music / Columns

Jam Central Station 1.5.12 – Greensky Bluegrass

January 5, 2013 | Posted by mojo4395


Hey everyone! I hope you had a music-filled New Years Eve. I got to jam with some great folks and pick up some percussion tips from a great musician in the area. 2013 is gonna be pretty awesome, both for this column and for me personally. Lots of music and good times with great people. Get ready, cause things are about to pick up around here. Let’s get on with the show!


So a new feature I’m going to start implementing here at Jam Central Station is going to be revisiting previous profiles. I’ve been writing this column since 2009, and I’ve probably done well over 150 of these. Frankly there are only so many artists to cover. While I have many that I still need to get to (Dave Matthews Band, Umphrey’s McGee, String Cheese Incident, members of The Grateful Dead, and dozens of other bands), I also want to recognize that some of the earlier profiles that I did are either incomplete or where the band has progressed significantly since my initial profile. One band that I wanted to revisit due to their rise in popularity since I first profiled them in 2010 is the Michigan bluegrass band Greensky Bluegrass.

Greensky Bluegrass got their start in 2000 in Michigan. Guitarist Dave Bruzza grew up in a bluegrass family, and started his musical journey as a drummer before switching over to guitar. Banjo player Mike Bont started out as a jazz guitarist before picking up a banjo a couple of years prior to the formation of the band. And Paul Hoffman started out as a guitarist before switching over to mandolin. The band’s familiarity with a variety of instruments, as well as a diverse range of influences from traditional bluegrass music to a variety of artists, allowed the band to build their own version of bluegrass.

They started out slow, and the band took four years from their inception to release their first album. During this time, they worked on finding their own unique niche in the bluegrass world. They started out by focusing on songwriting and putting together traditional bluegrass sounds before they would begin layering additional solos and textures into their music. Less Than Supper was released in 2004 with the core of the band along with Chris Carr on bass and Al Bates on dobro. Both Carr and Bates left the band soon after the recording, and bassist Michael Devol joined as a permanent replacement.

The band was able to garner enough success based on their first release to begin touring heavily regionally and also picked up some national dates. They entered the Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Competition in 2004, but failed to make an impact. The next two years were focused on continuing to perform live, and the band began harnessing the sound that they were looking for. When the entered the Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Competition again in 2006, they won the contest and a spot on the main stage. This was the break that the band had been hoping for.

If the early stages of the band’s career were slow moving, the exposure that a win at Telluride got them into high gear. The band recorded their second album, 2006’s Tuesday Letter with Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth. They began touring extensively, playing up to 200 shows a year. This touring schedule, along with their diverse and improvisational live performances, won them fans around the nation, especially in their home state of Michigan and in the jamgrass hotbed of Colorado.

By 2007, the band was selling out clubs across the country, and larger venues in their home state. They recorded their first live album, Live at Bell’s in November of 2007. They ended the year by rounding out their sound and adding Anders Beck on dobro. Beck was an accomplished dobro player prior to joining Greensky Bluegrass, and was well-respected enough that he actually was serving as a judge at Telluride the year that Greensky Bluegrass won the competition. His addition brought new energy and new sounds to the band, and helped move them forward.

In 2008, the band began adding more festivals to their schedule. Along with playing at or near the top of regional festivals, they opened the inaugural Rothbury Festival in their home state. In August they released Five Interstates, again recording with Tim Carbone from Railroad Earth. In 2009, they released their second live album, All Access Vol. 1. They quickly followed that up with All Access Vol. 2, with a third installment set to be released sometime this year.

The band was doing quite well through the end of 2010 as a “second tier” modern bluegrass band, behind groups like Yonder Mountain String Band and Railroad Earth. That changed with the release of 2011’s Handguns. The album was a critical and commercial success by all accounts. The songwriting and musical talent displayed on the album put them right into the upper echelon of bluegrass bands, and the diversity (and the band’s subsequent live performances) strengthened their reputation with jam band fans. The moved from a regional band to a national powerhouse in the jamgrass scene. For 2011 and 2012 the band was typically billed very high in festivals, and performances included a late-night slot at the inaugural Electric Forest Festival as well as other high-profile spots on jam and bluegrass festivals nationwide.

