Saturday, February 15
Knee deep in their “Ski Tour” The Infamous Stringdusters parked themselves in Fort Collins for a pair of shows far away from any panic-inducing gondolas. They brought along The Deadly Gentlemen who initially gained attention as the band with David Grisman’s progeny on bass. However, Sam Grisman has recently departed the group passing his spot on to Adam Chaffins. Unfortunately due to my tardiness and a ridiculous line I only just entered, as they were finishing.
As I walked inside I was greeted by a six foot chain link fence separating the bar area from the rest of the Aggie. I had heard some distant rumors, but little could prepare me for what I witnessed. Due to some overzealous police work in Fort Collins and pressure from the city this was the answer to a question I can’t fathom. Regardless the end result was mayhem for this sold-out show. Fans were ass to elbow in the
‘Cage’ as it affectionately came to be called. Music fans would slam drinks before bouncing to the floor. So I’m not sure what this solves, but I digress. The Infamous Stringdusters opened with a sublime “Blockies.”
Set 1: Blockies, The Hitchhiker, Tennessee Side Of Things, Clinch Mountain Backstep, Colorado, Time To Part, True Life Blues, Rivers Run Cold, Summercamp> Walking On The Moon, Long And Lonesome Day> Gettin’ Down The Road
Set 2: You Can’t Stop The Changes, Black Rock, Get It While You Can, The Place That I Call Home, Steam Powered Aereo Plane, Angeline The Baker, Like I Do, 17 Cents, Machines, All The Same, High Country Funk, Three Days In July, I Know You Rider, Let It Go, Given More Time
Encore: Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
The Infamous Stringdusters are a one-stop bluegrass shop and on Friday they were open for business. They have it all, from their striking harmonies to their irreproachable instrumentation. This band’s dance-inducing melodies are enough to warm the heart of any string fan. Their first set was loaded with highlights including a rendition of Ralph Stanley’s “Clinch Mountain Backstep” that showcased some flawless fiddle work from Jeremy Garrett. Their love and respect for my adopted state was obvious in their original, “Colorado”. Chris Pandolfi demanded the crowd’s attention on “Time To Part” through unadulterated banjo shredding. The Infamous Stringdusters are as smooth as they are precise. Their playfully sweet homage to childhood, “Summercamp” into the Police’s “Walking On The Moon” was a nice touch. The set-closing “Long And Lonesome Day” into “Gettin’ On Down The Road” was just stellar. The combination of Garrett’s fiddle and Hall’s imposing vocals is something to behold.
They took a short set break as the masses squeezed by the fence line for fresh air. Honestly though if they hadn’t installed the fence chances are the Dusters would not have been able to play two nights at the Aggie. So by the second set I had made peace. The Infamous Stringdusters eased into set two with “You Can’t Stop The Changes” like a slice of red velvet cake. Their focus on harmonies is always a key element, but here they were especially on fire vocally. Garrett and Hall traded the spotlight on “Black Rock.” Travis Book has incredible timing on his instrument; at times he would literally startle the audience when he would thunder slap the bass. Their strangely familiar “Get It While You Can” went into the bright but nostalgic road song “The Place That I Call Home.”
“We’re gonna do a song for all the dreamers out there.” – Travis
Fans were then treated to a beautiful version of John Hartford’s “Steam Powered Aereo Plane.” The instrumental “Angeline The Baker” was absolutely huge, but “Like I Do” was a breather. Pandolfi got dirty on “17 Cents” creating some great back and forth between he and Falco on guitar. The band again went for the more composed jam with the instrumental, “Machines.” Listening to this song is admitting that anything is possible. The Dusters went into a nice grass version of The Grateful Dead’s “I Know You Rider” before showing their spiritual side with “Let It Go.” They closed the second set with “Given More Time,” which had me wishing they were given some more time… The boys closed with a Falco sung rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” Despite the confined spaces and the prodigious crowd, the show went off as planned. A few drunks got the boot, and there was an air of rowdiness at times, but that’s the same at every sold out Aggie show. The next night would give the hardcore fans a little more space as the Ski Tour rolled on.
