BOZEMAN – The five members of Greensky Bluegrass have forged a defiant, powerful sound that, while rooted in classic string band Americana, has a fearless, exploratory zeal. On Wednesday, Nov. 11 they’ll bring their energetic, genre-bending sound to Bozeman’s Faultline North.
“There’s this great duality to our band,” says Paul Hoffman, Greensky’s mandolinist, vocalist and songwriter. “We’re existing in a few different places at once: we’re a bluegrass band and a rock band, we’re song-driven and interested in extended improvisation.”
The tension and release between these components – tradition and innovation, prearranged songs and improvisation, acoustic tones and electric volume – is what makes the band so dynamic, in concert and on record.
“We play acoustic instruments, but we put on a rock ’n’ roll show,” says Greensky’s dobro player Anders Beck. “We play in bigger clubs and theaters, there’s a killer light show, and we’re as loud as your favorite rock band. It’s not easy to make five acoustic instruments sound like this – it’s something we’ve spent years working on.”
Greensky also includes banjoist Michael Arlen Bont and bassist Michael Devol. From their roots in Kalamazoo, Mich., Greensky arrived at their unique take on the bluegrass tradition by working from the outside in.
“I found bluegrass through the back door, through the Jerry Garcia route,” Beck says, alluding to the late Grateful Dead guitarist and bluegrass musician. “That’s how I got to listening to Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs. It’s really interesting how many people in our generation got into acoustic music through that channel.”
By playing up to 175 shows a year, mostly in rock clubs and festivals like Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, Telluride Bluegrass Festival and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Greensky became a word-of-mouth underground sensation. They have cultivated a devoted legion of fans entranced both by the band’s improvisational acumen and the quality of their songwriting.
“Taking chances – and pushing the boundaries of a proud tradition – are what mark Greensky Bluegrass’ sound, which tips its cap to backwoods-jazz virtuosity while holding on to a rock ‘n’ roll edge,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Greensky will be joined at Faultline North by Philadelphia-based musician Tom Hamilton and his band American Babies, who blend electronica-based improv rock with a passion for songwriting.