Greensky Bluegrass – The Parish, Austin, TX 3/6/15 (SHOW REVIEW/PHOTOS)

There’s something to be said for a band that can transcend labels. Sure, it would be easy to call Greensky Bluegrass a jam band or a bluegrass band, but the Michigan quintet is much more than just those two things. The group writes songs in an alt. country/Americana vein that are thoughtful and well sung, yet they can take a song into an extended jam session at the drop of a dime. Evidence of Greensky’s crossover appeal could be found in Austin on Friday night when they kicked off the first of two sold out shows at the Parish.

When the band took the stage they looked as excited as the fans to be playing in front of such a large, enthusiastic audience. Greensky wasted in time getting down to business in the first set, busting out a fast-paced “Can’t Stop Now” early on that saw the band getting far out with an echo-y vocal jam and a loose, impressive dobro solo from Anders Beck, who’s unique instrument is a cornerstone of the band’s sound. That song in particular set a tone for the rest of the night, which saw Greensky showcasing their ability to take their improvisation into far out territory. Other songs would see the band crafting on-the-spot Technicolor soundscapes, stepping way out of the bluegrass box with Middle Eastern-tinged sounds and disco dance grooves. This momentum built throughout the first set and by the end Greensky had laid down a high level of energy that would pave the way for what would come in set two. Even the somber vocal harmonies that started off “Jaywalking” exploded immediately into a jam with an almost hip-hop beat.

The band returned for set two loosened up and ready to fire away. Even more so than in set one, each member took creative liberties and went out on a limb with their musical exploration while the audience embraced each new direction with more dancing. Jams pulsed and drifted into strangely pleasing spaces, taking on a life of their own and giving each song a new feeling. Long a staple for Greensky, their cover of Traffic’s “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” was a highpoint as the band exercised their control in playing in one unified groove rather than letting one member overwhelm the song with a solo. Later they would play a random but well executed cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City”, proving that no material is off limits for them. Over the years Greensky have refined their sound into something that captures the spirit of their bluegrass and jam roots but is also entirely new, and it’s nice to see their talent being recognized by increasingly larger crowds. After nearly three hours of playing Greensky Bluegrass left a room full of happy campers at the Parish, many of whom would eagerly return for another dose the next night.

Photos from Saturday night taken by Mike Holp. 

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