Greensky Bluegrass brought their beloved, heartfelt Americana to Asheville, NC’s Salvage Station for two nights featuring fierce jams, special guests Jon Stickley and The Infamous Stringdusters bassist Travis Book, and even a Phish cover bust-out for good measure.

Greensky showed a little ceremony before kicking off their two-night run with “What You Need”, which included a perfectly silly visit by crew member Ian to provide a bit of percussion rarely seen in bluegrass. After filling prescriptions with “What You Need”, it was time for a dark turn, as Greensky, and mandolin maven/lead vocalist Paul Hoffman in particular, wrestled with their musical “Demons”.

Greensky Bluegrass – “What you Need” > “Demons” – 7/21/23

A pensive “While Waiting” kept the darker tone going before “Kerosene” got the fires of Greensky’s full passion burning bright. Dobro virtuoso Anders Beck led his first barn-burning jam of the night. Guitarist Dave Bruzza also offered an inspired display, masterfully merging the urgency of his vocals with the his fiery fretwork.

Despite its constant evolution, there are some conventions of bluegrass that are more or less immutable, such as the compulsory inclusion of songs about breaking laws and riding trains. The next track, “Reuben’s Train”, checked off one of those boxes before the band welcomed its first guest of the weekend, flat picking guitar madman and Asheville resident Jon Stickley, out to help them close out the first set in fine style. With Stickley’s transformative, intricate, and imaginative runs, tunes like the heart-wrenching “Lose My Way” (with a special nod to Bobby, a Greensky fan celebrating his 200th show) and “Wheel Hoss” went far beyond their usual parameters.

By the time the set-closing “Worried About The Weather” came around the turn, Stickley was so in tune with Greensky his seamless jams with Beck and Bruzza gelled into a three-guitar monster that could take on Godzilla himself. Fans were in full minds-melted freak-out mode as the wild beast stomped off stage to either catch its breath or wreck Tokyo before set two.

Related: Greensky Bluegrass Covers “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” With Neighbor’s Lyle Brewer [Watch]

Hoffman kicked off the set-opener, “New Barns”, with a nod to his daughter who had ordered her dad to “Get on stage now!” Happy to oblige, the rest of the guys in Greensky came along for the ride, giving fans the first really wild one-two of the weekend, the darkly cynical “Blood Sucking F(r)iends” flowing perfectly into the mournful “All Four”. “All Four” kept a bare spark of hope alive while the miles-wide jam at its core inspired some of the best mixing of dust-raising boot scootin’ and frozen-in-place, slack-jawed spectating of the weekend.

Bruzza’s vocal delivery on “Bottle Dry” showed that Hoffman wasn’t the only one who could convey heartfelt desperation while bassist Mike Devol’s sparse but evocative bottom end lead added to the song’s mournful nature. “Take Cover” and “Keep On Growing” spun themselves out quickly into the night, and seemingly in an instant set-closer “Run Or Die” was finishing up with a flourish. A simple wave and a nod to how much Greensky truly loves the city of Asheville was all that needed to be said before the band grabbed a quick breather and fresh beverages for the encore.

Hoffman returned alone for the beginning of the two-song encore, opening the final frame with a solo rendition of “Oh My Sweet Caroline” that left no one in the sold-out audience unmoved. Rather than send the enthusiastic night-one crowd back out into the world in such a sorrowful state, Greensky had one last ace up their collective sleeve, an ear-to-ear grin-inspiring rendition of “Fredrico” that had band and fans dancing to the band’s motto, “Don’t under do it. Put your whole self into it!” Leaving to massive cheers from a most appreciative crowd, everyone was off to try and live up to that creed before gathering the next night to do it all again!

Night two got going with the rolling and reeling “Past My Prime”. Hoffman showed no strain in his heartfelt, hangdog vocals and the rest of the band was clearly just as ready to dive in full-speed. As if to prove it, “Bone Digger” got the first breakdown and it was a nice one, with Hoffman showing off the rhythmic and percussive range of his mandolin. Devol’s rock-steady bass work expanded to some bent notes that wonderfully counteracted the mando peaks until he was left, thumping away on its own. Finally, Anders Beck was handy to wrap the whole jam up with some beautiful, psychedelic jams over the foundation built by his beloved bandmates. When everything reformed into “Bone Digger”, the crowd showed its appreciation with the first huge cheer of the night.

Greensky Bluegrass – “Past My Prime” > “Bone Digger” – 7/22/23

“Better Off” delved into one of Hoffman’s most favored topics, interpersonal dynamics, while all around him amazing musical dynamics took place. His stellar mando playing floated effortlessly supported by banjo superstar Michael Arlen Bont and the rest of the band.