Greensky Bluegrass was the first band that I heard at my first festival (Rothbury ’08), so they’ll always hold a special place for me. They’re also one of the best rising bluegrass bands out today. As bluegrass continues to rise in popularity in the festival scene, there’s no reason to expect that Greensky Bluegrass won’t be leading the charge. And if they keep releasing new and exciting material like the songs on Handguns they’ll have every opportunity to expand their fanbase outside of the traditional bluegrass and festival scenes.



First round of Wakarusa artists
Wakarusa announced their first round of artists this week. The festival has already anounced performances by Widespread Panic, Yonder Mountain String Band, Of Monsters And Men, Zeds Dead, Rebolution, RJ2D, New Monsoon, The Motet, and many others. The festival will be announcing lineup additions for the next two weeks.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass dates
The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival announced their 2013 dates. The event will return to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park from October 4-6.

Umphrey’s McGee announces Poster Subscription
If you like collecting tour posters, Umphrey’s McGee has a deal for you. The band is offering 75 fans the opportunity to purchase every tour poster for their upcoming tour. This will be an 11 set series, individually numbered 1-75. The price is a little steep at $375 for the set. Finally, those who purchase the set will get priority for future sets as well as the opportunity to keep their number.

Wood Brothers announce tour
The Wood Brothers will be touring in 2013. The band released a set of dates that will take them to March.

01/10/2013 Orlando, FL—The Plaza Live
01/11/2013 Ponte Vedra, FL—Concert Hall
01/13/2013 Miami, FL—Cayamo Cruise 2013
01/18/2013 Ft. Myers, FL—Sunshine Blues Festival
01/19/2013 Boca Raton, FL—Sunshine Blues Festival
01/20/2013 St. Petersburg, FL—Sunshine Blues Festival
01/31/2013 Solana Beach, CA—Belly Up
02/01/2013 Los Angeles, CA—Largo at the Coronet
02/02/2013 San Francisco, CA—Great American Music Hall
02/04/2013 Felton, CA—Don Quixote’s
02/05/2013 Petaluma, CA—McNear’s Mystic Theatre
02/06/2013 Grass Valley, CA—The Center for the Arts
02/07/2013 Eugene, OR—WOW Hall
02/08/2013 Portland, OR—Aladdin Theater
02/09/2013 Seattle, WA—The Crocodile
02/10/2013 Vancouver, Canada—The Rio I
02/21/2013 Fairfield, CT—StageOne
02/22/2013 Albany, NY—Swyer at The Egg
02/23/2013 Syracuse, NY—Westcott Theater
02/24/2013 Philadelphia, PA—World Cafe Live
02/26/2013 New Hope, PA—Triumph Brewing Company
02/27/2013 Northampton, MA—Iron Horse
02/28/2013 Boston, MA—Paradise Rock Club
03/01/2013 New York, NY—Bowery Ballroom
03/02/2013 Hudson, NY—Club Helsinki
03/10/2013 McMinnville, TN—The Volcano Room
03/23/2013 Savannah, GA—Ships of the Sea North Garden


S.S. Coachella
December 16-19, 2012 (Bahamas)
December 19-23, 2012 (Jamaica)
Departing from Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Performers include: Pulp, Hot Chip, Yeasayer, Girl Talk, James Murphy, Sleigh Bells, and many others.

Jam Cruise
January 7-12, 2013
Performers include: moe., Medeski, Martin, Scofield & Wood, Funky Meters, Galactic, Karl Denson’s Tiny Univers, Big Gigantic, Lettuce, ALO, Tea Leaf Green, Greensky Bluegrass, Hot Buttered Rum, and many others.

Island Exodus IV
January 16-20, 2013
Negril, Jamaica
Gov’t Mule will host the event and perform multiple sets. No word on other performers.

Panic En La Playa Dos
January 27-31, 2013
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
This event will be the return of Widespread Panic to the stage after a year-long hiatus. Tickets go on sale August 24.

