have.” Weir then finished out the evening by taking the band through “Brokedown Palace” for the encore.

Billy Strings, Bob Weir – “Help On The Way” > “Slipknot!” > “Franklin’s Tower” – 5/7/22

[Video: Michael Wilker]

Billy Strings, Bob Weir – “To Lay Me Down” – 5/7/22

[Video: Michael Wilker]

Billy Strings, Bob Weir – “Brokedown Palace” – 5/7/22

[Video: Michael Wilker]


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The phrase “Never miss a Sunday show” rang true in Nashville on day three as Billy Strings closed out his weekend Ryman run with even more surprises. The Sabbath show struck a more traditional tone at The Mother Church of Country Music, with takes on “The Train that Carried My Girl From Town” and “Black Mountain Rag” coming early on before Billy invited out the first of many guests that evening, Ronnie McCoury. The mandolinist lent his hands to Bill Monroe‘s “Close By” and “Lonesome Moonlight Waltz”, as well as Billy’s own “Highway Hypnosis”.

Billy Strings – “Secrets” – 5/8/22

A rendition of Bad Livers‘ “Pretty Daughter” represented a fork in the road for the evening’s tone, as Billy led the sold-out crowd down a deep, dark path that ultimately summoned inter-dimensional bass weirdo Les Claypool. The Primus frontman nodded to his Duo De Twang acoustic outlet as he guided the band through debut takes on Primus’ “Over The Falls” and “John the Fisherman” before helping close out set one with John Hartford‘s “All Fall Down”.

Returning for the last set of the run, the regular four-man squad that tours as Billy Strings took the stage per usual, though it wouldn’t stay that way for long. An opening pairing of “Taking Water” and Frank Wakefield‘s “End Of The Rainbow” was followed by Albert E. Brumley‘s “Rank Stranger” before the bearded sage Bobby Weir re-emerged from the wings to deliver Merle Haggard‘s “Mama Tried”.

Billy Strings, Bob Weir – “Mama Tried” (Merle Haggard) – 5/8/22

[Video: Tyler Walker]

Set two was fully engaged as the sonic bliss of “Dark Star” filled the Ryman, followed by a traditional Sunday telling of “Samson & Delilah”. Weir then left the group to its devices for “Home” prior to the first appearance of Marty Stuart. Armed with a mandolin, the country singer-songwriter joined in on “John Henry” before a run through his own “Old Mexico”, followed by “Airmail Special”.

The excitement of high-profile guests dominated Sunday’s show, but at the center of it all remained Billy Strings. The 29-year-old bluegrass picker born William Apostol from Muir, MI climbed his way to the Ryman stage, so it was only fitting he take back the spotlight one last time that weekend, using the set-closing “Hide & Seek” as a reminder to all of what brought him to the hollowed Nashville institution.

Taking the Ryman stage one last time that weekend, Strings and company were flanked by McCoury and Stuart as they crowded around a single mic for Bill Monroe’s “Raw Hide”. Bringing Weir back out, the evening closed with a fitting nod to decades of country music tradition with one of the genre’s most enduring songs, The Carter Family‘s “Will The Circle Be Unbroken”.

Billy Strings, Bob Weir, Marty Stuart, Ronnie McCoury – “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” (The Carter Family) – 5/8/22

[Video: Tyler Walker]


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Billy jets from one iconic stage to another with his headlining debut at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in front of a live audience on May 12th and 13th.

Setlist [via BillyBase]: Billy Strings | Ryman Auditorium | Nashville, TN | 5/7/22

Set One: The Fire On My Tongue > Must Be Seven > Likes Of Me (Jerry Reed), A Good Woman’s Love (Cy Coben), Thirst Mutilator > Dust In A Baggie, Fire Line > Reuben’s Train (Traditional), In The Morning Light, Know It All, Meet Me At The Creek

Set Two: Wake Up Little Susie (Boudleaux Bryant, Felice Bryant) [1] [2] [3], Dire Wolf (Grateful Dead) [4] [5], Cassidy (Grateful Dead) [2] [6], China Doll (Grateful Dead) [5] [6], Help On The Way (Grateful Dead) [6] [7] > Slipknot! (Grateful Dead) > Franklin’s Tower [6] [7], Wharf Rat [2] [6], Bird Song (Grateful Dead) [6] [7] [8], To Lay Me Down (Grateful Dead) [5] [6], Tennessee Jed [2] [6]

Encore: Brokedown Palace [6] [7]


1. Billy Strings and Bob Weir duo, both on acoustic guitar
2. BS, BW vocals
3. FTP
4. Billy Strings and Bob Weir duo, Bob Weir on electric guitar
5. BS vocals
6. With Bob Weir on electric guitar
7. BW vocals
8. Bob Weir switched to acoustic guitar mid-jam

Grateful Dead rhythm guitarist, Bobby Weir, joined Billy Strings for a short acoustic set and then the entirety of the second set with the full band. The entire second set was Grateful Dead covers. Billy noted, they had never done this before. Bobby replied, “I have!”

Setlist [via BillyBase]: Billy Strings | Ryman Auditorium | Nashville, TN | 5/8/22

Set One: Secrets, This Old World, The Train That Carried My Girl From Town (Traditional) > Black Mountain Rag (Leslie Keith), Love & Regret, Close By (Bill Monroe & His Bluegrass Boys) [1], Foggy Mountain Top (A.C. Carter) [1], Lonesome Moonlight Waltz (Bill Monroe) [1], Highway Hypnosis [1], Dusty Miller (Traditional) [1], John Deere Tractor (Lawrence Hammond), Pretty Daughter (Bad Livers), Over the Falls (Primus) [2] [3] [4], John the Fisherman (Primus) [2] [3] [4], All Fall Down (John Hartford) [2]

Set Two: Taking Water > End Of The Rainbow (Frank Wakefield), Rank Stranger (Albert E. Brumley), Mama Tried (Merle Haggard) [5] [6], Dark Star (Grateful Dead) [5] [6], Samson & Delilah (Traditional) [5] [6], Home [7], John Henry (Traditional) [8] [9], Old Mexico (Marty Stuart) [8] [10], Airmail Special (Ossie Godson, Leon Rusk) [8] [9], Hide & Seek

Encore: Raw Hide (Bill Monroe) [11] [12], Will The Circle Be Unbroken (The Carter Family) [12] [13] [14]


1. With Ronnie McCoury (RM) on mandolin
2. With Les Claypool (LC) on bass guitar
3. LC vocals
4. FTP
5. With Bob Weir (BW) on electric guitar
6. BW vocals
7. Feel Like a Stranger tease
8. With Marty Stuart (MS) on mandolin
9. BS, MS vocals
10. MS vocals
11. Ronnie McCoury and Marty Stuart on mandolin
12. Single mic
13. Ronnie McCoury and Marty Stuart on mandolin, Bob Weir on acoustic guitar
14. Band with RM, MS, BW on vocals

Band intro by Matt Robertson. First set included mandolinist Ronnie McCoury joining the band for three songs mid set. Bass guitarist Les Claypool joined the band and closed the first set with three songs, including two Primus originals. Second set included guitarist Bob Weir for three songs mid set. Mandolinist Marty Stuart for two songs late in the set. All-star encore around a single mic had Marty Stuart and Ronnie McCoury rejoining the band for the first song and Bob Weir joined them all for the last song of the show.