Halloween was bound to be a special weekend for me. This year I had decided to take the financial plunge and do something that I had always dreamed of doing. I, with a stalwart crew of friends, took a trip to Las Vegas to witness the stuff of musical legends known as Phish Halloween. While the run the three shows was breathtaking, and while Halloween night was unquestionably the greatest show I had ever witnessed, I will not be writing about that experience today. I had heard through the grapevine that another band was playing in Vegas that I had to check out. With little knowledge of what I was getting into, I went down to the Las Vegas Brooklyn Bowl on a sunny Sunday afternoon to see the jamsters known as Greensky Bluegrass. Within just a few minutes of their matinee set prior to the evenings Phish show, I new this band was one that would be permanently added to my radar.
The Brooklyn Bowl was a wonderful contrast to the big stadium feel of the MGM Grand Garden Arena (the location of the aforementioned Phish). The venue consists of a cozy and intimate floor space beside a bar/restaurant and a few bowling lanes. My immediate concern was the noisiness of the bowling lanes during the show, but somehow this place manages to keep the sounds coming from the band exquisite while muting all sound from the bowling. In terms of location, this show was already receiving top marks.
It was not long before I saw why Greensky Bluegrass was considered a must-see among the jamband scene. This 5-piece bluegrass band was not shy about breaking the mould of their songs, breaking out into long instrumental segments at seemingly every opportunity. They reminded me of tight jamming prowess of Yonder Mountain String Band mixed with a bit of that Mumford & Sons drama, combining passion with technical excellence from the band. Each member knocked their solos out of the park when they stepped up to the plate, and settled into careful rhythm roles when it was time for them to sit back. The Mandolin, Banjo, guitar, lap steel, and double bass combo provided an energy-packed set that had the crowd fully captivated. There is no doubt that I will be looking for another opportunity to catch these guys in action.
Greensky Bluegrass just released their fifth studio album, and while I can’t compare it to their previous records, If Sorrows Swim is definitely a record that any bluegrass lover would want in their collection. It provides concise yet well-explored tracks that give the listener beautifully-written songs mixed with quick but fantastic bursts of virtuosity. For jamband-lover and non-jam fan alike, Greensky Bluegrass will deliver what you’re looking for. I cannot wait to delve into their other albums, as well as whichever live releases I can get my hands on.
PS. You should seriously listen to last Friday’s mind-boggling Phish Halloween. I simply cannot get over the events that transpired in the MGM Grand, and it would be a true shame for any audiophile not to give it a try.