Jam in the Sand
March 1-5, 2013
Breezes Grand Resort
Negril, Jamaica
Dark Star Orchestra’s first Jamaican event. This event will feature multiple DSO shows as well as three Keller Williams sets and other activities

Buku Music Project
March 8-9, 2013
Mardi Gras World Warehouse
New Orleans, LA
Performers include: Kid Cudi, Calvin Harris, Primus, Passion Pit, STS9, Zedd, Major Lazer, Big Gigantic, Datsik, Lettuce, and many others

SnowBall Music Festival
March 8-10, 2012
Winter Park, CO
Performers include:Pretty Lights, Big Gigantic, Portugal. The Man, Rubblebucket, and many others.

Suwannee Springfest
March 21-24, 2012
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oaks, FL
Performers include: Peter Rowan, Keller and the Keels, Jerry Douglas, Cornmeal, Leftover Salmon, Donna the Buffalo, The Travelin’ McCoury’s, Elephant Revival, and many others.

March 21-24, 2012
Killington Resort
Killington, VT

April 12-14, 2013
April 19-21, 2013

Wanee Festival
April 18-20, 2013
Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park
Live Oaks, FL

Hangout Music Festival
May 17-19, 2013
Gulf Shores, AL

Summer Camp Music Festival
May 23-36
Three Sisters Park
Chillicothe, IL
Performers include: moe., Umphrey’s McGee, Trey Anastasio Band, The Avett Brothers, Yonder Mountain String Band, Thievery Corp., Big Gigantic, Lettuce, Cornmeal, Keller Williams, and many others.

May 23-26, 2013
Cumberland, MD

May 30-June 2, 2013
Mulberry Mountain
Ozark, AR
Performers include: Widespread Panic, Yonder Mountain String Band, Zed’s Dead, Rebolution, and many others.

Mountain Jam
June 6-9, 2013
Hunter Mountain, NY

Governors Ball Music Festival
June 7-9, 2013
Randall’s Island
New York City, NY

Camp Railroad
June 10-14, 2012
Full Moon resort
Big Indian, NY
This 4-day music camp will feature members of Railroad Earth in an assortment of workshops, performances, discussions and other sessions to help aspiring musicians and those interested in the music industry to gain an insight into the inner workings of the band. A variety of accommodations are available, and musicians of all skill levels are accepted.

June 13-16
Manchester, TN

Telluride Bluegrass Festival
June 20-23
Telluride, Colorado
Performers include: Sam Bush Band, Jackson Brown, Emmylou Harris 7 Rodney Crowell, Yonder Mountain String Band, Leftover Salmon, Jerry Douglas Band, Punch Brothers, Trampled by Turtles, Infamous Stringdusters, Elephant Revival, and many others.

Solid Sound Festival
June 21-23, 2013
Museum of Contemporary Art
North Adams, MA
Hosted by Wilco

High Sierra Music Festival
July 4-7, 2013
Quincy, CA

All Good Music Festival
July 18-21, 2013
Legend Valley
Thornville, OH

Northwest String Summit
July 18-21, 2013
Horning’s Hideout
North Plains, OR

Pitchfork Music Festival
July 19-21, 2013
Union Park
Chicago, IL

Floyd Fest
July 25-28, 2013
Floyd, VA
Performers include: The Lumineers, John Butler Trio, Yonder Mountain String Band, Railroad Earth, Trampled by Turtles, Blitzen Trapper, and many others.

Gathering of the Vibes
July 25-28, 2013
Seaside Park
Bridgeport, CT

Newport Folk Festival
July 27-28, 2013
Newport, RI

Newport Jazz Festival
August 2-4, 2013
Newport, RI

August 9-11, 2013
Snow Ridge Ski Resort
Turin, NY

Outside Lands
August 9-11
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA

Catskill Chill
September 6-8, 2013
Camp Minglewood
Hancock, NY

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
October 4-6, 2013
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA

Austin City Limits
October 4-6, 2013
October 11-13, 2013


Thanks again for hanging out. You can check out more Jam on Facebook and Twitter. Until next week, Jam On!


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