On Friday night, Billy Strings and company settled into the stage at Westville Music Bowl and made themselves comfortable, playing one sprawling set to cover the entire first of two nights in New Haven. The set began with a few originals and then a run of thoughtful covers including a couple nods to Jerry Garcia in these days between his birthday and his passing.

The quartet opened with a song from their Grammy-winning album Home, “Hollow Heart”, then powered through two songs from the band’s forthcoming album starting with the poignant “Fire Line”. Billy took us through the contemplative lyrics before diving into psychedelia with his heavily-filtered guitar solo as he became a catalyst to another dimension. Then the band changed gears into the Paul Hoffman co-written, endearing love song “Morning Light”.

Related: Billy Strings Hits The Jersey Shore Boardwalk For Stone Pony Summer Stage Show [Photos/Full Audio]

Bill Emerson cover “Home of the Red Fox” came next with an expansive jam section that piqued some interest with a tease of “Third Stone From the Sun” by Jimi Hendrix before dissolving into “Ole Slew-foot”, a song played by the Grateful Dead and the New Riders of the Purple Sage exclusively in the year 1969. Then slowed it down a bit for Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting in Limbo”, a tune that Jerry frequented with his solo outfit.

Billy Strings – “Sitting Here In Limbo” (Jimmy Cliff) – New Haven, CT – 8/6/21

[Video: Matt Frazier]

A series of songs steeped heavily in bluegrass came next with Danny Barnes’ “Pretty Daughter”, Stanley Brothers‘ “Angel Band” (which re-emerged on the Oh Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack), and “Big Mon” by Bill Monroe.

The traditional tune “These Old Blues” came next, followed by the ever-evolving journey through “Pyramid Country”, an instrumental where each musician took us down distorted and chaotic paths to the next stop, “Train, Train” a powerful Blackfoot song with an added flare only Billy Strings could provide.

After a pause Billy gave us another Stanley Brothers classic “If I Lose” before an ode to Jerry with “Loser”, the Garcia song turned Grateful Dead live-show staple.

Next, the ensemble hammered through the heavy picking original “Fire On My Tongue” before slowing it down for a Beatles-esque harmony for “Leaders”, coming out next month on their new album Renewal.

Billy Strings – “Leaders” – New Haven, CT – 8/6/21

[Video: Matt Frazier]

The coterie of musicians ended the night with a deep and devouring “Wargasm” which begins with thundering guitar and a descending bassline reminiscent of metal giants Metallica before aggressive flat-picking quickly reminded us we were definitely at bluegrass extraordinaire Billy Strings’ show. They closed the show strong, but kept the crowd wanting more as they dismissed requests for an encore but promised to bring the palpable energy back full swing the next night.

Billy Strings – “Wargasm” – New Haven, CT – 8/6/21

[Video: Matt Frazier]

Billy Strings and the boys kicked off night two in New Haven with a grassed-out cover of the Original Caste anti-war pop tune “One Tin Soldier” for the first time in front of a carless crowd and second time ever. The team then eased into originals “Everything’s The Same”, “Taking Water” and eventually “Ice bridges” a song Billy told us is about icy bridges in Michigan and how he must have read the sign backward instead of “Bridge Ices”, a tribute to his dyslexia he jokingly remarked. The ensemble really started flexing their high-caliber musicianship on this tune.

Strings then told us the story of joining Del McCoury and David Grisman on stage and Grisman suggesting they play a tune Jerry and him used to play, “White Dove” by the Stanley Brothers. “We’ll send this one out to ol’ Jer Bear” Billy said, as the Jerry tributes continued.

Billy Strings – “White Dove” (The Stanley Brothers) – New Haven, CT – 8/7/21

[Video: Matt Frazier]

Then into the contemporary bluegrass and beyond giants, String Cheese Incident’s “Black Clouds”, Billy Failing plucked his way up to the calamitous stratosphere and widdled his way back down with expertise. Strings took us to another dimension with an other-worldly crescendo that left the audience in awe. Only for Billy to pick it back up again queuing Fans.live to trigger their kaleidoscopic visual effects.

Things calmed down a bit for “Love and Regret” before ramping it up once again for the upbeat singalong “Dust in a Baggie”. As dusk began to settle in New Haven, Jarrod Walker led us off on mandolin for a warming cover of The Rolling Stones “Wild Horses” as the ambient lights started to really take effect.

Billy showed his vocal prowess on Lester Scruggs‘ song “Doin My Time” as he repeatedly held some extended vocal notes and revealed a borrowed lyric “a number not a name” used two songs previous on an original.

After a short break, the crew kicked off the last set in New Haven with crowd-favorite “Hide and Seek” with its running guitar riff that one can’t help but frolic around to. Walker took a rare deviation from his cleanly amplification to a uniquely watery tone for a mind-bending solo. Billy Failing flexed his chops on the mountain music must-have, the five-string banjo, as Royal Masat kept everyone honest on the stand-up bass.

Next, the quartet went into contemporary bluegrass phenom Bèla Fleck’s “Slipstream” followed by the traditional tune “Red Rocking Chair”. After that came a song penned by Walker and Christian Ward (violinist and former live-show contributor) with a story of a man presenting an ultimatum “Show Me The Door” to his shaky companion.

Billy Strings – “Slipstream” (Béla Fleck) – New Haven, CT – 8/7/21

[Video: Matt Frazier]

Billy mentioned between songs how he got knee-deep in the muck this morning bass fishing and can still smell it on him, as he went into an unreleased song about a fish, “Bronzeback”. Masat kept the crowd stomping their feet with his swinging bass beat. Next came “Hellbender” followed by the highly jamable “Meet Me At The Creek” featuring some tasty string work by Walker. Hypnotic orchestration accompanied with the lights and effects by Fans.live added up for a hallucinatory experience and epic ending to the show.

Billy Strings – “Bronzeback” – New Haven, CT – 8/7/21

[Video: Matt Frazier]

They came out to give the crowd one more with “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down” an obvious influence on Garcia/Hunter tune “Deal” containing the same lyrics as the title. A final bow and ecstatic exit to The Doors “Peace Frog” ended the night.

For a full list of upcoming Billy Strings tour dates, head here.

Check out a gallery of photos from the performance below courtesy of photographer Kevin Cole.

Billy Strings – Westville Music Bowl – 8/7/21 – Full Audio

[Video: JT/NY]

Billy Strings – Westville Music Bowl – 8/7/21 – Full Audio

[Audio: JT/NY]

Setlist: Billy Strings | Westville Music Bowl | New Haven, CT | 8/6/21

Set: Hollow Heart, Fire Line [1], In The Morning Light, Home Of The Red Fox [2] > Ol’ Slewfoot, Sitting In Limbo, Pretty Daughter, Angel Band, Big Mon, These Old Blues, Pyramid Country > Train Train, If I Lose > Loser, The Fire On My Tongue, Leaders > Wargasm

[1] Feel Like A Stranger tease
[1] Third Stone From The Sun tease

Setlist: Billy Strings | Westville Music Bowl | New Haven, CT | 8/7/21

Set One: One Tin Soldier, Everything’s The Same, Taking Water > Ice Bridges, The White Dove, Black Clouds, Love & Regret, Dust In A Baggie, Wild Horses, Doin’ My Time

Set Two: Hide & Seek, Slipstream, Red Rocking Chair, Show Me The Door, Bronzeback, Bringing In The Georgia Mail, Hellbender, Meet Me At The Creek [1]

Encore: Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down

[1] Southern Flavor jam