Photos by JohnRyan Lockman
The Scene: Saturday at the Ogden Theatre was expected to be a night of good ole’ Bluegrass. The Infamous Stringdusters have earned quite a following in Colorado, going head-to-head with Colorado locals such as Leftover Salmon. The ‘Dusters, hailing from Virginia, came to Denver last weekend with gusto, ready to impress us Rocky Mountain Bluegrass fans. The crowd was just large enough that there was plenty of room to dance comfortably, which is oftentimes a difficult task to accomplish at the Ogden.
The Dusters dedicated their spring tour to the release of their newest album, Let It Go, which we were served quite a delicious taste of. This album release show was the perfect balance between the new and the old, mixing well-known favorites with terrific new tracks that resulted in an incredible night of bluegrass.
The Infamous Stringdusters: The first set started as expected, your good ole’ bluegrass show that gives you exactly what wanted. A tease of “Reuben’s Train” opened the set, leading into the aptly-named “Colorado.” The set was a generous preview of the new album, with a few oldies-but-goodies sprinkled in between.
After things had really got going, we heard nearly half of the new album, each one better than the next. As if someone was turning up the dial, with each new song the energy continued to grow. Familiar tunes like “How Far I’d Fall For You” and “Mountain Town” were reprised between newer tunes. We were treated to “Light & Love,” “Peace Of Mind,” and the killer instrumental, “Middle Fork” from Let It Go among many others. The first set was something to be expected, and though we were all greatly pleased when set break came around, we were in no way prepared for the second set that would work double-time.
After having played a plethora of the new album during the first set, things started to get a little weird during the second – and it was awesome. One of the first songs of the set was “17 Cents,” a Honky-Tonk tune that cranked that energy up. “Like I Do” was another crowd favorite that showed off the band’s never-failing soulful, soothing vocals. Then, without warning, Billy Nershi took the stage and the boys took off on their rendition of the String Cheese Incident classic “Black Clouds.” Following this surprise, Nershi led the Dusters in a rendition of Tom Wait’s “The Heart of Saturday Night,” with the boys circling up and taking turns in the center for solos. Looking more like a group around a camp fire than a group performing on-stage, the communal vibes reverberated throughout the theater, and the crowd was elated.
“Rockets” came shortly after, a great track off the Silver Sky album, and a favorite sing-along tune for the audience. “Long And Lonesome Day” came before a tremendous “Fire,” another favorite off of Silver Sky and then things got really weird. At first, I thought I was dreaming, hearing the first chords of a popular song that I’ve only heard on the radio or television. We all know the song, and yet I was sure my ears were tricking me until I looked around me and my friends all had the same look on their face. The Dusters had broken out in a Bluegrass version of Avicii’s “Wake Me Up,” and it was phenomenal. Only the Dusters could make us dance around to a Bluegrass version of a song found on iTunes’ top 20 list. Well played, fine Dusters, well played.
With that being the second of two great surprises, the night was coming to a close. The lights were brought down and the boys circled up for an all-acoustic debut of the single, “Let It Go.” It felt like one of those Grateful Dead “We Bid You Goodnight” moments, with a strong connection having grown between the boys on-stage and us in the crowd. The intimacy that we all felt in that moment was almost spooky. As the Dusters sang their last note and walked offstage, it was almost hard to believe that the entire second set hadn’t been a dream.
Surprisingly, again, our Infamous Stringdusters came back for one more bout of music, finishing the night with another track off the new album, “I’ll Get Away,” followed by “Things In Life.” Then, as graciously as they had come on, the Dusters departed the stage. I was shocked at how far the evening had surpassed your average night of Bluegrass. This was not just good ole’ Bluegrass. The Dusters had taken their familiar genre, reached past all possible and preconceived limits, and transformed themselves as indefinably versatile musicians.
Stage Presence: B
Set/Light Show: B