Billy Strings celebrated New Year’s Eve with a hometown crowd at The Intersection in Grand Rapids, MI on Tuesday. Wearing their finest cowboy attire, Billy Strings (born William Apostol) and his band debuted several covers throughout the two-set show.
The performance, which featured John Mailander on fiddle, wasted no time surprising fans. During the fan-favorite opener, “Dust In A Baggie”, Billy’s brother Aaron streaked across the stage in a nude bodysuit. After the original “While I’m Waiting Here”, Strings, Mailander, Billy Failing, Royal Masat, and Jarrod Walker launched into “Pyramid Country”. This segued into a cover of the Stanley Brothers‘ “Little Maggie”.
After that, another cover ensued. This time it was a debut of Mother Love Bone‘s “Crown of Thorns” which flowed into “Hollow Heart”, from their most recent album, Home. The first set saw more cover debuts, including Dierks Bentley‘s “Fiddling Around” and Lalo Schifrin‘s “Enter The Dragon”. The former sat before “Home” and a cover of The Seldom Scene‘s “Old Train”, whereas the latter came in the middle of a “Turmoil & Tinfoil” sandwich that closed the first set.
Another Home track, “Everything’s The Same”, opened the second frame. A four-song segue of “I’m Still Here” (John Hartford), The Monkees‘ “Last Train To Clarksville”, “Thirst Mutilator”, and “So Many Miles” wrapped up the first segment of set two.
Cover debuts seemed to be the theme of the night, and they weren’t done just yet. Bill Monroe‘s “Dusty Miller” marked the fourth debut of the night and set up a ridiculous New Year’s celebration. Following “Highway Hypnosis” the oft-covered “Red Rocking Chair” by Doc Watson segued to a cover debut of Gene Autry‘s “20/20 Vision” which was highlighted by the New Year’s Countdown.
The second set was not over just yet, however. A cover of the Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter-penned Grateful Dead track, “Brokedown Palace”, followed “Long Forgotten Dream”. Masat and Failing provided harmonies as Billy let his vocal prowess shine through.
Billy Strings – “Brokedown Palace” [Grateful Dead cover] – 12/31/19
[Video: Jim Bauw]
A final second set segment contained “Away From The Mire”, a cover of Larry Sparks‘ “Slow Train”, and a song off 2017’s Turmoil & Tinfoil, “Meet Me at the Creek”. The final song of the second set was massive and contained both an “Enter The Dragon” reprise and a Grateful Dead “Samson and Delilah” jam.
Billy Strings – “Meet Me at the Creek” – 12/31/19
[Video: Jim Bauw]
To end the New Year’s performance, Billy Strings and the band huddled around a single microphone to perform a rendition of “Freedom”. Strings’ traditional vocal style was evident on this number. While he is one of the best at infusing rock n’ roll and psychedelic sounds within his bluegrass-inspired tunes, his traditional-sounding voice is sometimes overlooked. The guitar and mandolin-backed “Freedom” highlighted his singing ability and was met with thunderous applause when the encore ended. The band took a bow and sent fans on their way to celebrate the coming of a new decade.
Billy Strings – “Freedom” – 12/31/19
[Video: Jim Bauw]
The budding six-string phenom Billy Strings looks to build upon his successful 2019 in the coming year following this New Year’s Eve performance. In addition to performances at 4848 Festival, MerleFest 2020, and Beale Street Music Festival, Strings will also tour throughout early 2020. Head to the Billy Strings official website for more information.
Setlist: Billy Strings | The Intersection | Grand Rapids, MI | 12/31/19
Set One: Dust In A Baggie, While I’m Waiting Here, Pyramid Country > Little Maggie, Crown Of Thorns > Hollow Heart, Fiddling Around, Home, Old Train > Turmoil & Tinfoil > Enter The Dragon > Turmoil & Tinfoil
Set Two: Everything’s The Same, I’m Still Here > Last Train To Clarksville > Thirst Mutilator > So Many Miles, Dusty Miller, Highway Hypnosis, Red Rocking Chair > 20/20 Vision, Long Forgotten Dream, Brokedown Palace, Away From The Mire, Slow Train, Meet Me At The Creek
 Billy’s Brother Aaron streaks across stage
 Stanley Brothers
 Mother Love Bone
 Dierks Bentley
 The Seldom Scene
 Lalo Schifrin
 John Hartford
 The Monkees
 Bill Monroe
 Doc Watson
 Gene Autry
 w/NYE countdown
 Grateful Dead
 Larry Sparks
 Enter The Dragon Reprise
 Samson &Delilah jam
 Full band (minus Mailander) around single mic. Guitar and mandolin only.