The next tuning break, Hoffman extolled the city of Asheville, the place where a surprising amount of the band’s songs were originally recorded. “It’s like we’re bringing our songs home,” he said to cheers before adding, ”We recorded this one here too, didn’t we?” as Bruzza stepped to the mic and delivered a particularly heartfelt and humble take on “Room With A Roof”.

The desperation of “Windshield” got the pace cranked up to break-neck, and the howl from Hoffman for which the song is known brought on a wave of chills, with the audience eerily echoing his forlorn cries. Bruzza went deep for “200 Miles From Montana”, with his own stellar fretwork merging as perfectly with his vocals as it had the night before. Adding to a set already contending for the weekend’s best, the fan fave “Don’t Lie” trickled in, though the customary intro wandered a bit musically before completely cohering. Anders interrupted an exemplary mid-tune instrumental breakdown to introduce a surprise guest vocalist, bass-playing  dynamo Travis Book from The Infamous Stringdusters.

The bassline turned into a rock-solid two-step that ushered the jam into the Tom Petty classic “Running Down A Dream”, which Book rocked in its entirety before a quick-as-he-came exit, stage left. The “Don’t Lie” jam continued its climb up to amazing crescendo before dissolving into quickly fading chaos to close the second night’s first set.

It ain’t a bluegrass show without at least one song with a crime in it, and “Jaywalkin” fit the bill, opening the second set with an element of danger and menace. The vocal pairing of Devol with Hoffman works so well, one wonders why they don’t feature the combination more often. The duo traded off on their instruments to open the next tune, “Wish I Didn’t Know”, accompanied by a razor sharp finger roll on banjo from Bont. The song reached sky-high before giving way to Bruzza and his growling vocal delivery on “New & Improved”. Speaking of the connection between bluegrass and tales of criminality, “Burn Them” came breaking in, with its ode to film noir and the freedom we feel when embracing our dark urges.

The Anders and Paul onstage comedic call and response vamp “For sure, Uh Huh” made a quick appearance before the full-tilt banjo intro of “Crying Holy To The Lord”. “Grow Together” got a special intro from Hoffman explaining how it was originally written as a love letter to his wife and new child before expanding to include the family that the band and crew had become. He then mentioned how two of the stalwart crew, the wizard on lights Lincoln and Dillon were both about to become fathers themselves. Choked up, Hoffman then delivered one of the weekend’s most moving performances.

“Leap Year” got off to its welcomed runaway start before giving way, as the sun once again had, to night. The audience helped elevate the song beyond just another epic jam and into the stratosphere with their wordless echoing of the lament Hoffman delivers at the track’s conclusion. After waxing philosophical, Greensky closed out the last set of the weekend with a little “Courage For The Road”. Although they said all they need is a little “Courage”, they went ahead and snuck a truly impressive, thoughtful, and expressive musical interlude into the tune for good measure before saying goodnight.

As a wild bow to slap on the weekend, Greensky encored with a warm and fuzzy “No Expectations” before launching into a high-speed, no-brakes cover of Phish’s “Chalk Dust Torture” featuring one last no-holds barred solo from Beck that brought the house down.

There are few guarantees in this world beyond the death and taxes, but Greensky Bluegrass delivering top-quality performances night after night should surely be counted as another surety. When given the chance to stretch out over more than a one night, the band doubles down in ways that few groups can, and the results, like these last two nights from Asheville’s well appointed Salvage Station, border on magic. As these wizards and their crew pack up for the next stop, they can take pride in knowing that that they had one job to do, rock the house, and they left the house most thoroughly rocked indeed.

Setlist: Greensky Bluegrass | Salvage Station | Asheville,NC | 7/21/23

Set 1: What you Need > Demons, While Waiting, Kerosene > Rueben’s Train, Lose my Way [1], Wheel Hoss [1], Worried about the Weather [1]

Set 2: New Barns, Blood Sucking F(r)iends > All Four, Bottle Dry, Take Cover, Keep on Growing, Run or Die

Encore: Oh My Sweet Carolina, Federico

[1] w/ Jon Stickley on guitar

Setlist: Greensky Bluegrass | Salvage Station | Asheville,NC | 7/22/23

Set 1: Past My Prime > Bone Digger, Better Off, Room With A Roof, Windshield, 200 Miles From Montana, Don’t Lie > Runnin Down A Dream (Tom Petty) > Don’t Lie

Set 2: Jay Walking, Wish I Didn’t Know > New And Improved, Burn Them, For Sure, Uh Huh, Crying Holy To The Lord, Grow Together > Leap Year, Courage For The Road

Encore: No Expectations, Chalk Dust Torture (Phish)

[1] w/ Travis Book (The Infamous Stringdusters) on vocals