The Scene: The Infamous Stringdusters kicked off their 2012 Colorado run by strolling into Fort Collins last Friday for a night of wicked picking, soothing harmonies, and all-out fun at The Aggie Theater. Running through tunes from their newest release Silver Sky as well as classics from their growing repertoire of alternative Bluegrass craftsmanship, The Stringdusters wowed a sold-out crowd and provided a glimpse into the newest generation of bands taking the genre to the next level.
Although this wasn’t the Stringdusters first trip to Fort Collins, it was certainly seemed to be the most anticipated as I arrived at 10 pm to a massive crowd spilling into the middle of College Ave. Many folks had already been inside and soon regretted their brief exit because they couldn’t walk back without squeezing themselves into the huge mob of people that were gathered by the door. I’ve never seen the Aggie quite so unorganized and it took nearly 30 minutes for me to even get close to the entrance. Fans who already had tickets were screaming incessantly for the Aggie staff to herd the mob into an organized line but it never quite happened, and by the time I got close to the door The Dusters had already taken the stage and performed several songs.
The Infamous Stringdusters: Despite the hassle at the door that caused me to miss the highly anticipated opener, Lake Street Dive, the minute I heard the first notes from Dobro extraordinaire, Andy Hall, I knew we were in for a fantastic night. I caught Andy Hall alongside Yonder Mountain String Band this past summer at the Kinfolk Celebration and I was amazed by his abilities on the Dobro. It’s his signature playing that elevates the Stringdusters from an ordinary bluegrass band into a New-Grass powerhouse.
Emerging from a crowded Nashville music scene in 2006, The Infamous Stringdusters consist of Colorado native Travis Book on bass, Andy Hall on dobro, Andy Falco on guitar, Jeremy Garrett on fiddle, and Chris Pandolfi on banjo. They now call Charlottesville, Virginia home and released their new album on October 16th. Part Folk, part Country madness, The Stringdusters are well schooled in traditional bluegrass but their songs are so well written and easily accessible that they can’t be lumped into that overcrowded category. Over the last six years, The Infamous Stringdusters have successfully created a distinct sound that intersperses intense soloing with excellently crafted songwriting. Needless to say, crowds across the country love every minute of it.
When I finally made it into the Aggie the band was wrapping up a series of comments concerning the new Marijuana legalization laws in Colorado which garnered an roar from the party hungry Fort Collins crowd. As they dug into a mind numbingly fast version of “Gettin’ Down The Road,” I donned my dancing shoes and headed for the front of the stage. Highlights from the rousing first set included a beautiful rendition of “A Place Called Home,” an ode to their hometown of Charlottesville off their newest release, and the classic “Deep Elem Blues” that was made famous by The Grateful Dead. As the crowd continued packing towards the front of the Aggie, the band closed the first set with gorgeous, fiddle heavy versions of “Night on the River” and “Well, Well,” as well as a blistering Guitar solo from Andy Falco.
I was able to slowly work my through the massive and wholly belligerent crowd for the beginning of the second set about 15 minutes later. Opening with “Fork in the Road,” a favorite of mine off of last year’s We’ll Do it Live release, the band set a feisty tone for an intense and winding hour and 45 minute set. As they progressed into a lively call and response version of “Keep on Truckin’” the pace of the music quickened, the temperature in the Aggie skyrocketed, and the crowd descended into a madhouse of knee slapping, beer chugging and high fives.
Additional highlights from the lengthy 2nd set included “Like I Do,” a cover of The Band’s “Up on Cripple Creek,” “Fire” off the new album and the obligatory cover of Danny Barnes’ “Get It While You Can” that featuring members of Lake Street Dive. This song has become a staple at Stringdusters’ shows over the last several years and the bands sings it with so much emotion that they may as well adopt it as their own. After a two song encore, the band exited the stage, leaving the crowd dazed.
The Infamous Stringdusters represent the best from the modern Bluegrass revolution. Even better, all their shows are taped and offered for free listening on sound cloud after the show. I can’t wait till this band traverses the Front Range again as they’ll trounce every venue they play. I’m eagerly awaiting the next opportunity to see the Dusters in action because there’s really no comparison when it comes to live bluegrass.
Musicianship: A +
Stage Presence: A
Set/Light Show: B+