Sunday, February 16
As far as the audience is concerned, if night one was a raging bull night two was a very friendly squirrel. Seriously the room was maybe half full, with only the hardcore DustHeads making it to the Aggie on a Sunday night.
I arrived early having missed The Deadly Gentlemen on the first go around. I did not want to make the same mistake twice. This group has intrigued me since hearing a few of their early recordings online. They have a distinctly original sound that seems to be so well steeped in all the string music that came before. They went on early just after 8 PM. Their set was just under an hour, and the early arrivers were treated to a nice sampling of what the Gentlemen do. The lead guitarist Stash (a nickname based on his last name Stanislaw) alternates between a straightforward bluegrass delivery to screaming vocals. Greg Lizst is perhaps the most renowned member of the group having toured with Crooked Still and played with Springstein’s live band during his Seeger Sessions Tour. The newest member Adam Chaffins has honeyed vocals that are a total juxtaposition to his slaphappy bass style. Their show was certainly worth making the trip early. The highlight was tight version of the Rolling Stones’ “Let It Bleed.” If The Deadly Gentlemen are in your town go see them live.
The Infamous Stringdusters came to the stage with a high-speed “Ain’t No Way Of Knowing” into a spot on version of Earl Scruggs’ “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.”
Set 1: Ain’t No Way Of Knowing> Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Light And Love, One More Bridge, When Silence Is The Only Sound> Night On The River> Well, Well, Middle Fork, Fork In The Road, Sunny Side Of The Mountain*, Old Joe Clark*
Set 2: Road to Boulder, Jack-A-Roe, Once You’re Gone, I’ll Get Away, Heady Festy> In God’s Country, Get On With It, 3×5, Home of the Red Fox, Try Try Try, Paypal Jamgrass, Fire, Cripple Creek, Echoes of Goodbye, Moon Man
Encore: He’s Gone, Head Over Heels In Love With You
“We got a little more elbow room tonight… and now we’re gonna play a lot of music.” – Travis
“Light And Love” sounded like it could have been written by Bill Nershi, but the refrain was all Duster harmony. “When Silence Is The Only Sound” into “Night On The River” into “Well, Well” made up the meat of the first set. This whole sequence of songs built upon each other creating a rich musical tapestry for the listeners. Their ability to crisply segue between songs also demonstrates how this band has truly blossomed since their formation in 2007. “Fork In The Road” was another highlight with some amazing give and take again between Falco and Pandolfi. Eventually, Garrett jumped in to steal the solo. I will just say that I may or may not have told Chris Pandolfi he was, “…an attractive man.” For the record that is merely an observation. The band invited Dominick Leslie on mandolin and Mike Bennett on fiddle from The Deadly Gentlemen up before Travis sang us “Sunny Side Of The Mountain” by the King Of Bluegrass himself Mr. Jimmy Martin. Bennett and Leslie stayed for the set closing “Old Joe Clark.” which is either a traditional Appalachia folk tune or an instrumental homage to a tough but innovative principal.
The Infamous Stingdusters again showed their Red, White, Blue, and Yellow with their original “Road To Boulder.” Their version of the Grateful Dead’s “Jack-A-Roe” featured some of their most extended jams of the evening. Travis drove the bus on “I’ll Get Away.” “Heady Festy” was beautifully executed as was the segue into “In God’s Country.” “3×5” featured some impassioned vocals again from the bassist after which we were treated to a ripping version of Bill Emerson Jr.’ s “Home of the Red Fox.” “Try Try Try” was a quiet moment before the rowdy “Paypal Jamgrass.” Their original “Fire” is sung from the perspective of a smitten lover. The Dusters went into a bouncy version of The Band’s “Cripple Creek” “Echoes” featured some shredded violin from Garrett, and they again went to the Dead catalog to close with “He’s Gone.” They encored with the Flatt and Scruggs classic “Head Over Hills In Love With You.”
This was two nights of The Infamous Stringdusters doing what they do best; shredding strings and breaking hearts. The Sunday show had a much more relaxed vibe and even so I totally locked into the music being performed. The show was over just after midnight and as fans filtered out the ‘Cage’ was if anything a random side note to two nights of awesomeness.