The Infamous Stringdusters brought the Road to Boulder tour to a close in Wilmington, NC on December 14 at Ziggy’s by the Sea. The tour, which featured Denver-based Paper Bird as support, was sponsored by Oskar Blues Brewing and raised funds for flood relief efforts in the Front Range area of Colorado. That area, which includes Planet Bluegrass in Lyons, was hit with devastating floods in September of this year. One dollar from every ticket sold throughout the tour, which began in Madison, WI, will go directly to flood relief efforts, according to The Stringdusters’ website.
The show began with a short set from Paper Bird, a septet consisting of two sets of siblings, Genny and Esme Patterson (vocals) and Sarah and Mark Anderson (vocals and drums) along with Caleb Summeril (banjo, guitar), Macon Terry (upright bass) and Paul DeHaven (guitar). While the music of Paper Bird isn’t bluegrass but more of a folk/roots groove, the band, which was the winner of 2013 FloydFest’s On the Rise competition, blends haunting melodies and harmonizing by the 3 women with on-point musicianship from the men. Playing songs from the new album Rooms, the group had won over many new fans by the end of the set and “Who was that?” and “I like this!” was heard repeatedly in the crowd.
After a short break, The Stringdusters took the stage for the second time this year in Wilmington. In April, they opened the outdoor season at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater. This time they played to a packed house at Ziggy’s by the Sea. The 750-person venue is the newest addition to the music scene in Wilmington and the first branch of the revered Winston-Salem club that has played host to Phish and Widespread Panic among others. Kicking off a 30-song performance with “Ain’t No Way of Knowing” and moving quickly into “Fork in the Road” the quartet from Virginia showed the excitement and smiles the ‘Dusters’ fans have come to expect. Behind the vocals of dobro player Andy Hall, “Well Well” changed from an frenetic number to a spacey 7-and-a-half minute jam. The Flatt & Scruggs essential “I’m Head Over Heels In Love” followed before a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”, the first of two Dylan covers of the night.
The Stringdusters’ brand of bluegrass moved between more traditional sounding numbers like “17 Cents” to more progressive songs such as “Like I Do” which employs more use of Andy Hall’s special dobro sound. Bassist Travis Book got soulful on vocals during the groovy “All the Same”. The beautiful instrumental “Middle Fork” brought guitarist Andy Falco (and his red pants) to the fore and showcased his perfect flatpicking. Jeremy Garrett lit up the strings on his fiddle during “Time to Part” as Hall took over the vocals. The blend of vocalists (the only one who doesn’t sing is banjoist Chris Pandolfi) is one of the many things that can help take the band in so many directions and guards against a stale stage show.
During the setbreak, the friendliness and excitement of the “Jamily” (more hardcore fans of the band) showed as people introduced themselves to each other and celebrated with those who were being “Dusted” for the first time.
The second set opened with “Light and Love”, “Rivers Run Cold” and “How Far I’d Fall”. This was followed by “Don’t Mean Nothin’” off the most recent album Silver Sky, a song referred to as “Heavy Metal” on setlists. An over 9-minute “No More to Leave You Behind” flowed into a “3×5” that clocked in at 6-and-a-half minutes, bringing an extended jam that had smiles throughout the venue. Things picked back up with “Hitchhiker” and featured Pandolfi picking at a furious pace. The show closed with “Echoes of Goodbye” before a goose-bump inducing encore of “I Shall Be Released” that brought out the ladies from Paper Bird for the vocals.
The Infamous Stringdusters leave it all on the stage night after night, not holding back and giving fans more than their money’s worth at each show and this was no exception. This show, and all other live shows, can be streamed for free from The Show Hive on the band’s website.
-Words and Pictures by Eric Rayburn
Editor’s Note: A fellow Dawg from the University of Georgia – America’s finest institution of higher learning – Eric has a background in journalism but earns his pay as a physician assistant in the emergency room. A resident of Wilmington, North Carolina, Eric and his wife enjoy traveling for shows and taking care of their two bulldogs, Munson and Loran. He takes great photos and obviously has great taste in blogs. A big thanks is due to Mr. Rayburn for allowing me to take a night off!
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